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. “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.
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.
During a car ride earlier in the day, she excitedly pointed out landmarks: the creek where she and Britany used to play as kids; a weathered tree house in the front yard of the former Maack family home; the piney woods she and her friends used to think were haunted.
“It’s such a surreal, emotional thing,” Swift says.
“When you’re a little kid, you’re riding the same roads to school every single day, hundreds of times.
When you come back, you snap into that strange nostalgia.” And the church!There are nuns here at Sacred Heart Chapel who taught Swift in kindergarten. It’s the morning of the wedding, and I am riding in an SUV with Swift and her mother, Andrea.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.BY NOW YOU KNOW that the past few years have been extraordinary ones in the life of Taylor Swift.Even if you have only casual knowledge of Swift’s music—there may be six or seven souls left on the planet who can’t sing all the words to “Shake It Off”—you’re aware that Swift has become not only one of the most successful recording artists ever, but also an unrivaled power broker who has prevailed in a volatile media economy and brought today’s music overlords to heel.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.