Swift’s 2015 stare-down of Apple—she declined to put her hit album on Apple’s nascent streaming-music service when the company said it would not pay artists during its initial launch; Apple changed its policy immediately and paid everyone—was a seismic example of a single artist’s toppling corporate might.
At 26, Swift is world famous, wealthy, critically celebrated, a style influencer, and a cultural movement unto herself, recognizable everywhere she goes. And yet today, in this chapel atop a hill in Reading, Pennsylvania, Swift is none of those things.
“When you’re a little kid, you’re riding the same roads to school every single day, hundreds of times.Last spring, after Swift accepted Britany’s invitation to be maid of honor via Instagram—kids today!—she took Maack to Reem Acra, where Britany got fitted for her custom hand-embroidered silk-taffeta wedding gown and Taylor for the blush-pink, cap-sleeved chiffon maid-of-honor dress that she has on today (the fitting was also Instagrammed, naturally).Many of the wedding guests have known her for just as long. Andrea is powering down the road, and Swift, dressed in a caramel-colored Reformation jacket and a pair of black jeans, is sitting passenger side.To them, Swift is not the superstar who, a handful of days ago, stood on a stage in Los Angeles and accepted a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the first woman to win that prize twice. This area around Reading and its adjacent town, Wyomissing, is rich with pastoral roads marked by open fields and stone homes, and the kind of rolling countryside that makes you want to saddle up and ride a horse—which Swift did as a child.“That was kind of my mom’s thing,” Taylor says.Swift has even known the groom, Benjamin La Manna, since kindergarten—she admits to having had a little crush on Ben way back then, when he was “that kid who sat next to me in class with the bowl cut and the Lego lunch box.”Swift hasn’t been to Reading in more than a decade; she was fourteen when she moved with her family to Nashville, on her way to becoming a celebrated country singer-songwriter and later blossoming into one of the biggest pop acts in music history.Returning to the place where you grew up can be a bit of a mind-bender for anyone, and Swift is no different.No, that maid of honor, currently fussing over and straightening out the train of the bride’s gown, is Taylor—Scott and Andrea Swift’s older kid, Austin’s big sister, who grew up barely a five-minute drive away and used to go for ice cream at the Friendly’s down the street. “She really wanted me to be a horseback rider, and I did it competitively until I worked up the nerve at age twelve to tell her I didn’t really love it like she loved it.“I just wanted to make music and do theater,” she says.To be clear: I’m not saying the people in this church aren’t aware that Scott and Andrea’s kid turned into, you know, —it’s hilarious to watch the flower girls try to keep it together, and the nuns seem pretty jazzed, too—but that’s not the story today. And the only evidence that the maid of honor is you-know-who is the paparazzi who have gathered at the bottom of the hill, hoping to snag a photo with their long lenses. A treasured footnote to the Taylor Swift backstory is that she spent much of her childhood being raised at, of all places, a Christmas-tree nursery called Pine Ridge Farm. “So I’ve been a big disappointment.”“I’ve gotten over the bitterness, finally,” Andrea says sarcastically.(“Her not being creative is one of the last things I’d ever worry about,” the musician and producer Jack Antonoff tells me later.)“I’m always going to be writing songs,” Swift says.“The thing is, with me, I could very well come up with three things in the next two weeks and then jump back into the studio, and all of a sudden the next record is started.