Joe Alwyn Explains the Story Behind His 'Folklore' Song Credits

Joe Alwyn Explains the Story Behind His 'Folklore' Song Credits

by Hedy Phillips

When Taylor Swift’s Folklore was released in 2020, not only did it surprise and delight Swifties everywhere, but it sent them on a mission to try to figure out who William Bowery was. He was listed as a co-writer on the album and wasn’t someone that fans had ever heard of before. It turns out, Bowery was actually a pseudonym for Swift’s boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, which she eventually revealed in her documentary.

Despite being a celebrity in his own right, Alwyn has largely refrained from discussing anything about Swift with the public, keen to keep his private life private. Until now. Alwyn’s finally opened up about working with his girlfriend on music in a new interview with Vulture.

Their work together began during COVID while Swift was creating what would become Folklore and Evermore. Alwyn said he was “messing around” on the piano, toying with what would eventually become “Exile.”

“It was completely off the cuff, an accident,” he said. “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.”

Though Alwyn claims he is a terrible singer, he said he was in a band many years ago called Anger Management. He admittedly called the band “crappy” and insisted that he doesn’t consider himself a songwriter either. He does, however, claim that he’s not afraid to “walk around the house singing,” which is how some of his collaborations with Swift came together. That’s actually how “Betty” came about — with Swift gently prodding him to help her with writing.

“I’d probably had a drink and was just stumbling around the house,” he shared. “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.”

But despite the work he put into writing with Swift, Alwyn didn’t want having his name on the songs to take away from the songs themselves so he opted for a pseudonym — which only got Swift’s fans talking that much more. Going by William Bowery — after his great-grandfather and the New York street name — garnered buzz anyway, as anything surrounding Taylor Swift will do.

The Grammy-winning singer shared in her documentary how much she enjoyed having Alwyn work with her on music, saying, “Joe plays piano beautifully and he's always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things. And 'Exile' was crazy because Joe had written that entire piano part."

Alwyn ended up co-writing two songs on Folklore — “Exile” and “Betty” — and three songs on Evermore — “Champagne Problems,” “Coney Island,” and “Evermore.” And thanks to his songwriting efforts, Alwyn even took home a Grammy for Album of the Year when Folklore won in 2021. Not too bad for just a bit of dabbling on the piano and singing around the house.

Photo via Getty/ Jackson Lee/ GC Images