November 13, 2014 3:49 PM EST

For this week’s issue of TIME, photographer Martin Schoeller traveled from New York to photograph Taylor Swift for our cover. The location? Forest Hills, Tennessee near the star’s adopted base of Nashville. The studio? Swift’s family home.

“I wanted to show her in an unexpected light,” Schoeller tells TIME. “We are used to seeing her portrayed a certain way, quite ‘pop-like’. I wanted her to come across a bit differently.”

Taylor Swift photographed playing the piano at her parents' home in Forest Hills, Tennessee on September 29, 2014.
Martin Schoeller for TIME

So for the cover, Schoeller made one of his signature “close up” style images: tight framing, brightly lit. In the resulting image we see the pop star in a new light, up close and straight on.

The entire TIME shoot took nearly an hour and the photographer and his team tried several set ups: in the garden, in a living room space and in various parts of the house. In an image used in the magazine story, we see Swift drooped over a family piano, seemingly deep in thought. In a second shot, we see her in the garden in bright sunlight.

Taylor Swift photographed at her parents home in Forest Hills, Tennessee on September 29, 2014.
Martin Schoeller for TIME

“She knew exactly how to sit for a shoot,” Schoeller adds. “It went incredibly smoothly. It’s pretty exciting to photograph a star like her.”

Martin Schoeller is a New York-based photographer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, GQ and TIME among many others. Read Schoeller’s LightBox piece The Photo That Made Me.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox

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