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When Taylor Swift arrives for the Songwriters Hall of Fame  Gala held Thursday at NYC’s Marriott Marquis Hotel, she makes a beeline for Phil Collins’ daughter Lily. The pair animatedly chat, giggling, before heading inside for the event, where she will bump into John Mayer later in the evening.

As pop heroes such as Phil, Peter Cetera and Kim Carnes dot the scene, Billy Joel steps up to give an update on his singer-songwriter daughter, Alexa Ray, who was hospitalized for an overdose in December and underwent plastic surgery in April.

“I’m very proud of her,” he says. “She’s a hard worker. She’s working really hard.”

Inside, John presents the Hal David Starlight award to Taylor. (He won the prestigious honor in 2006.).

“I’d always ask everyone who has ever worked with her ‘who is actually writing those songs?’” John, who serves as her Half of My Heart duet partner, says. “I got the chance to one night ask her. We sat down, started playing guitars, and  … she writes those songs. I’ve never seen a more fearless creator.”

Taylor graciously accepts the prize.

“I started writing when I was 14,” she says. “I sort of had two lives down in Nashville. I would go to school and the write at night. I always wanted to be one of those people who wrote hooks that got stuck in your head. For me, writing was an escape from reality –where I have to say the exact right thing at the exact right time. I’m much more likely to say ‘I miss you’ or ‘I love you’ in a song rather than in person. The only downside is the delay in saying what you want to say.”

She caps off the evening with a rousing rendition of her Grammy-winning hit White Horse.

Here’s my pic with Taylor:

valerietaylorfinal

Inside reporting by Michelle Edgar.

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