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Taylor Swift’s Next Big Deal Is for Her Songwriting

“Hello.” “O.K., it’s happened. We’re in business.” “How’s this?” “I like it, Alex.” “Do you always keep instruments near your bed in case inspiration strikes?” “Well, I have a piano near me all the time, and I always have a good — yeah, the answer is yes.” Singing: “Take me out and take me home. You’re my, my, my, my lover.” “I’ve never really been able to fully explain songwriting other than it’s like this little glittery cloud floats in front of your face, and you grab it at the right time. And then you revert back to what you know about the structure of a song in order to fill in the gaps.” “Where were you the moment inspiration struck?” “It was, I was in bed. I was in Nashville. I got out of bed. I think it was really late at night, and stumbled over to the piano.” Voice memo: “O.K., so I had this idea that’s like — obviously I don’t know the verse, whatever yet, but I have a pretty cool, really simple, beautiful chorus idea called ‘Lover.’” “I’ve been thinking for years, God, it would just be so great to have a song that people who are in love would want to dance to, like slow dance to. In my head, I had just the last two people on a dance floor at 3 a.m., swaying.” “What did you have in your mind? Was it the title? Was it a lyric? Was it a melody?” “It was not — it was, can I go where you go? Can we always be this close?” Singing: “Can I go where you go? Can we always be this close forever and ever?” “I wanted the chorus to be these really simple existential questions that we ask ourselves when we’re in love. ‘Can I go where you go’ is such a heavy thing to ask somebody. ‘Can we always be this close’ has so much fear in it, but so does love.” “When did you hit upon the word ‘lover’?” “Oh, I’ve always liked that word, but I’ve never used it in everyday life. When people are like, that’s my lover over there or calling each other lover, I’ve never done that, but I’ve always loved it in the context of poetry or songs.” “It’s a polarizing word. Some people are like, ‘Ugh, that word gives me the creeps.’” “Well, anything I do is polarizing. So, you know, I’m used to that.” “Fair enough. So how much of the song did you get done that night at the piano in Nashville?” “The whole thing.” “She sent me that voice note. Whether it’s a whole song or just a little thing from her, I sort of get this big jolt, and I listen and I block out the whole world for a minute. Every lyric and melody was right there. And I was like …” [ding] “… get on a plane. She came in the next day. She sat right there. She played it.” “It’s basically, I don’t see it as piano. I think it’s that kind of dreamy, guitary, throwback, but not like camp throwback.” “I know what you mean.” “So —” [piano] “I thought it was the perfect song, which is really interesting because it’s almost like even more of a duty to do it right.” Singing: “You’re my, my, my, my lover.” “That seems so much better.” “Yeah, I love the walk down.” “That really fixes that part.” “I love the walk down.” “That was the only thing that —” “I was trying to figure out, what the hell is going to happen there? So the —” “That makes it so much better.” Singing: “My, my, my, my.” “When I’m working with Jack and Taylor, I’m working with two extremely creative people who are bouncing ideas back and forth so fast. So my job is to basically not slow them down in any way.” “Laura’s been by my side for every record I’ve made pretty much since people started listening to any of my records. We’re all — three of us are in that process together.” “We’re just like ugh, like it’s just fun. We’re fully, fully acting on impulse. And we’re acting on intuition, and we’re acting on excitement and oat-milk lattes.” “I remember the first thing I did was I went into the live room, which is right there. And at that time I had listened to a lot of Violent Femmes recently, and I was excited about how much feeling you could get out of a snare drum if it was a brush.” [drums] “And I just remember going in and going ‘psh,’ one brush. I wasn’t even really playing drums. I just kind of had one brush. I just —” “We were using real reverbs and real tape echoes. It gives a really special character to it where it does feel nostalgic.” “The bass, which is a very, very, very special bass, belongs to the studio.” “He was calling that the ‘Paul bass.’ Is that Paul McCartney?” “Yeah.” “My old Hofner bass, my little baby. Come on, baby.” “We were just referencing like what would Paul do — W.W.P.D.? Humming: Brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum. The bass line is actually the hook.” “It’s not a true ‘Paul bass’ though.” “It’s not a true ‘Paul bass’ at all, but it’s better at that ‘Paul thump’ than I’ve ever gotten out of the violin bass.” Humming: “Brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum.” “The bass and the drum is sort of like — if you just hear those two tracks, like the entire space is so, I think, beautifully filled.” “In the studio, I’m obsessively going over every lyric and making sure that’s what I want the final lyric to be. So I’ll be over, in my notes, just sharpen that, hone in on that.” “Were there lines that changed in that process?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had toyed with the idea of being like, we could leave the Christmas lights up till April.” Singing: “We could leave the Christmas lights up till January.” “Doesn’t everyone leave their Christmas lights up till January?” “But it’s not about that being a crazy thing. It’s about how mundane it is. It’s about we could put a rug over there. We could do wallpaper, or we could do paint.” Singing: “This is our place. We made the rules.” “When young adults go from living in their family to then combining their life with someone else, that’s actually like the most profound thing.” “To be just telling this story — I don’t know. It almost feels like an old story I’ve heard many times. I mean, I guess it is, people falling in love.” “Tell me about the importance of the bridge to you. I feel like you love a bridge. This is a special bridge. Talk to me about it.” “I love a bridge. I love a bridge so much. I love trying to take the song to a higher level with the bridge.” “There’s these, sort of, hand-plucking strings and these kind of flutes that are popping out.” “I wanted it to be the first time we introduced the idea of vows.” “Make it feel like a little wedding.” Singing: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand?” “I love to take a common phrase and twist it. So the bridge, I took all these common phrases that we say about weddings …” Singing: “With every guitar-string scar on my hand.” “I like to add something that changes the phrase.” Singing: “I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover.” “Without a bridge, a song can sort of feel almost like a jingle. You know when you’re driving through beautiful scenery, and you’re like mountains, trees. Oh my God, right? And all of a sudden you go through a tunnel and you’re like, what the [expletive]? And then it’s back. Mountains and trees, so beautiful. It’s like you need that third element to take you away from where you’ve been so you’re so excited to get it back. Specifically in ‘Lover’ when you come out of the bridge and you go back into the chorus, you’re just ‘phew.’” Singing: “Can I go where you go? Can we always be this close, forever and ever?” “And it was all done in that one day.” “Oh yeah.” “I mean, I think we were all really excited when we left the studio that day.” “Even if anybody had been like, I don’t think this one is great, I would have been like, ‘Well, I reject your feedback because I love this one.’” “It’s the perfect song, and tells that story perfectly and pulls me right into where she wants me, as the listener, to be. You’re my, you’re my, you’re my, you’re my, you’re my what? And then —” [thump] Singing: “Lover.” “Do you have guitar-string scars on your hands?” “Well, I mean, I have extreme calluses. You can’t see them, probably, but they’re all — and I have some from just changing strings and not being very good at it. Do you know what I mean? Like some where you’re like tuning, tuning, tuning. Pop. Ow.”

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