On Sunday, September 28th, I was one of 89 participants that got to listen to Taylor Swift’s unreleased album at a secret listening session in Nashville, TN.
I think it’s safe to say that age 22 has been kind to me.
I’M STILL REELING! To say that night was a dream come true is a ridiculous understatement. Like so many other Swifties, Taylor has shaped my adolescence deeply. I’ve listened to her music through all every major heartbreak in my life, through my most carefree moments with friends, through the absolute terror and joy that is growing up.
The experience was probably the most intimate I could ask for as a die-hard fan. After receiving a mysterious, vague invitation via a phone call on Thursday evening, I had to convince my parents that this was somehow legit – there was a possibility for me to meet the stunning Taylor Swift in person! I had read about the previous listening sessions in LA, and only hoped this call was genuine. I was sworn to confidentiality, so in addition to trying to make it to Sunday (I literally had to take sleeping pills to get rest), I also had to keep it a secret from my fellow fans and best friends!
After much deliberation about the validity of this invitation, I convinced my mother to drive me to Nashville on Sunday for this top secret event. We met in a mysterious parking lot along the streets of Nashville. Sheer relief washed over me when we saw a crowd of people instead of some shady guy and his van. As I waited in line, I bonded with Swifties from all over the country, ranging from Texas to Illinois.
A tangible buzz of excitement filled the air as we we signed confidentiality forms and checked all of our belongings. As we waited, my mom talked with the Taylor Nation team and confirmed my hopes: the eighty-nine of us in attendance were hand-picked by Taylor Swift herself. I instantly teared up at the the thought of this artist whom I admire knowing any little detail about me. I still don’t know how I got so lucky!
After a bit more waiting, we were shuttled just a few blocks away to the home of Andrea and Scott Swift. It’s a gorgeous house from the 1920s, the walls filled with Taylor Swift memorabilia. We all drooled over photos of Taylor as a young girl, had polaroids taken, and ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.
Soon enough, we were ushered inside and sat on cushions along the living room floor. The anticipation was visible on each and every face I saw as I scanned the crowd. And then, the moment we had all been waiting for: beautiful Taylor Swift appeared out of thin air! Instantly, everyone was in tears.
My first instinct was shock. She’s even more gorgeous in person than I imagined (if that’s possible). It was so sweet to watch her interact with the crowd. She recognized many faces, calling out to a few of the fans by name as she surveyed the crowd. She was clearly so excited to be our hostess – she even baked us cookies (I had pumpkin and chocolate-mint, which were almost as insane as the new album)!
The entire time, I kept marveling at the fact that I have essentially grown up with the girl in front of me, both as a woman and as an artist. It was mind-blowing, to say the least. I think it’s safe to say we Swifties have chosen the most generous, enthusiastic, grateful role model.
Perhaps the most thrilling portion of the evening was sitting down to listen to “1989” in its entirety. Taylor gave a candid speech describing the inspiration behind each song, some that made us laugh and some that moved us to tears. This album comes from a place of growth and maturity, and I was blown away by how relevant every song felt to my life.
Other Swifties echoed this sentiment aloud, and Taylor responded knowingly to each individual, often saying, “we’ll have to talk later.” This is the best album yet. The sound is very eighties-inspired, deliciously pop, but ultimately it stays true to the heart of Taylor’s songwriting.
What I love most about her latest artistic endeavor is that even as she grows older, she stays true to her mission: to be candid about the impact of our relationships. Not just romantically, but as human beings. Our world glorifies cynicism, often mocking those who feel “too much” or “too deeply.”
By choosing to write honest songs, Taylor stands for the opposite – and that is the root of my deep admiration. It is so important to stay vulnerable, especially in spite of pain and heartbreak. If we choose to let the world harden us, we kill an essential part of ourselves. Our vulnerability radically defines our lives, allowing us to foster deeper connections and truly experience the world around us.
This mission is what I hope to bring to every single thing I do in life, but especially the art I make. I didn’t start Kelsey McMurry Photography simply because photographs look pretty – I do it because photography is an essential part of my human experience. It helps me feel, helps me connect with every single gorgeous soul I meet. I have Taylor Swift to thank for my mission to stay open and soft in a world that tries its best to harden us. I’m so thankful I’ve chosen a role model that inspires me artistically, but even more so, who inspires me to be a better human.