The A.V. Club: How do you decide what songs are yours to sing and what songs are someone else’s?
DW: If I write it with someone else and they want to sing it, it’s for them. My philosophy for several years has been that if I’m writing a song and can’t imagine myself singing it, it’s probably not any good.
I feel a freedom to cover my own songs, or almost an obligation to try them out onstage as a way of testing to see if, “Oh yeah, this is actually good, this actually works.” Last year I did a gig in L.A. and I decided that I was going to sing “Treacherous,” a song that I had written with Taylor Swift. It was so fun to sing and it communicated so well that I was like, “Oh, this is a really good song; I could sing this to my people.”
AVC: What’s the process when you’re writing with someone else?
DW: It depends on how they work. With Taylor, we had been kind of circling around, very much aware of each other’s work for a while. We figured out these two days to work together and she came to my studio super excited and said, “I had an idea in the car.” And she sang me the first three or four lines of it and said, “I want to call it ‘Treacherous’ and maybe the chorus can go like this.” And we were writing the song in 10 minutes and she was just so full of excitement.
It’s interesting because I find that she’s very sincere and very what-you-see-is-what-you-get. When you see her on an award show and she wins the award and she looks astonished, that’s how she looks when you’re writing a song and you come up with a good lyric or a good melodic idea. She looks amazed; she’s like, “Whoa!” She’s just like that. She’s also very consistent and a monster songwriter.
AVC: She’s 24 years old. She’s allowed to be sincere.
DW: And that’s the kind of person you’re dealing with. She’s that way from beginning to end.
- Taylor Swift +