Who Is Aaron Dessner? The National Guitarist Turned Taylor Swift Co-Writer

Besides the fastest turnaround time on a new album, Taylor Swift's new album Folklore also marked the first time she collaborated with The National guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Aaron Dessner.

With the album's announcement on Thursday, Swift shared that she was working with some artists that her fans were well acquainted with (Jack Antonoff), but some new names entered the fray, namely Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Dessner. In her post, she revealed that The National multi-instrumentalist was a major force in the songwriting process, namely that he had cowritten 11 of the album's 16 songs.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Dessner said he was "excited and honored" that Swift asked him to work together. He said that the songwriting was quick and thanked many of the people involved in the songwriting and album production process, including his brother and National bandmate Bryce Dessner for providing orchestrations.


— Aaron Dessner (@aaron_dessner) July 23, 2020

He wrote fondly about the album coming together and getting to work with the 1989 singer. "I've rarely been so inspired by someone and it's still hard to believe this even happened -- these songs came together in such a challenging time," Dessner wrote. "I'm very proud of all these songs and profoundly grateful to Taylor for inviting me into and trusting me in her process. She is one of the most talented, hardworking and deeply caring artists I've ever encountered. There's a palpable humanity and warmth and raw emotion in these songs that I hope you'll love and take comfort in as much as I do."

Since the album's midnight drop, Dessner has shared some information about it on Twitter, like revealing the guitars he played on "invisible string" is a response to Paramore's Hayley Williams. He also shouted out Antonoff and Vernon for their contributions.

Awww thank you!!! As an aside, Reuben Cox from Old Style Guitars in LA has been refitting old silvertone guitars with a rubber bridge ...that's the guitar I play on #InvisibleString and a bunch of others (in case anyone wants to look him up!) https://t.co/s130KGncao

— Aaron Dessner (@aaron_dessner) July 24, 2020

Awww buddy...❤️Right back at you....such an honor to get to work with you and sooooo much looking forward to the day when we can have a gigantic hug and mess around with music in the same space!! https://t.co/gxnTMo9U9u

— Aaron Dessner (@aaron_dessner) July 23, 2020

Meant so much....you gave your heart and soul, as always. Grateful https://t.co/DojCRuycd7

— Aaron Dessner (@aaron_dessner) July 23, 2020

While making such a large contribution to Swift's latest album is an impressive feat, Dessner's longest running and most noteworthy gig has been his work with The National. The band has been releasing music since 2001 with their self-titled debut, but they were catapulted to mainstream success with their 2007 album Boxer. "Fake Empire," the album's opening track was featured in a prominent campaign ad for then-Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. The band has captivated indie rock fans with four albums since then, the most recent being 2019's I Am Easy to Find.

Dessner is also a frequent collaborator with his fellow Folklore contributor Justin Vernon. The two are behind the band Big Red Machine, who released their self-titled debut in 2018. The two are also responsible for the 37d03d (PEOPLE) music festival, along with Bryce Dessner. He's also co-founded the Eaux Claires Music Festival with Vernon, in the Bon Iver singer's hometown.

He's also scored films with his brother including the 2018 comedy The Professor starring Johnny Depp, 2016's Transpecos, and the 2013 Jack Kerouac biopic The Big Sur.

Outside of his bands, Dessner is an acclaimed producer. He served as a co-producer for album's like Frightened Rabbit's Painting of a Panic Attack, Sharon Van Etten's Tramp, Local Natives' Hummingbird, and more.

A contact for The National said Dessner was not available for further comment. Swift's publicist did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Aaron Dessner
Aaron Dessner of the American band The National performs live on stage during a concert at the Columbiahalle on November 26, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Dessner co-wrote 11 songs with Taylor Swift for her latest album. Getty/Frank Hoensch/Redferns