These days, it’s no secret that Taylor Swift‘s boyfriend Joe Alwyn helped write some of the songs on her fan-favorite album Folklore. But back when it was released in July of 2020, all fans had to go off was a mysterious, untraceable name — William Bowery — to feed their suspicions that the up-and-coming actor had contributed to his superstar girlfriend’s Grammy-winning record.
It wasn’t until her November 2020 music special with Disney +, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, that Swift confirmed once and for all that William Bowery was indeed Alwyn. Fast forward to a Monday (May 9) interview with GQ, the Conversations With Friends leading man has finally explained why they waited so long to officially let the cat — which, let’s be honest, was pretty loosely contained anyway — out of the bag.
“The idea was that people would just listen to the music rather than focus on the fact that we wrote it together,” he told the magazine, saying he and Swift knew that his involvement would have been all people talked about had they not kept it under wraps. “It was fun to do it together, and I was proud of it. It was nice getting such a positive reception.”
Alwyn also talked about how his and the “All Too Well” singer’s collaborative Folklore tracks — “Betty” and “Exile” — were actually quite impromptu. “It was really the most accidental thing to happen in lockdown,” he explained. “It wasn’t like, ‘It’s three o’clock, it’s time to write a song!’ It was just messing around on a piano and singing badly and being overheard and then thinking, you know, what if we tried to get to the end of it together?”
In fact, it was Alwyn who made up the melody and wrote the first verse of “Exile,” a duet performed by Swift and Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon. “Sending it to Justin with the idea of doing a duet and getting voice notes back of him singing over the top and stuff was surreal,” he said, before adding that there’s probably somewhat embarrassing recorded evidence of him singing the track in its early stages. “Jesus, there’s probably a voice note somewhere that should be burned.”
The 31-year-old Billy Lynn actor, who combined his grandfather’s first name and his personal favorite New York area to create the pen name William Bowery, went on to work on even more songs with Swift on her subsequent album Evermore — “Champagne Problems,” “Coney Island” and “Evermore.” Still, he maintains that he will continue keeping details of his romance with the 11-time Grammy winner to himself.
“I think because the precedent was set – that our choice is to be private and not feed that side of things – the more you do that, hopefully, the more that intrusiveness or intrigue drops off,” he said, before later on adding: “I’m sure I’ve come across as guarded in the past. And it’s a mix of me being British and having a private life. But I don’t want to be going into these things guarded.”
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