Dessner opened up about his work on the album in a lengthy Instagram post on Thursday, writing that he was "excited and honored" when Taylor hit him up in April about writing some songs remotely together.
"I had been isolating with my family but writing a ton of music in the first months of quarantine which I shared," he said. "I thought it would take a while for song ideas to come and I had no expectations as far as what we could accomplish remotely. But a few hours after sharing music, my phone lit up with a voice memo from Taylor of a fully written version of a song -- the momentum never really stopped."
Dessner, 44, said that over the next few months he and Swift, 30, finished 11 songs, with Swift also bringing in one of her recent ace songwriting/producing partners, Jack Antonoff, to work on several more. "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," said Dessner, who credited a number of other musical collaborators for their assistance on the project as well.
Among those who pitched in: his engineer Jon Low, twin brother and fellow National guitarist/songwriter and composer Bryce Dessner for orchestration on several songs, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon who "helped to write and sing a beautiful song" titled "exile," as well as other friends from his extensive musical tribe, including National drummer Bryan Devendorf.
Plus: National touring members trombonist Ben Lanz, trumpet player Kyle Resnick and drummer James McAlister, Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Bonny Light Horseman's Josh Kaufman, composer/cellist Clarice Jensen, percussionists/drummers Jason Treuting and JT Bates, producer/horn player Dave Nelson, yMusic and Bon Iver violinist Rob Moose (who arranged and recorded the strings on “Hoax" and part of “The Last Great American Dynasty") and contemporary violinist Yuki Numata Resnick.
"I'm very proud of all these songs and profoundly grateful to @taylorswift for inviting me into and trusting me in her process," Dessner wrote. "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."
Dessner got a lot of love from his indie and avant rock community for the unexpected, high -profile gig, including kudos from Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Perry ("Congrats buddy. Miss you."), Australian folktronica artiste Gordi ("Holy s--t I can't wait to hear it. Congratulations!"), Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold (8 fire emoji), former Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser (a thumbs up), Sylvan Esso (three hearts) and singer/songwriter Pieta Brown (a rainbow), among many others.
Swift shocked fans on Thursday morning with the surprise announcement of her follow-up to last year's smash Lover, explaining that it is a collection of songs "I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into. I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine."
Also at midnight, Swift will release the video for "cardigan," which she wrote and directed.
See Dessner and The National's posts below.