The former Fleet Foxes member had covered Swift’s ‘Welcome To New York’ and ‘Blank Space’ in the style of The Velvet Underground after Ryan Adams released his Smiths and Springsteen-influenced covers album of the pop star’s ‘1989’ LP.
He later said that Lou Reed appeared to him in a dream, saying “Delete those tracks, don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything.”
Now, the musician – real name J Tillman – has explained the whole saga in a radio interview with 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville.
“From conception to it being a global news item was like an hour,” Tillman claims, stating that he decided to cover the songs after hearing his manager listening to Adams’ covers album. He added he hadn’t heard Swift’s originals, although “I’m sure I’ve been walking by a Cinnabon or something at the airport and heard it.”
“On some level I knew that it would resonate,” Tillman added. “By the time I got back to the bus that night, my TM [tour manager] was like, ‘It’s the top trend on Facebook! It’s on USA Today!’ And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,’ so I went and took them down, thinking like, ‘Okay, now that’s over.'”
After removing the tracks, Tillman says he woke to a “deluge of emails”, including some from Swift’s camp asking him to put the songs back online. “It was this crazy articulation for me of the difference between traditional power and post-modern power. Where traditional power would be like, ‘Take those covers down, those aren’t your songs.’ But post-modern power is like, ‘You have to keep those up!’ Because that’s not her narrative, that’s not her image… the big bad major label artist came after the indie guy.”
Explaining his Lou Reed story, Tillman continues: “I was annoyed at the media. I was like, ‘These people will print anything,’ so I went and gave them the most fraudulent, the most blatantly absurd, unprintable piece of surrealistic nonsense — and they printed it!”
Hear the full interview below. Tillman begins speaking about Taylor Swift at the 26-minute mark.
Listen to Tillman’s covers of Swift beneath.
Taylor Swift is the cover star of this week’s NME – available free in the UK from Friday, October 9.