"I've written her some very big checks," he says.

Swift has sold 6 million of her first and second albums, making her the bestselling artist of 2008. She's benefited from a broad demographic appeal: The "Taylor Nation" ranges from country to indie-music fans to the Disney generation, particularly the good gifts.

"I'm so glad this was my first election." Her eyes dart around like a cornered cat as her dad runs on about the tour bus on which she travels with her mom: "We call it the ' Estrogen Express,'" he says. Then her dad talks about the treadmill he got for her, because she didn't want to deal with signing autographs at the gym. Within 45 minutes, Swift produces two dozen perfect, chewy cookies, which she offers around with a glass bottle of milk.

Suddenly, she squints at the jar, and shrieks a little: . Then she blinks rapidly and composes herself."I didn't do that," she says, shaking her head firmly.

"I always want to be responsible for the things I say and do." Then she adds, "Also, I would have a problem lying to my parents about that."Swift has gotten far playing Little Miss Perfect — not only was her second album, , at Number One for eight weeks this winter, but she's enjoyed numerous perks, like a 10-day stay at the West Coast home of her childhood idols, Faith Hill and Tim Mc Graw, which is where she is today. The fact that Swift's first hit single is called "Tim Mc Graw" — a wistful, gimmicky ballad about a separated couple who recall each other by their favorite Mc Graw song — is a clue to her feelings about them.

The couple, who befriended Swift in Nashville, offered the use of their house while she is in L. "I love Tim and Faith," she says, dashing about the house, which is utterly enormous, filled with gilt crosses and life-size Grecian statues, and worth about $14 million (Eddie Murphy is a neighbor, in a house "the size of a country," says Swift). You know when you walk into a furniture store, and you're like, ' Oh, that's how I'm going to decorate my house,' and then the next one you're like, ' No, going to be the way I decorate my house'? "I think when I do it, I'm going to be so indecisive."Swift lives at home with her parents in a suburb outside of Nashville, in a big house overlooking a lake.

"And as much as possible, I'm going to avoid that.

It's self-preservation, really."Self-preservation is one of Swift's favorite phrases, and she uses it in reference to both her professional and personal lives.She wants to have a long career, not get tossed away like most teen stars."I've not seen many people work as hard as Taylor," says Kellie Pickler, a good friend.She's very savvy: It was her decision to sing "Fifteen," her song about the innocence of that age, with Miley Cyrus at the Grammys."I think it's cool, because when she was 15 she had a lot of things going on," says Swift.Swift writes or co-writes all of her songs: She's been a working songwriter since the age of 13, when she landed a development deal with RCA Records.