Taylor Swift Reveals Boyfriend Joe Alwyn Was 'Folklore' Collaborator

Taylor Swift-Folklore- Publicity - H 2020
Beth Garrabrant

In her new Disney+ special, 'Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions,' released Wednesday, the singer is joined by her collaborators Jack Antonoff and The National’s Aaron Dessner as they perform and break down the creation of each of the album's 17 songs.

After surprising fans with a new album folklore and revealing that she's rerecording her previous albums, Taylor Swift treated fans once again with a Disney+ special, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, released Wednesday.

Throughout the special, Swift is joined by her Folklore collaborators Jack Antonoff and The National’s Aaron Dessner as they break down the creation and meaning behind each of the album's 17 songs created amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Swift also performs each of the songs alongside Antonoff and Dessner.

Following its July 24 release, the album became the first album to sell a million copies in the U.S. in 2020. The special also comes after it was announced Folklore received Grammy nominations for album of the year and pop vocal album.Meanwhile, Swift secured song of the year and best pop solo performance nods for "cardigan," which she wrote with Dessner. Her song "exile," featuring Bon Iver, is also up for best pop duo/group performance.

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the takeaways from Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions. 

COVID-19  

Swift worked on folklore as the world was hit by the novel coronavirus. The singer explained that the album is reflective of the current times because it allows listeners to "feel your feelings" and is a "product of isolation."

"The pandemic and lockdown runs through this album like a thread," Swift said. The singer also touches on the the pandemic through various songs including "mirrorball" and "epiphany."

Of her song "mirrorball," Swift explained that she wrote the song after learning all of her tour dates for her Lover Fest tour, which was expected to kick off this summer with just two stops in NFL stadiums, was canceled amid the pandemic. "I realize here I am writing all this music still trying and I know I have an excuse to sit back and not do something but I'm not and I don't know why that is."

Later on when discussing "epiphany," Swift discussed being inspired to write about her grandfather who fought in World War II but deciding to use the song to also pay tribute to the essential workers experiencing trauma amid a COVID-19 era.

"I realize that there are people right now taking a 20-minute break in between shifts at a hospital who are having this kind of trauma happen to them right now that they will probably never want to speak about. I just kind of thought this is an opportunity to tell that story."

Joe Alwyn

Though fans speculated that the mysterious songwriter listed on folklore's credits as William Bowery was Swift's boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, Swift had yet to confirm the true identity. In the special, the singer finally reveals that the rumors are true and Alwyn is Bowery and helped write a couple songs for folklore including "exile" and "betty."

“There’s been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity because it’s not a real person….So, William Bowery is Joe, as we know," Swift tells Antonoff and Dessner as they discuss her song "exile."

“Joe plays piano beautifully, and he’s always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things," Swift explained, adding that the actor had written the entire piano part in the song and the first verse. "I was entranced and asked if we could keep writing that one."

Swift explains that she and Alwyn are fans of Bon Iver and so it was a dream come true for Bon Iver to join her for a duet on the song.

Later on when discussing "betty," Swift reflected on working with Alwyn on a song for the first time. "I just heard Joe singing the entire fully formed chorus of 'betty' from another room and I was just like, 'hello,' " she said smiling.

“It was a step that we would have never have taken, because why would we have ever written a song together?” she said. Meanwhile, Antonoff admitted he first didn't believe her when she told him her and Alwyn had written a song together. Swift went on to explain that that moment marked the first time the couple had ever discussed collaborating on music. "I was like, 'hey this could be really weird and we could hate this'" Swift recalled, but because they were in quarantine they decided to try.

A Different Songwriting Process

Swift is known for her honest lyrics but she explained that the freeing aspect of folklore was being able to take the spotlight away from her personal stories. "This was the first album that I've ever let go of that need to be 100 percent autobiographical because I think I felt like I needed to do that and I felt like fans needed to hear a stripped from the headlines account of my life," Swift reflected. "This was the first time that I ever I was kind of outside of my own personal stuff."

She credits her favorite aspect of working on folklore is that the album is "allowed to exist on its own merit" rather than being something people listen to as a way to learn something they could "read in a tabloid."

Getting Personal

Though she sings about various narratives through her songs on the album, Swift describes the song "peace" as one that's "extremely personal" to her. In the song, she sings about the insecurity of never being able to give someone peace, which she explained was reflective of what comes with being in the spotlight.

"With everything that is in my control, I could make myself seem like someone who doesn't have an abnormal life and I try that everyday," she told Dessner. "How do I make myself among my friends and families and loved ones not see this elephant in the room for a normal life because I don't want the elephant in the room."

As a result from being in the spotlight, Swift explains that there's only so much she could control. "If you're going to be in my life, I feel like there's a certain amount that comes with it that I can't stop from happening. I can't stop from you getting a call in the morning saying the tabloids are writing this today. I can't help it if there's a guy with a long lense camera two miles away with a telescope lense taking pictures of you. I can't stop those things from happening."

Through the song "peace," Swift aimed to ponder the thought "is it enough?" "Is the stuff that I could control enough to sort of block out the things that I can't?"

Female Rage

Of her song "Mad Woman," Swift said she knew the song's piano instrumentation matched that of "female rage." Swift explained the song's inspiration came from the idea that responding to "bad male behavior" is "treated like the offense itself."

"The most rage provoking element of being a female is the gaslighting that happens when for centuries we've been just expected to absorb male behavior silently. Silent absorption of whatever any guy decides to do," she said.

Though she doesn't explicitly name Scooter Braun and the tensions existing following him purchasing her masters (he later sold them after the special was filmed), Swift referred to having a relatable experience in which she's made to look like the "offender."

"There's been situations recently with somebody who's very guilty of this in my life and it's a person who tries to make me feel like I'm the offender by having any kind of defense… I have no right to respond or I'm out of line," she explained. She later thanked Dessner for "providing the musical bed" for her to make a point she's been wanting to convey through song and "How do I say why this feels so bad?"