Taylor Swift's "cardigan" and "willow" Were Originally Written for the National
"I'd taken a swing at ['cardigan'] and 'willow' and a couple of others, and I wasn't having a lot of luck, so Aaron sent them to Taylor"
Published Apr 20, 2023No less than lead singles from Taylor Swift's indie-impersonating pair of pandemic albums, "cardigan" and "willow" have become well-loved additions to the pop star's catalogue — but they almost weren't on folklore and evermore, or even Swift tracks to begin with.
In a new interview with The Telegraph, the National frontman Matt Berninger revealed that both songs were intended to be recorded by his band.
"I'd taken a swing at ['cardigan'] and 'willow' and a couple of others, and I wasn't having a lot of luck, so Aaron [Dessner] sent them to Taylor," he recalled of the instrumental compositions Dessner, who was a co-producer on both folklore and evermore, had drummed up for the group.
"I always have a lot of music to work on, and I am looking for something to connect emotionally," Berninger explained. "The reverse has happened, too, where Aaron wrote something for Taylor, and I dove right in. It works both ways."
Dessner gushed of Swift, "She is an incredibly gifted writer, with the lyrical prowess of a Joni Mitchell but also an entertainer on this level of, like, Beyoncé, and I don't think we've seen that before."
"She made me so much better than I could have ever imagined on my own," he added. "It felt like a lightning bolt hit the house. Because I just do what I do. And then she would be like, here's this elaborately written narrative to your sad piano that you played on 'cardigan.'"
Said sad arpeggiated piano melody definitely wouldn't sound out of place on a National album like I Am Easy to Find, and it's safe to assume there's more of that store on their forthcoming LP, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. The album even features Swift on a yet-to-be-released song called "The Alcott." (Maybe it was originally a glimmer-blooper meant for Midnights?)