Aaron Dessner, guitarist and songwriter for The National, produced and co-wrote the majority of tracks on Taylor Swift’s new album Folklore.
On Friday, July 24th, Taylor Swift surprise released her eighth studio album, Folklore, which is getting the best reviews of the singer’s career. In contrast to Swift’s two most recent releases – 2019’s Lover and 2017’s Reputation – the production wasn’t handled solely by pop producers du jour such as Jack Antonoff and Joel Little.
Instead, Swift reached out to The National’s Aaron Dessner, who has previously worked with Sharon Van Etten, Local Natives, Mumford & Sons and Australian duo Luluc. It seems an unlikely pairing, especially given the saccharine pop sounds heard on Lover and Reputation. But Dessner’s presence coincides with Swift’s move towards more pared back and mature songcraft.
Dessner spoke to Pitchfork about his involvement in the record, revealing he’s been a fan of Swift’s work since 1989. It was around the time of that album’s release that he met Swift. “We met her at Saturday Night Live in 2014 when Lena Dunham was hosting,” said Dessner. As it turns out, Swift was a fan of The National. “She came to see us play last summer in Prospect Park during this crazy torrential downpour,” he said.
The next time Dessner heard from Swift was this April, which gives you an idea of how quickly Folklore came together. “I got a text and it said, ‘Hey it’s Taylor. Would you ever be up for writing songs with me?’ I said, ‘Wow. Of course.’ It was a product of this time. Everything we had planned got cancelled. Everything she had planned got cancelled. It was a time when the ideas in the back of your head came to the front. That’s how it started.”
Dessner had already been working on a lot of the album material during the early days of coronavirus lockdown. He sent this to Swift, who was thrilled. “She wanted to hear everything that was interesting to me at this moment, including really odd, experimental noise,” Dessner said. “Eventually, it was so inspiring that I wrote more ideas that were specifically in response to what she was writing.”