The National’s Aaron Dessner got a front-row seat to Taylor Swift‘s creative process when the pair teamed up on Swift’s pandemic-era 2020 acoustic folk albums Folklore and Evermore. And in an interview with People magazine for its 2023 Most Intriguing People of the Year issue, the guitarist/composer could not say enough about how impressed he is with Swift’s studio and people skills.
“I think Taylor is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. The poetic and literary bent of her lyricism, where songs often have elaborately woven narratives and hidden meanings that connect to her earlier or future work, what her fans call ‘easter eggs,’ helps to create an entire artistic world that we all get to inhabit and obsess over as her fans,” he said of Swift’s legendary secret world of clues and hints hidden in videos, lyrics and photographs.
“I love the sense of belonging that this creates in Taylor’s music, where joy, overcoming adversity, shattering patriarchal structures and celebrating diversity are so prevalent as themes. She is an absolute genius and thankfully also a truly wonderful human being,” he added.
Asked to share a studio story illuminating Swift’s skills as a songwriter, Dessner said he remembered sending Tay the music for the Evermore song “Willow,” only to have her write “the entire song from start to finish in less than 10 minutes… it was like an earthquake.” He also called her the “hardest working artist” he’s ever met, describing how Swift is involved in “every aspect” of writing and producing her songs thanks to her “incredible attention span and focus on detail.”
That attention extends to her private life, with Dessner revealing that he’s “never seen anyone wait on her,” and that when he’s stayed at Taylor’s house the singer — a “very, very good cook” — whipped up breakfast and dinner for everyone. “She’s legitimately just a very down-to-earth and hardworking person,” he said.
Dessner first met Swift in 2014 and that year’s 1989 album was the one that roped him in, he said, because it was “a perfect pop record” that he used to have fun cranking up on his stereo. The track that really got him was “Blank Space,” which, not to put too fine a point on it, felt to him like an “impossibly perfect pop song” when he heard it on the radio. Once he heard the entire album, Dessner was hooked by the sense that Swift was “some kind of incredibly rare unicorn of a song and songwriter.”
As for the “incredible endurance” it takes to play 44 songs over more than three hours a night on her record-breaking Eras Tour, Dessner said the only comparison he could make was to the legendary stamina of Bruce Springsteen in his prime. Though, to be honest, he said, “he [Springsteen] doesn’t have to cover as much ground as Taylor does up there.”