We're dishing with Dick Clark Award of Excellence-winner Taylor Swift on romance, homemade pie, and her love of the slow, Southern drawl. Story by Lacy Morris
Taylor Swift Paper Napkin Interview

Home Base: Nashville and New York

Occupation: Singer/songwriter

What's on Her Plate: Promoting her latest album, 1989, and turning 25 on December 13.

Dream Duet: "Chris Martin or Joni Mitchell—but I think so highly of them, I'd never want to ask."

I think the open-mindedness of Nashville is what made me feel like I could take a chance and make a [pop] album this time around. I didn't feel like [locals] would turn their back on me, and thankfully they haven't. Nashville is a melting pot of musical influences and experimentation. There's an innate overall friendliness: It feels more like a neighborhood than a town or a city.

I very rarely let myself geek out over cooking in interviews, but I feel like [Southern Living] is a great place for that. I am one of those cooks who always likes to tackle something new. My friends and I made a really, really epic apple pie, and my friend Emma gave me this tip to crush up graham crackers in the bottom of the pie crust, under the apples. It adds a sugary-cookie-crunch kind of texture.

My number one excitement factor with Christmas is watching my family open up gifts. I love searching for the perfect gift—and the perfect wrapping paper—for each person in my life. Some people are born to be excited about opening gifts, some people are born to be excited about giving gifts. The good thing about humanity is that we seem to balance out.

In the last couple of years I've experienced this sort of independence renaissance. I am obsessed with being a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter, and devoting my attention to the people that really are closest to me. I'm living my life on my own terms.

I recommend to all my friends that they be alone for a while. When you're in love, or dating someone, you filter your life decisions through their eyes. When you spend a few years being who you are, completely unbiased, you can figure out what you actually want.

A red lip is my one go-to style. Sometimes I don't even put any other makeup on—just a red lip and maybe some mascara. Every day that I go to the gym it's documented by a minimum of 20 photographers. I've read reports that I've taken hours to get ready after I work out. It's so funny that they chalked it up to me doing a whole glam thing—very flattering, but very very untrue.

In the South, there's something lyrical about the way we speak. I like little throwaway phrases; it's wordplay. I was in England and said, "If you chase two rabbits, you'll lose them both." They had never heard that, but I hear things like that all the time in Nashville.

My mom has always taught me to prepare. Train yourself to make plans, and then you very rarely have to get stressed out. [But] there are so many things that you could never even begin to prepare for—those things you have to just let go.

I don't ever feel lonely when I'm alone, because I have a lot of little things that make me happy. I love coming home to my cats. I love watching Friends marathons late at night or dropping into a Google or Wikipedia rabbit hole and learning things about the history of whatever.

I feel very lucky to say that my life is full of really intelligent and passionate women. The one common thread among all my closest girlfriends is individuality and my ability to trust them. There's an Ernest Hemingway quote that says, "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." That's how I live my life, but at the same time, it's important to surround yourself with people who have proven that trust over and over again.