Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn ‘Would Never Have Taken’ 1 Step Without the Pandemic (Plus His William Bowery Reveal)

Musician Taylor Swift confirmed one popular fan theory in her 2020 Disney+ concert film. Discover how her boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, became a part of Folklore under a pseudonym and how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changed their relationship.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn’s relationship timeline

composite image of Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards
L: Taylor Swift and R: Joe Alwyn at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards | Steve Granitz/WireImage

Swift and Alwyn met in 2016. Following very public relationships with DJ Calvin Harris and actor Tom Hiddleston, the singer kept a low profile for several months. But during this time, she and Alwyn had begun a relationship. It’s believed that they started as a casual thing before becoming more serious around September 2016.

The pair were able to keep mostly out of the public eye until 2017. But with Alwyn’s growing acting career (in award-winning films such as The Favourite and Boy Erased) and Swift’s return to the spotlight with her album Reputation brought their relationship to light. Years later, and they remain together.

Why fans assumed Alwyn was William Bowery

Joe Alwyn attends the opening ceremony of the 68th San Sebastian International Film Festival on September 18, 2020.
Joe Alwyn attends the opening ceremony of the 68th San Sebastian International Film Festival on September 18, 2020. | Juan Naharro Gimenez/WireImage

“I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine,” Swift wrote in the Folklore announcement. Among the names listed were the National’s Aaron Dessner and William Bowery. “I haven’t actually met him because of social distancing,” Dessner told Pitchfork of Bowery. “I think he’s a friend.”

After no one named William Bowery was found in Google searches, Swifties got to work figuring out the clues. All signs pointed to Alwyn: His great-grandfather, William, was a songwriter, and he and Swift were spotted early in their relationship (before they confirmed it) at the Bowery Hotel in New York City.

Swift confirmed the fan theory in ‘Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions’

RELATED: Which ‘Folklore’ Songs Did Taylor Swift Perform in Her Disney+ Movie?

“I only wish our other two co-writers were here,” Swift told Jack Antonoff and Dessner during Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions, naming “Justin Vernon and William Bowery.” “Justin is one of the greatest ever,” said Antonoff of the Bon Iver frontman. “William, I never got to meet.”

“There’s been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity ’cause it’s not a real person,” said Swift. “So, William Bowery is Joe, as we know,” she revealed, naming Alwyn officially. “Joe plays piano beautifully, and he’s always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things.”

Alwyn co-wrote ‘Betty’ and ‘Exile’

Alwyn co-wrote two songs on the album: “Exile” and “Betty.” “‘Exile’ was crazy ’cause Joe had written that entire piano part,” Swift said. “He was singing [the Bon Iver part], the way that whole first verse is. And so, I was entranced and asked if we could keep writing that one. “

“I heard Joe singing the entire fully formed chorus of ‘Betty’ from another room,” said Swift of the other track, which came first. “It was a step that we would never have taken because why would we have ever written a song together?” She told Alwyn, “Because we’re in quarantine together…could we just try to see what it’s like if we write this song together?”

Swift on how he inspired ‘The Lakes’

Though Alwyn contributed to those two track tracks officially, he also served as Swift’s inspiration for other Folklore songs, such as “Invisible String” and the bonus track, “The Lakes.” The singer released the latter song weeks after Folklore debuted, leading some to believe it would have a message about Alwyn in it.

“We’d gone to the Lake District in England a couple years ago,” Swift said of the former artist’s enclave. “I thought, ‘Man, I could see this.'” “Well, you have your version of it,” said Antonoff. “That, to me, is the hope in this body of work… it’s ‘I’ve found something worth escaping with.'” “And a person to escape with,” added Swift, of Alwyn.