Taylor Swift is not only the biggest pop star on the planet, but also the biggest worrier. Right now she is worrying about this interview - her first major sit-down chat of the year. She has just come from a production meeting for her forthcoming world tour, fretting about the set list, sight lines and how to get her piano to the right part of the stage at the right time. Before that, when she woke up, she was immediately gripped with anxiety about something she said last night (even though it was only using the word 'interjection' when she meant 'injection'). "I worry about everything all the time," she says with a grin. "We could do our entire interview me telling you how many things I've worried about since breakfast. 'The Neuroses of Taylor Swift' is probably going to be the article headline."
Most pop stars of Swift's stature pay other people to worry about these things. And while the buzz of activity as we arrive at the well-appointed Beverly Hills house being used by Team Swift for their production meeting indicates that she has no shortage of people looking out for her, she remains hands-on with every aspect of her career.
But then the one thing she doesn't need to worry about is how that career is going. It is Grammys weekend when we meet, and although Swift is attending rather than performing, she is still going to be the centre of attention.
There are plenty of reasons. She is the only artist ever to sell more than a million first-week US copies of three separate albums - Speak Now in 2010, Red in 2012, and 1989, released in October, which racked up the biggest first-week American sales since 2002 and went to number one around the world. Its lead single, Shake It Off, was an iTunes number one in 64 countries. She is the first artist since the Beatles to spend six or more weeks at number one in the United States with three consecutive albums.
Her cultural weight - 52.8m Twitter followers, 22.1m on Instagram and 74.4m likes on Facebook - means that she can break acts with a single tweet, and she regularly shines that spotlight on new artists she enjoys. Her removal of her back catalogue from Spotify resulted in the music-streaming company's CEO, Daniel Ek, justifying its entire business model. "I didn't think it was going to be international news or affect a public offering," she claims. "If I have an opinion on something, I act accordingly - and I believe music is valuable."
She ponders whether she'll be the last person ever to sell this many records. "There were so many doomsday theories about the music industry," she says. "For the last two albums I'd sold one million copies in a week, and I knew people were waiting to see me not hit that number and then diagnose the music industry as dying or dead. Which is a lot of pressure to put on one artist and one album."
Does she think future artists will sell records like this again? "It's possible," she says. "We all have to step up and make albums that are good, top to bottom, if selling albums is still important. It is to me, but a lot of artists have already given up on that. I have friends who just think it's not attainable, which I feel is a very defeatist way to look at life."
And defeatism is not the Swift way. Her infectious can-do attitude is evident from the moment she greets me brightly at the door, wearing an elegant dress, with her hair swept back. Despite knowing her height (5ft 10in), I find her taller than I expected and slimmer, too. Swift has ordered in coffee, apologising for the lack of tea ("You're British! I should've known!") and peppers conversation with first-name references to her famous friends.
Single after a string of high-profile relationships with men such as Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Lautner, she has recruited a 'squad' of high-achieving close girlfriends, and spends what little downtime she gets baking with the supermodel Karlie Kloss, strolling around New York with the Girls actress and writer Lena Dunham or, as her recent Instagram posts indicate, whale-watching in Hawaii with the indie band Haim. "The thing about my girlfriends right now is that none of them needs me for anything other than friendship," she says. "I love the fact that they are all passionate about their jobs, whatever their jobs are. A lot of celebrity-type people have this group of people around them where their friends' main priority is them, and they feel comfortable with that dynamic. I don't feel comfortable with that dynamic."
Taylor Alison Swift was born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, on December 13, 1989 (13 is her lucky number). She spent her early years on a Christmas-tree farm run as a side business by her parents. Her father, Scott, is a wealth management adviser with Merrill Lynch; her mother, Andrea, worked at a mutual fund before becoming a full-time mother to Taylor and her younger brother, Austin. While at school in Pennsylvania, Taylor often appeared in musical productions, local fairs and talent shows; and her love of country music was sparked by Shania Twain, perhaps the last country superstar to cross over to the pop charts as successfully as Swift.
The Swifts moved to Nashville, the home of country music, when their daughter was 15. Taylor and her mother had, four years earlier, hawked a demo CD around Nashville's Music Row, going door-to-door in search of a break. Shortly after the family was uprooted, that break arrived. Swift became the youngest songwriter ever to be signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and a year later a record deal followed with the fledgling label Big Machine, which released her eponymous debut album in 2006. Crucially, she became one of the first country artists to use the internet to market herself, expanding her reach beyond the genre's traditional heartlands to recruit an army of teenage girl fans.
By the time of her second album, Fearless, in 2008, Swift was already shifting away from country. Fearless made her the youngest ever winner of the Album of the Year Grammy (in 2010) and the first country star to win an MTV video award (best female video for You Belong with Me in 2009). Her acceptance speech was interrupted by the rapper Kanye West, who stormed the stage incensed that Beyonce hadn't won. Swift was devastated, but the incident catapulted her to mainstream attention. Barack Obama was moved to call West a "jackass".
Her subsequent albums Speak Now and Red were progressively a little less country, a little more pop, but she has remained popular in Nashville. In 2013, she became the second ever winner of the Country Music Association's Pinnacle Award, its highest honour. The previous winner, Garth Brooks, was in his mid-40s when he won - Swift was 23.
The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has an entire floor dedicated to her story. Footage of her singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as a toddler, belting out the national anthem at sports events as a child and improvising a song about traffic for a country radio station as a teenager reveal that she has undoubtedly always been talented, if not prodigiously so. "I'm really lucky I got 10 years of practice in before we reached this point," she says. "I've climbed a lot of flights of stairs, rather than got a speed elevator. [Nowadays] an artist is just shot out of a cannon into the stratosphere."
Before the release of 1989 Swift moved to New York. She cut her trademark long, blonde hair and embraced feminism, although not, she says, as "some strategy - being a feminist is just part of my life'" She started going out drinking more, gradually easing away from the prim image that defined her teenage years, although she stresses, "My point is not to be sexy, my point is not to turn masses of people on." And she made a determined attempt to cause a "change in the narrative" that had portrayed her as some sort of serial-dating bunny-boiler (an idea her song Blank Space skewers deliciously, by writing from the perspective of that character). "There was a bit of a reputation for having a lot of boy-bashing songs," she says, referring to the likes of I Knew You Were Trouble and Should've Said No. "Which is a sexist way of saying heartbreak songs. To trivialise someone who's heartbroken is really cruel. But people have to simplify things," she says. "Everybody's got busy lives, they don't have time to form a complex opinion of me and my music. I'm in a different place in my life, where love isn't really a priority. I haven't dated anyone in years so there's less chatter about the serial dater thing. I'm just really excited at an awards show when they don't make some weird joke about my dating life."
She was recently photographed out with Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne and some other friends, and she became anxious about what the gossip sites would say the next day. "I just got so freaked out that people were going to say I was dating him," she says. "I started thinking, 'I can't let this ruin my friendships with dudes.' I didn't let it ruin my friendship with Ed [Sheeran] - they always said we were dating and we never were. But sometimes I get really scared.'
There was a time when Swift would refuse to use the internet for fear of what she might see ("It's very difficult to know people have the wrong impression of you and you can't do anything to correct it"), but now she spends a lot of time online, interacting with the Swifties, her hardcore fans. "Not in a way that's like, having sycophantic worshippers," she stresses. "My fans make fun of me - it's really cool. They have all these gifs of me making an idiot of myself or tripping and falling on stage. They bring humour back into it for me. I get too serious sometimes - you can probably tell - and they bring me back to like, 'OK, I'm not really doing anything that difficult. I just need to calm down.'"
Based on what she learns from 'lurking' on their social-media profiles, Swift has made fans post-break-up playlists, paid off their student loans and sent gifts for Christmas and Valentine's Day, accompanied by handwritten notes. You would assume she has people to do this for her, but she insists she does it all herself ("I don't take it to FedEx, but I pack the box and tape it - I have so much bubble wrap in my house!").
"I love them," she says of her fans. "They are cool and smart and hilarious and focused on the right things. I want to make the most of this cultural relevance or success or whatever you want to call it, because it's not going to last. I have to be as good a person [as I can] while my name matters to them. Because it's not always going to matter to kids who are 15 and really struggling with who they want to be or [because] their friends were brutal to them at school that day. That's actual turmoil. I have to do everything I can to make their day better while I still can. [Sending presents] is fun for me. If I go a week without sending something, I start to feel sad. I'm getting to know them on a person-by-person basis. When I pick people to send packages to, I go on their social-media sites for the last six months and figure out what they like or what they are going through. Do they like photography? I'll get them an 1980s Polaroid camera. Do they like vintage stuff? I'll go to an antiques place and get them 1920s earrings. Do they work out a lot? I'll get them workout stuff. When you actually get to know them on a person-by-person basis, you realise what you're doing is special and sacred and it matters."
It is impossible to imagine other pop stars spending time doing all this. Can she really be this nice all the time? "No, because that's annoying, too," she says, laughing. "And it's not real if someone appears to never have any issues with anyone. I have my friends, I have enemies. I have bad days when I don't want to go to a photo shoot, but I'm not going to show up four hours late, I'm going to be there on time. I'm not nice all the time but I try not to be carelessly rude to people who don't deserve it.
"When I'm with my friends, we don't say glowing things about everybody," she says, grinning conspiratorially. "We're not sitting around going [adopts Stepford Wives-esque voice and posture], 'You know who's really special and wonderful?' That's not what we talk about - we're normal girlfriends."
But just whom they might be talking about in that way, Swift is not prepared to share. The gossip sites' one-time fascination with her love life may have been temporarily frustrated, but it threatens to be replaced by interest in her apparent feud with Katy Perry, the rumoured subject of a track on 1989, Bad Blood. "I'm not giving them anything to write about," she says, smiling steelily. "I'm not walking up the street with boys, I'm not stumbling out of clubs drunk. But I'm never going to talk about her in my interview. It's not going to happen."
Instead, Swift is concentrating on trying, in her words, "to create a beautiful life". That life would appear to have no room in it for a significant other right now. She likes to "play the tape of her life forward" when she's making decisions. But ask her what the tape looks like if you fast-forward five years and she seems less certain. "I'll be 30," she gasps. "I'll probably still be single, let's be honest. No one's going to sign up for this and everything that goes with it. Like, 'Hi, nice to meet you, want a date? Do you love camera flashes? I hope you do!' I don't know what's going to happen if I'm ever content in a relationship - no idea how that's going to work," she continues, still smiling. "I don't even know if that's possible with the life I have.
"'In five years' time she'll be so afraid of everything, she doesn't leave her house,"' she says, laughing self-mockingly. '"She's just surrounded by cats. So many cats, they've divided themselves up into armies and she wanders around lint-rolling the couch that no one's going to sit on because she's afraid to have people over…"'
Swift is not even sure she'll have made another album by the time 2020 rolls around. "I'm not going to put out an album until I've made one that's better than this one and that's going to be really hard," she says. And how might her music evolve if she does find love? "If that does happen, I think I could find complexity in happiness," she says. "I don't think anything's ever simple. Just because you're happy in a relationship doesn't mean that there aren't moments of confusion or frustration or loneliness or sadness. Hopefully, if I ever find some sort of meaningful relationship, I'll be able to still find inspiration, just through the everyday ups and downs."
For now, though, her life is mapped out indefinitely. As we start to leave she runs through her schedule for the rest of the day: watch the fan reaction videos to her latest batch of gift-giving, work out, go to a dress-fitting, more meetings, then a pre-Grammy party. The day after we meet she will attend the actual Grammys with her best friend from high school, Abigail Anderson, a charity worker. (Despite three nominations - record of the year, song of the year, and best pop solo performance, all for Shake It Off - she won't add to her four Grammys, but will still look as if she's having more fun than anyone else.) She has a Brit Awards performance to plan and a new single (Style) to release. The 1989 World Tour kicks off in May. "I used to think it was important to find a boyfriend," she says before politely taking her leave. "But I don't feel that it is now. I just want to have as much fun and as many adventures as possible." And for once, you suspect, she really doesn't need to worry.
1989 is out now on Big Machine. The 1989 World Tour comes to Dublin's 3Arena on June 29 and 30. www.taylorswift.com
$1,989 The amount she gave a fan towards paying off her student loan (a nod to her latest album, 1989)
12 The age at which she wrote her first song
$496,044 The amount she earned through Spotify streams in the 12 months before her removal
80 Million The number of single digital downloads of her songs
27.1 million The number of albums she has sold to date in America
$20,000 The amount she donated to BBC Children in Need after performing at the annual telethon
4.0 The grade point average she graduated with from high school, the highest possible score
$64 million The amount she earned last year (according to the Forbes Celebrity 100 list)
7 The number of Grammy Awards she has won
1 The number of times any female artist has knocked her own single off the top of the US charts (Swift did it last year)
12 The number of years since a record has sold faster than 1989
227 The number of weeks Fearless spent in the Billboard 200, making it Swift's most popular album so far (in the US)
1 The number of times that Swift's own heartbeat has been credited as a song (1989's Wildest Ocean)
5.8 million The number of copies sold of Love Story in America, making it her most popular song (in the US)
Sunday Indo Living
We haven't even sat down for the interview and Noel Gallagher is off on one. "I won't be walking around with bags of dog shit,' Gallagher (47) is huffing to the room. We are in a photographic studio on an industrial estate in south London, a long way, in most senses, from his very nice home in Maida Vale, north-west London.