Fans had been theorizing about this since before the album even came out, but Taylor Swift has finally confirmed it. Joe Alwyn is folklore's William Bowery, one of the mysterious songwriters credited on the album. Swift revealed the pseudonym for Alwyn in her new Disney+ concert film, folklore: the long pond studio sessions.
"There's been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity. He's not a real person," Swift told collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff in the film, per Entertainment Tonight, adding, "William Bowery is Joe, as we know. And Joe, Joe plays piano beautifully, and he's always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things."
The first song Alwyn helped inspire was "Betty," the song famously named after Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds' daughter. "I just heard Joe singing the entire, fully formed chorus of 'Betty' from another room. And I just was like, 'Hello,'" Swift shared in the film, per ET. "It was a step that we would never have taken because why would we have ever written a song together? This was the first time we had a conversation where I came in and I was like, 'Hey, this could be really weird and we could hate this, so could we just, because we're in quarantine and there's nothing else going on, could we just try to see what it's like if we write this song together?'"
Needless to say, they didn't hate it. They continued writing the song together and Alwyn was the one who inspired her to write the song from the point of view of a teen boy. "He was singing the chorus of it and I thought it sounded really good from a man's voice, from a masculine perspective," Swift said. "I really liked that it seemed to be an apology... We decided to make it from a teenage boy's perspective, apologizing after he loses the love of his life because he's been foolish."
And "Betty" isn't the only song Alwyn had some input on. The actor also influenced "Exile," Swift's collaboration with Bon Iver. "'Exile' was crazy because Joe had written that entire piano part and he was singing the Bon Iver part... He was just singing it. And so, I was entranced and I asked if we could keep writing that one," Swift recalled. "It was pretty obvious that it should be a duet, 'cause he's got such a low voice and it sounded really good sung down there in that register."
Swift and Alwyn were first romantically linked in 2017. The relationship has notably been one of Swift's most low-profile. And hey, if it inspires beautiful music, I'm all for it.