The National has been a popular but fairly underground band since the late 1990s. However, they have not collaborated with many other artists. But did The National collaborate with Taylor Swift?
The National did collaborate with Taylor Swift on both of her albums from 2020; folklore and evermore. Specifically, National guitarist Aaron Dessner helped produce both albums, vocalist Matt Berninger duets on the song “coney island”, and all members of the band play on various songs.
But why would a band that is the darling of the hipster underground collaborate with a huge pop star?
People have questions about how all this happened, so I did a little digging. This is what I found out about the collaboration between The National and Taylor Swift.
Which songs did The National co-write with Taylor Swift?
The National co-wrote many songs for both of Taylor Swift’s 2020 albums. Specifically, they co-wrote tracks 1-3, 7, 11-13, 15, and 16 for folklore. And they co-wrote tracks 1, 4, 7-14, 16, and 17 on evermore.
It is clear that Taylor Swift wanted a different sound for this new music.
So, the musical pairing with The National made sense. Aaron Dessner, guitarist for The National, co-wrote a great deal of the songs on these albums and helped produce both albums.
And, in fact, had a hand in many of the fan favorites from the albums.
Aaron Dessner co-wrote 9 songs on folklore alone. Some of the songs include cardigan, seven, and the last great American dynasty. (note that Taylor intentionally uses lowercase on both albums).
These are some of the fan favorites from the first of the two albums.
I discussed Taylor’s usual approach in a recent article. In it, I look into her use of autotune during the recording process. It also explores her live performances.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
So, what about evermore?
The National was just as involved with the songs from evermore as they were with folklore.
Some of those are ‘tis the damn season, coney island, and, long story short. Again, these are some of the fan favorites, which means Aaron brought a welcomed voice to the project.
Of course, with songwriting, no one really knows to what degree.
Aaron’s name is second right behind Taylor’s on the production notes. This means he did a great deal of work, but Taylor is also a songwriter herself, so many of the ideas may have been already present.
But if you watch the Disney+ special on the making of folklore, called Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, a lot gets revealed.
I wrote a recent article comparing folklore and evermore.
In it, I dive into what makes them different and why they were both even released. I also discussed which is better overall.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Congratulations to Taylor Swift, Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Laura Sisk, Jonathan Low, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, and Randy Merrill for winning the Grammy for Album of the Year for ‘folklore’. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/R5Db7GP8hi
— taylor antis struggles (@TAYLORHATERSMAD) March 15, 2021
How did Taylor Swift meet The National?
The National met Taylor Swift at Saturday Night Live in 2014. The National was performing on the show, and Swift, who was a fan of the band, was in attendance.
Many people may wonder how Taylor Swift and The National ever even met in the first place.
According to Aaron Dessner in a Rolling Stone interview, they met in 2014 on the set of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. They were the musical guests that night, and Lena Dunham was the host for the episode.
Taylor Swift was a fan of The National, and the feeling was mutual. They actually met and talked that night. But it would be years before they would work together.
Aaron Dessner said to Rolling Stone:
“I think she was interested in the emotions that she feels in some of the music that I’ve made. So, I just sent her a folder of things I’d done recently and was excited about. Hours after, she sent back a fully written version of ‘cardigan’. It was like a lightning bolt struck the house.”
From there, they spent several months working on the bulk of the songs for the two surprise albums. The aforementioned “cardigan” served as the lead single from folklore.
It’s pretty interesting that a random encounter at SNL led to producing two of the biggest selling albums of 2020.
– did i close my fist around something Delicate (we love a reference)
– hello matt berninger
– dear john ??
– the universe waits!
– feels regretful and just . very loving, a love song to the good times
– nostalgic, feels like i’m sat with memories whirling round me pic.twitter.com/6aXIqI6LAR
— leaf (hurt their nose be kind) (@nightdivides) December 11, 2020
Who does Taylor Swift sing with on coney island?
Taylor Swift sings coney island, from her album evermore, with Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National.
There aren’t many featured artists on folklore and evermore, but one of them is on the song coney island.
Matt Berninger, the lead singer of The National, actually sings the song with Taylor. It should also be noted that every member of The National also worked on other aspects of this song, and most of the songs from both folklore and evermore.
Aaron and Bryce from The National actually wrote the song with Taylor Swift in conjunction with Joe Alwyn, Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, who is credited under the pseudonym, William Bowery.
Alwyn actually contributes to the writing and production of both albums as well.
When describing the experience of singing with Taylor Swift, Matt Berninger compared singing with Taylor to dancing with Gene Kelly.
The song was released as a single for radio in January of 2021.
Between the title of #TaylorSwift‘s new project and Aaron Dessner of The National co-writing/co-producing 11 of the 16 songs on #Folklore, it seems as though Taylor will explore a new sound on this body of work. Folk? Alternative? Dream Pop? pic.twitter.com/Dsg88UtJGI
— Mike Adam (@MikeAdamOnAir) July 23, 2020
Will The National perform live with Taylor Swift?
There has been no word on if Taylor Swift and The National will perform live together. But the occasional special performance such as an award ceremony is more likely than an ongoing tour or series of performances.
Of course, it would be great to hear her sing coney island with the band.
And for that matter, it would be great to hear her sing with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon who also sang 2 songs with Swift on those albums.
But coordinating performance schedules is tough.
But Taylor has managed to arrange a few performances with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco of their duet Me!. So anything is possible.
The National’s Aaron Dessner discusses charting new musical ground with Taylor Swift as she embraces the stories and mythos of the American folk tradition on #Folklore https://t.co/IDlpOiX1La pic.twitter.com/dcekkhbJIL
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 24, 2020
Do The National have plans to work with Taylor Swift again?
The National does not currently have plans to work with Taylor Swift again. 2020, with its almost complete lack of concerts, provided the perfect timing for their collaboration.
As bands start to resume their normal routines of writing, recording, releasing, and touring, the space for such comprehensive collaborations gets reduced.
But both albums they worked on together are still enjoying success on the charts. And when there is success, especially on the level of someone like Taylor Swift, there can be increased pressure to duplicate that success.
So, who knows? They may work together again. Or she may contribute to one of their future albums.
However, The National is said to be working on new music.
With their established musical relationship, it’s not a farfetched idea for them to involve her. They already have great chemistry together.
It’s always a great thing when artists discover people from other genres to work with. It’s also pretty awesome when they build and continue that musical relationship.
The National seems to have found that with Taylor Swift.
The National have been the darlings of underground indie rock since their inception in the late 1990s.
As such, their collaboration with Taylor Swift may have seemed surprising for some people, but they had a shared love for each other’s music.
It helps when artists are fans of each other.
The National were fans of Taylor Swift, and the same was true the other way around. This made their work together more natural than if their record labels had forced it. Their music is more authentic for this reason.
Only time will tell if they work together again. However, they have already left a great mark on music.
Photos that require attribution:
IMG_1017 by makaiyla willis, Matt Berninger of The National by musicisentropy, and Aaron Dessner by Levi Manchak is licensed under CC2.0 and were cropped, edited, merged, and had a text and graphic overlay added.