Last Updated Aug 25, 2019 4:13 PM EDT
You might say Taylor Swift's happy place is at the piano in her Nashville home. "There have been so many songs that were written at this piano," she said.
"And it's often the middle of the night?" asked correspondent Tracy Smith.
"It's usually in the middle of the night," she replied. "Or if I'm trying to get to sleep and I can't and then I get an idea. And I'm, like, 'Well, I'm not tired anyway!' And then kind of wander over here."
It's kind of a rare sight, not just because "Sunday Morning" was there ("I haven't serenaded someone in a while, hope you know that!"), but because, for the moment, Taylor Swift was actually sitting still.
I promise that you'll never find another like Me-e-e,
Ooh ooh ooh ooh
I'm the only one of me
Baby, that's the fun of me
– "Me!" by Taylor Swift, Joel Little and Brendon Urie
And there never really has been another like Taylor Swift. After only 13 years in the business, she's become a musical force of nature, with an armload of #1 hits, more Grammy Awards than The Rolling Stones, and (according to Forbes) the distinction of being the highest-paid celebrity on the planet.
By any measure, she's an amazing young woman. But there were times, she says, that being young, and a woman, worked against her.
"You're always gonna have people going, 'Did she write all her own songs?'" she said. "Talking about your personal life, talking about your dating life.
"There's a different vocabulary for men and women in the music industry, right?"
"Gimme an example," asked correspondent Tracy Smith.
"Okay. A man does something, it's 'strategic'; a woman does the same thing, it's 'calculated.' A man is allowed to 'react'; a woman can only 'over-react.'"
And it seems her usual reaction is to get to work. Swift writes or co-writes all of her songs. And what's more, her music videos are all her vision, from the pastel wonderland in "Me!":
…to the giant dollhouse in her latest video, "Lover."
That's also the title of her critically-acclaimed new studio album, her seventh. She wrote "Lover" on her piano at home, and polished it up in the studio. And once she recorded the music, Swift (accompanied by and her cats) went to Hollywood to make the music video, and she invited Smith along to watch.
There's a love story here, and like a lot of Swift's work, it's an echo of her real life.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Swift discovered her love for music as a toddler. She set her sights on a career in country music, and eventually her parents and younger brother moved to Nashville to help her do it.
"My brother's a real bro for doing that," Swift said.
"Yeah, they all upended their lives," Smith said.
"It worked out well!"
"Yeah, I buy 'em lots of presents," she laughed.
The rest reads like a fantasy: Swift became a country music phenomenon, and, in the last few years, a pop icon. But the superstar is, by her own admission, as emotionally fragile as any other 20-something, "I'm still someone who is the first to apologize when I'm wrong," she said. "But I think I'm better at standing up for myself when I've been wronged. So, that's something that I think also comes with growing up."
Which brings us to Scooter Braun. Earlier this summer, Braun, a talent agent with whom Swift says she has a contentious relationship, acquired the rights to her previous recordings – her masters – when his company bought Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Label Group for a reported $300 million. Borchetta, who worked with Swift for years, says she and those close to her (including her dad, who was an investor), knew about the deal in advance, and that Swift had previously been offered the chance to buy her own masters.
She remembers it differently, and told Smith she didn't see it coming: "I found out when it was online, like, when it hit the news."
"Nobody in your inner circle knew?" Smith asked.,
"And you didn't smell it?"
"No. I knew he would sell my music; I knew he would do that. I couldn't believe who he sold it to, because we've had endless conversations about Scooter Braun. And he has 300 million reasons to conveniently forget those conversations."
With the sale of the masters to her first six albums, there has been speculation that Swift might re-record her back catalog, in order to control the recordings of her songs.
Smith asked, "Might you do that?"
"Oh, yeah," Swift replied.
"That's a plan?"
Scooter Braun may not agree with her side of the story, but he did reach out to Swift in a tweet last week, calling her new album "brilliant."
It's clear that Swift wants to control her music: When it's time to release one of her new songs, she does it personally, talking to her fans live on Instagram. This personal connection has earned her a loyal following. But her openness comes at price: She's followed just about everywhere she goes these days, by people who are crazy about her – or just plain crazy.
Smith asked, "Where is home for you now?"
"It's a very good question," she said. "I try not to ever really say where I am the most, because since all my addresses are on the internet, people tend to show up uninvited. Like, you know, dudes that think we have an imaginary marriage."
"And you mentioned that you keep wound dressing with you?"
"Yeah. I've had a lot of stalkers show up to the house, armed. So, we have to think that way."
And she's come under attack in other ways: You need only glance at the tabloids to see some very well-publicized feuds, and she often hits back at her haters through her music. For instance, in "You Need to Calm Down," she calls out anti-gay protesters and online trolls:
You are somebody that we don't know
But you're comin' at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad?
When you could be GLAAD?
Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages …
Control your urges to scream about all the people you hate
'Cause shade never made anybody less gay
– "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift and Joel Little
Smith asked, "I'm curious, because I feel like almost every album, you have a song where you address the haters, at least one song. Sometimes more than one song."
"I probably do have that habit. I imagine that I might have that habit, yeah."
"Why is that? Why sing to the haters?"
"Well, when they stop coming for me, I will stop singing to them," Swift replied. "You know, people go on and on about, like, you have to forgive and forget to move past something. No, you don't. You don't have to forgive and you don't have to forget to move on. You can move on without any of those things happening. You just become indifferent, and then you move on."
"Do you believe in forgiveness?"
"Yes, absolutely, like, for people that are important in your life who have added, you know, who have enriched your life and made it better, and also there has been some struggle and some bad stuff, too. But I think that, you know, if something's toxic and it's only ever really been that, what are you gonna do?"
"Just move on?"
"Just move on. It's fine."
Taylor Swift's music is always personal, sometimes intensely so. "There's one song on the album called 'Soon You'll Get Better' that it's, I can't even really hear. I can't even listen to it."
She won't talk specifically about her inspiration, but it comes at a time when her mother Andrea, who was battling cancer, suffered a relapse.
Swift said, "It's really interesting because I don't think I have written a song quite like that before. And it's just sort of, like, it's just a tough one."
"I can imagine. But I can also tell you, having listened to it, that it's universal."
"It's just not something that we deal with until we have to, until we see it, until we experience it, until someone close to us is going through something like that. And so, writing about it was really emotional. And I'm just gonna stop talking about it now."
She's more comfortable plunging into her work. On the Hollywood set, a large glass tank will become a symbolic fish bowl in the "Lover" music video.
"I very oftentimes remark that my life is like a fish bowl, and that, like, if I were to, like, fall in love, you know, somebody's choosing to be in that fish bowl with me. To jump into the fish bowl with me and live in that world just with me – it's not as depressing as it sounds, I promise! It's just symbolic!"
Talk about fish bowls: she's been dating British actor Joe Alwyn for three years. Seems he's up for a swim.
At the moment, Swift is, well, fully immersed in today. Beyond that, she says she doesn't know … and doesn't really want to.
Smith asked her, "Do you think about, you know, 'What am I gonna do in 20, 30 years?'"
"No, 'cause that puts me into what I call a panic spiral," Swift replied. "Like, I cannot do that. I've never been able to do that."
Why? "It just freaks me out. When I zoom out too far, I freak out. Do I know where I'm gonna be or even wanna be in 20 years? Absolutely not. Like, not taking a single day for granted."
"So, how far ahead do you look?"
"Six months. Just 'cause I have to plan shows and stuff. But I don't know what I'll do after this album. And I think that's great. I tell myself, like, it's actually really ungrateful to just assume that you have 20 years. Like, be stoked that you have today."
For more info:
- "Lover" by Taylor Swift (Republic), available August 23 via CD (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), Digital Download (Amazon, Google Play, iTunes), and Streaming (Spotify); Deluxe edition available via Target
Story produced by John D'Amelio.