Father John Misty Explains His Taylor Swift Covers And Why He Took Them Down

Father John Misty is playing a show in Louisville, Kentucky later tonight, and, as Pitchfork points out, he stopped by local radio station 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville to promote the concert, play a few songs, chat, and show off his great radio voice. Among other things, including his new song “The Memo” and the video for “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” Tillman discussed his joking covers of Ryan Adams’ covers of Taylor Swift and why he took them down.

The whole thing was basically just a lark, according to Tillman: “From conception to it being a global news item was like an hour.” He walked by his tour manager’s office, heard her listening to Ryan Adams’ version of 1989, and decided to do his own version. Prior to that, he says he hadn’t even heard Swift’s originals, although “I’m sure I’ve been walking by a Cinnabon or something at the airport and heard it.”

Although “on some level I knew that it would resonate,” he was surprised by just how quickly the story took off. “By the time I got back to the bus that night,” he recalls, “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.'”

But that’s not how the internet works, of course. The next day, he woke up to “a deluge of emails” asking for a statement on why they were removed, including an email from Taylor Swift’s camp encouraging him to put them back up. “It was this crazy articulation for me of the difference between traditional power and post-modern power,” he muses. “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. What I realized was that people assumed that there was this traditional power thing at play. I’m sure she didn’t even hear the tunes, but there was this narrative out there that was like, the big bad major label artist came after the indie guy.”

Tillman just got sick of the whole thing — “I was annoyed at the media,” he says — so he made up a crazy story of the ghost of Lou Reed coming to him in a dream and telling him to take them down. “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!”

You can listen to the entire interview below. The discussion of “the Taylor Swift thing” begins around the 26-minute mark and lasts a solid 7 minutes, culminating in a lengthy discussion of the function and value of irony. At 36:40, he also performs an acoustic version of “Bored In The USA” off of I Love You, Honeybear.