At the end of July, Taylor Swift surprise dropped Folklore, which she created in isolation with producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Folklore is both a critical and commercial hit with five Grammy nominations and eight weeks on top of the Billboard 200. And now, there’s more.
In September, Swift, Dessner and Antonoff came together to play the full album for the first time in the same room — and the result was the documentary (and live album) Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, streaming now on Disney+.
Live renditions of Folklore cuts are peppered with cozy chats, wine, whiskey and fires in the tranquil and serene setting of the Long Pond Studio.
Here’s everything we learned from the film.
William Bowery Is Joe Alwyn
When Folklore was released, an unknown writer named William Bowery was credited on both “Exile” and “Betty.” Fans speculated over the identity, but Taylor confirmed in the doc that it is, in fact, her longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
The First Song She Wrote Is “My Tears Ricochet” and She Always Knew It Would Be Track No. 5
In Taylor Swift lore, track five on each album always deals in heartbreak and sadness. “My Tears Ricochet” fits that theme. “Chronologically, that’s the first thing. I wrote that one alone,” Swift said to Antonoff. “It’s definitely I think one of the saddest songs on the album.”
“I think it’s one of the best songs you’ve written,” Antonoff responded, “Which is I think why you crowned it as a track 5.”
“Picking a track 5 is sort of a pressurized decision that I knew from day one that this would be it,” she said.
“Mirrorball” Was Written After Loverfest Was Canceled
“I wrote this song right after I found out all my shows were canceled,” she explained of “Mirrorball.”
And she knew she had a good reason to take a break from work — with a virulent pandemic, no one would blame her. But she didn’t want to. “I realized, 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 can’t.”
Taylor’s Approach to Creating a Song Can Be All Over the Place
Antonoff tried to capture the frenetic way writing with Swift works. “Here’s the song, here’s the bridge, here’s a better bridge. Oh wait, now I have the perfect bridge, and then here’s the thing after the bridge,” he said of working on “August,” but he enjoyed the process. “Hearing that patchwork of that whole thing coming together, I just love what you did on that song.”
The Third Person In the Folklore Triangle Is Not Named Inez
Upon initial release of Folklore, fans noted that “Cardigan,” “August” and “Betty” are three sides of a love triangle showing different points of view from Betty (“Cardigan), James (“Betty”) and the unnamed protagonist of “August.” Many assumed that Inez, mentioned in the lyrics of “Betty” was the unnamed person. That’s not how Swift sees it. “I’ve been kind of in my head like calling the girl from ‘August’ either Augusta or Augustine.”
Betty and James End Up Together
Apparently when James showed up at the party, Betty did not tell him to go f— himself. “So ‘Cardigan’ is Betty’s perspective from like 20 to 30 years later, looking back on this love that was this tumultuous thing. In my head, I think Betty and James end up together … but he really put her through it.”
Folklore Is Definitely Not Fully Autobiographical
Swift is known for weaving tales of her own life into her work. Yet, Folklore is a little bit different. “This is the first album that I’ve ever let go of that need to be 100% autobiographical. Because I think I felt like I needed to do that. I felt like fans needed to hear a stripped from the headlines account of my life and it actually ended up being a bit confining.
“That’s been my favorite thing about this album. It’s allowed to exist on its own merit without it just being ‘oh, people are listening to this because it tells them something they could read in a tabloid.'”
But She Really Did Send an Ex a Baby Gift
In “Invisible String,” Swift sings “cold was the steel of my axe to grind for the boys who broke my heart, now I buy their babies presents.” That did actually happen. “I remembered I wrote it right after I sent an ex a baby gift. And I was just like ‘man, life is great.'”
Taylor Hates Gaslighting and Someone In Her Life Is Doing It to Her
“I was thinking, the most rage-provoking element of being a female is the gaslighting that happens … for centuries we’ve just been expected to absorb male behavior silently,” she told Dessner. “Oftentimes when we, in our enlightened state … now respond to bad male behavior or someone just doing something that was absolutely out of line and we respond, that response is treated like the offense itself.
“Recently with somebody who is very guilty of this in my life and it’s a person who makes me feel or tries to make me feel like I’m the offender by having any kind of defense to his offenses.”
Taylor Watched The Last Dance Too
What turned into a song about the parallels between her grandfather’s service in World War II and what first responders are going through during the pandemic, was almost a story about sports … because of Michael Jordan.
“When I heard [‘Epiphany’], I remember thinking, maybe I want to tell a sports story, because I had just watched The Last Dance,” Swift laughed.
Taylor Fantasizes About Escaping to a Cottage
Swift explained she has a backup plan to abscond to a cottage and leave her life behind — and a trip to the Lake District helped crystallize a song about just that in her mind, “The Lakes.”
“In the 19th century, you had a lot of poets like William Wordsworth and John Keats would spend a lot of time there. There was a poet district, these artists that moved there. They were kind of heckled for it and made fun of for it as being eccentrics. … I remember when we went, I thought, ‘Man I could see this. You live in a cottage, you’ve got wisteria growing up the side of it. Of course they would escape like that.'”