It started with him singing around the house.
Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn are such a power couple. Together, they wrote several songs for Swift’s 2020 albums Folklore and Evermore with Alwyn using the pseudonym William Bowery. Since Alwyn is mainly known for his acting chops, it was a bit of a surprise to learn of his contributions to the albums, but there’s much more to the story. Alwyn, who is currently starring in the Hulu series Conversations with Friends, just revealed the details of his once-secret songwriting skills. Turns out it all started unintentionally.
In a May 9 interview with Vulture, Alwyn revealed his musical background. In addition to growing up playing piano, the star said he played guitar in a “crappy school band called Anger Management.” Although he went on to pursue acting as a career, Alwyn evidently still likes to play the piano at home and was caught by Swift one day singing and “messing around” on the piano.
“It was completely off the cuff, an accident,” he said to Vulture. “She said, ‘Can we try and sit down and get to the end together?’ And so we did. It was as basic as some people made sourdough.”
That piano session eventually led to Swift’s hit Folklore track “Exile,” featuring Bon Iver. Vulture reports Alwyn came up with the song’s first verse before Swift added her lyrics. When he was asked how he wrote his lyrics so unintentionally, Alwyn said, “Who doesn’t walk around the house singing?”
Apparently, the songwriting process for “Betty” was similar. “I’d probably had a drink and was just stumbling around the house,” Alwyn said. “We couldn’t decide on a film to watch that night, and she was like, ‘Do you want to try and finish writing that song you were singing earlier?’ And so we got a guitar and did that.”
Although some fans instantly believed the pseudonym William Bowery belonged to Alwyn, Swift didn’t confirm the theory until November 2020 in her Disney+ documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions.
"There's been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity because it’s not a real person," Swift said in the film. "William Bowery is Joe, as we know.”
Following Folklore’s release in July 2020, Swift dropped Evermore a few months later in December. The album also included three songs co-written by Alwyn. In his interview with Vulture, Alwyn explained his choice of William Bowery as a pseudonym, saying it was a reference to both a Manhattan Street and his great-grandfather who was a music composer.
Alwyn also recently spoke with GQ about his work on Swift’s albums, specifically the song “Exile.” He said collaborating with Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, was “a perk of lockdown.” Alwyn even teased there might be a version of “Exile” featuring his vocals somewhere in Swift’s legendary vault. “Jesus, there’s probably a voice note somewhere that should be burned,” he said.
Sadly, this might be the end of William Bowery. GQ reports Alwyn doesn’t plan to continue songwriting. Of course, this news makes me want to stream “Exile” more than ever.