It’s the worst-kept secret ever. Taylor Swift has finally revealed who the heck folklore collaborator William Bowery is, confirming what we all pretty much guessed: it’s Joe Alwyn.
As you’ll recall back in July, when folklore came out, two tracks, “betty” and “exile”, were credited both to Taylor Swift, obviously, but also to William Bowery, a dude no one’s ever heard of.
Swifties had a suspicion it might be Alwyn after connecting the dots: he has a composer great-grandad named William and NYC’s Bowery Hotel was where he and Swift had one of their first public dates back in 2016. Receipts below.
At the time, Taylor said nothing about William Bowery or his identity. Enter her delightful new film, folklore: the long pond studio sessions, which surprise-dropped this week, and the revelation that William Bowery is Joe Alwyn after all. “So, William Bowery is Joe, as we know,” Taylor says.
“Joe plays piano beautifully and he’s always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things,” she explained. “And ‘exile’ was crazy because Joe had written that entire piano part.”
She continued: “He was singing the Bon Iver part, the ‘I can see you standing honey, with his arms around your body, laughing but the joke’s not funny at all.’ He was just singing it. And I was entranced and asked if we could keep writing that one.”
For “betty”, a breakup ballad written from a guy’s perspective, it was pretty much the same story. Swift said the track was borne from hearing Alwyn singing “the entire fully formed chorus from another room”.
“And I was just like, ‘Hello.’ It was a step that we would never have taken because why would we have ever written a song together?”
Taylor did say that she was initially hesitant to team up together on a track. “So this was the first time we had a conversation where I came in and I was like, 'Hey, this could be really weird, and we could hate this, so because we're in quarantine and there’s nothing else going on, could we just try to see what it's like if we write this song together?'" she said.
It’s actually not that surprising she’d be a bit cautious, considering she didn’t have the best experience with her last pen name saga. If you remember, when she dated Calvin Harris, she was a co-writer on his hit, “This Is What You Came For”, using the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. This collaboration caused all sorts of spats down the line, including that infamous Harris tweet: “Amazing lyric writer and she smashed it as usual. Hurtful to me at this point that her and her team would go so far out of their way to try and make ME look bad at this stage though."
Watch Taylor Swift and Bon Iver perform “exile” here:
And check our Taylor Swift’s live performance of “betty” here:
Written by Sangeeta Kocharekar, an American-born, Sydney-based writer at MTV. Photos from her pre-COVID-19 days as a travel writer are here.
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