Taylor Swift is a worldwide superstar with essentially the whole world at her fingertips. Her newest album, '1989,' sold over one million copies in its first week, becoming the highest-selling album in 2014; she was the Top Music Money Maker last year; and she has a slew of famous friends. She is at the top, but unlike most celebrities, Swift doesn't cling to that status because at the heart of the matter, she says she is a songwriter first and a celebrity second.

"I see a lot of celebrities build up these emotional walls around themselves, where they let no one in, and that’s what makes them feel very lonely at the top," she tells TIME in an in-depth interview. "I just keep writing songs. And I kind of stay open to feeling humiliated and rejected because before being a quote-unquote celebrity, I’m a songwriter.

"Being a celebrity means you lock your doors and close your windows and don’t let people in," Swift adds. "Being a songwriter means you’re very attuned to your own intuition and your own feelings, even if they hurt."

Not only is this craftswoman / songwriter / superstar in tune with her emotional side, Swift is also a shrewd decision maker, famously controlling almost every step of her extremely successful career -- and that includes her leap from country to pure pop. Even though everyone around her was shying away from it, Swift charged forward.

"With '1989,' I was really putting my neck on the line because I was the one saying I need to change directions musically. And my label and management were the ones saying, 'Are you sure, are you positive? This is risky,'" she says. "And I was the one who had to come back every time and say, 'No, this is what we’re doing.'

"The fact that we came out and did the kind of numbers we did in the first week -- you have no idea how relieved I was because it was all on me if this didn't work," Swift continues. "It was a little hard to sleep the night of the album release."

Her fans responded in a huge way, and all eyes are on Swift these days. But the 'Shake It Off' singer doesn't let that pressure get to her in the least. In fact, it downright excites her.

"I don’t find a struggle with that balance, being looked at as a role model, because I think it’s a very obvious and natural thing for people to see you as when you’re a singer," Swift says. "I’ve always felt very comfortable with it for some reason.

"The idea that you’re living your life and it’s impacting other people, some of whom are very young, some of whom are in their most impressionable times and they’re discovering the music that tells them how they are going to live their lives and how they should feel and how it’s acceptable to feel," she adds, "I think that that’s kind of exciting."