Now that Taylor Swift has revealed that her mysterious Folklore co-writer William Bowery is actually boyfriend/actor Joe Alwyn, she was able to open up further about their songwriting process in a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in discussing her latest surprise album, Evermore.
In a nearly hourlong conversation with Lowe (watch in full below), Apple Music’s Songwriter of the Year covered a range of topics, including why artists should own their own master recordings and how she’s feeling “really close” to her old songs again in the process of re-recording them. But the real peek behind the curtain was hearing about Swift and Alwyn’s very private (and very creative) quarantine life and how it birthed standout songs on her pair of 2020 albums.
“He’s always just playing instruments and he doesn’t do it in a strategic ‘I’m writing a song right now’ thing,” Swift said of Alwyn. “He’s always done that. But do I think we would have taken the step of, ‘Hey, let’s see if there’s a song in here. Let’s write a song together’? If we hadn’t been in lockdown, I don’t think that would have happened, but I’m so glad that it did.”
One of the songs to come from their new musical partnership was Folklore’s “Exile,” Swift’s duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. “We’re so proud of that one,” she said. “Also because I do remember the exact moment that I walked in and he was playing that exact piano part. And all I had to do was follow the piano melody with the verse melody. So because the vocal melody is exactly the same, pretty much it’s mirrored with the piano part that he wrote. And we did the same thing with [new Bon Iver-featuring song] ‘Evermore,’ where I’ll just kind of hear what he’s doing and it’s exactly, it’s all there. All I have to do is dream up some lyrics and come up with some gut-wrenching, heart-shattering story to write with him.”
And about those gut-wrenching, heart-shattering lyrics: It turns out that’s just how Taylor and Joe like it. “Joe and I really love sad songs,” she said. “We’ve always bonded over music. … We write the saddest. We just really love sad songs. What can I say?”
The couple also collaborated on “Champagne Problems” from Evermore. “He started that one and came up with the melodic structure of it,” she said. “And I say it was a surprise that we started writing together, but in a way, it wasn’t because we have always bonded over music and had the same musical tastes. And he’s always the person who’s showing me songs by artists and then they become my favorite songs or whatever. But yeah, ‘Champagne Problems,’ that was one of my favorite bridges to write. I really love a bridge where you tell the full story in the bridge, like you really shift gears in that bridge. I’m so excited to one day be in front of a crowd when they all sing, ‘She would have made such a lovely bride. What a shame she’s f—ed in the head.’ … Because I know it’s so sad. I know it’s so sad, but it’s those songs, like ‘All Too Well’ — performing the song ‘All Too Well’ is one of the most joyful experiences I ever go through when I perform live. So when there’s a song like ‘Champagne Problems’ where you know it’s so sad, you know that, but I love a sad song, you know?”
Watch Swift’s full interview below: