Six things we learned from Taylor Swift's new 'Folklore' concert film on Disney+
Taylor Swift's concert film arrived on Disney+ Wednesday at the perfect time to get cozy and learn a few things about the star and her creative process.
"Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions," which clocks in at around an hour and 45 minutes, provides the kind of mood that comes with the soft comfort of sitting inside on a rainy day, wrapped in a "Cardigan" and enjoying a cup of tea while pondering the album's deeper meanings and getting into one's own feelings.
Swift shot the movie in September along with collaborators Aaron Dessner (The National), Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).
Here are six things we learned about "Folklore" and Swift's creative process thanks to the film.
1. Creativity came in solitude
When lockdown began, Swift says in the film's opening, she "sort of unexpectedly started writing the new album."
In fact, a studio was built in her home to help make it happen. The resulting album is a reflection of that homey environment.
"I think the pandemic and lockdown and all that runs through this album like a thread, because it's an album that allows you to feel your feelings and it's a product of isolation," she says.
One song, "Mirrorball," reflects the time outright in the lyrics. Swift wrote it after her shows were canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, she shares.
2. The album's opening line has a double meaning
Swift's album opener, "The 1," which is the first track performed acoustically in the film, is given another side when Swift discusses it in the context of the concert.
Dessner kicks off a discussion after Swift performs "The 1," saying he thinks she set the tone for the album with the song's first verse.
"I'm doing good / I'm on some new (expletive)," has a double meaning, Swift says. "It applies to the situation," she continues, noting she was updating a former lover on her circumstances. But she was also putting out an album at a really bad time for the world. Instead of saying "no," she started to say "yes" and it turned out to be a good decision.
3. Joe Alwyn is mysterious contributor William Bowery
Fans theorized that the credited Bowery was a pseudonym. (After all, Swift is no stranger to pen names: She was credited as Nils Sjoberg on ex Calvin Harris' "This Is What You Came For.")
"I only wish our other two co-writers were here," she says, referring to Vernon and "Bowery," while introducing the track "Exile," her duet with the Bon Iver frontman.
"William, I never got to meet," Antonoff playfully replies.
Then Swift admits, "William Bowery is Joe, as we know, and Joe plays piano beautifully."
Alwyn, Swift notes, is "always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things." He also inspired the duet's "he said, she said" arrangement.
4. She wrote 'My Tears Ricochet' first
While "Ricochet" sits as Swift's fifth track — a spot known by fans to hold a special place on her albums — Swift reveals it was the first one she wrote for "Folklore."
"Chronologically, that's the first thing," she says. "I wrote that one alone and it's definitely, I think, one of the saddest songs on the album."
Picking a song to sit at Track 5 is a "pressurized decision" she adds, noting that she knew, without question, that the sad ballad about a partner's betrayal had to take the coveted position.
"Writing this song, it kind of occurred to me: In all of the superhero stories the hero's greatest nemesis is the villain that used to be his best friend – that sort of thing," she says.
5. She switches things up frequently
"It's a weird experience to work with you," Antonoff says to Swift. "It's like 'Here's the song. Whoa, wait here's the bridge. Wait, here's a better bridge. OK, now we have the perfect bridge,' " he says, referring to the process of creating "August."
Swift adds she wrote part of the song in the vocal booth.
But the ideas flow in from outside the booth and over a longer period, too, she adds, noting that one line in "August" came from earlier inspiration. "I had written down 'meet me behind the mall' years ago, wanting to write it into a song."
6. This is the first Taylor Swift album that's not about Taylor Swift
A few of the ballads on "Folklore" are about other characters or sung from different character perspectives, including those named Rebekah, Betty, James and Inez.
But that's new for her, Swift says in the film.
"This was the first album that I've ever let go of that need to be 100% autobiographical," she says, explaining that while she felt the need for her work to reflect her life, it ended up being a confining factor.
"There is so much more to writing songs than just what you are feeling in your singular story line," she says.
And, like the pandemic-related thread that runs through the album, the environment Swift was in spurred that on.
"I was watching movies every day. I was reading books every day. I was thinking about other people every day — I was kind of outside of my own personal stuff," she explains.
And that change is her favorite part about "Folklore."
"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,' " Swift says.
Contributing: Patrick Ryan, Erin Jensen