“Out Of The Woods,” the second song released from Taylor Swift‘s upcoming 1989 album, is an epic synth-pop anthem straight from the decade in which the country-pop superstar’s new full-length gets its title. The new song gets its technicolor shine in part from co-writer/co-producer Jack Antonoff, the fun. guitarist and Bleachers mastermind who told Billboard hours before the track’s release on Monday night (Oct. 13) that he and Swift bonded over 80’s films before they started working together on 1989.
“We were hanging out at her house in Rhode Island,” says Antonoff, “and we were talking about John Hughes movies, and a lot of the music that inspired [them], and just this general culture of sound in that time period that was really larger-than-life in an anthemic, positive way. These songs could be at the end of films that were really, really beautiful and said a lot.”
The friendship blossomed into a collaboration when Antonoff sent Swift a track that he had been working on, and she begged him to send the demo her way. “That actually ended up being a song called ‘I Wish You Would’ which is going to be on her album,” he says. “We first worked on that song together and realized we kind of have a good thing, and the next thing we did was ‘Sweeter Than Fiction’ which was on the [‘One Chance’] soundtrack, and after that we did ‘Out Of The Woods’ and another song called ‘You Were In Love.’ So ‘Out Of The Woods’ was the third thing we worked on together, and probably the easiest. I sent her the track for it, and she sent back a voice note with the verse and chorus in what felt like five seconds. And it was just perfect. It’s eery how similar it is to what the final product is.”
Although Antonoff and Swift shared studio time for some of their other 1989 songs while working throughout 2014, “Out Of The Woods” was completed as a long-distance collaboration. Antonoff has long been a Swift fan — he calls 2012’s Red an “impeccable album” — and was duly impressed by her writing prowess.
“She’s very natural — when she gets an idea, it just happens very quickly. I would send her these tracks, and when an idea would happen, we’d be 5000 miles [apart] or whatever but she would start emailing me these voice notes like crazy and it would just be happening so quickly that there’d be this excitement.”
On Monday, Swift described “Out Of The Woods” as a meditation on “the fragility and kind of breakable nature of some relationships” (many have already concluded that the song is written about her romance with One Direction’s Harry Styles). For Antonoff, who launched his Bleachers alt-pop project with the album Strange Desire earlier this year, “Out Of The Woods” was a “puzzle” that had to be delicately constructed, and inflate as it progressed.
“There’s a frantic feeling in the song,” he says. “What’s interesting about ‘Out Of The Woods’ is that it doesn’t really let up. It starts with a pretty big anthemic vocal sample that’s me, and then there’s a drum sample that kicks in that’s kind of huge, and then you don’t really know how you’re going to get any bigger but then the chorus hits and it just explodes even larger. And then the bridge hits, and it gets even more huge.
“When I was working on the track, I was thinking a lot about My Morning Jacket,” Antonoff continues, “and how everything they do, every sound is louder than the last, and somehow it feels like everything is just fucking massive. And that’s the feeling that I went for. It started out big, and then I think the obvious move would have been to do a down chorus, but the idea was to keep pushing.”
Antonoff is excited to share the rest of his work with Swift on 1989, but views “Out Of The Woods” as a highlight on the project. “This song means a great deal to me. On a production level, on a writing level, Taylor’s lyrics and her melodies — there’s something very important about this song.”