In September 2020, Taylor and her co-producers for her eighth studio album, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, assembled together at Long Pond Studio—a secluded, rustic cabin in upstate New York—to play the complete album for the first time in the same room after isolating themselves separately due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The result was the intimate documentary, folklore: the long pond studio sessions, where Taylor performs the stripped-down renditions of all 17 tracks in order, while revealing the creative process, stories, and inspirations behind the songs through cozy discussions.
The film is characterized by a casual, small-scale production and a cottagecore aesthetic. Apart from a few home videos of Taylor at her home studio in Los Angeles (California), the film was entirely recorded at Long Pond Studios in New York’s Hudson Valley—one of the places where folklore was engineered. The studio, originally a barn, had been converted into a cozy wooden cabin situated in a waterfront estate besides an elongated pond and surrounded by chairs, string lights and fire pits. Inside the studio, Taylor performed seated on a couch in an oversized plaid shirt-dress, singing directly into a microphone, with Antonoff and Dessner playing instruments and engineer Johnathan Lowe in the back of the room. The musical instruments used in the film include a variety of guitars, keyboards, a Fender bass, a piano, a drum machine and a snare.
The big twist is that the September sessions were the first time that Taylor, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner were together in the same place. During the pandemic, they had each recorded in their own studios, collaborating long-distance. In a nighttime conversation on a deck at the studio, Taylor said that playing the songs in real time would “make [her] realize it’s a real album. It seems like a big mirage.” Musicians deeply missed performing live; with any other album, she would have gone to tour stadiums.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions received universal acclaim from film and music critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised the cast’s chemistry, and asserted that the long pond studio sessions film is not a mere footnote to the album, but a “stunning musical statement in its own right, full of stripped-down acoustic warmth”. He underlined how Taylor moves past basic anecdotes about the tracks by explaining why she felt the need to write such music in the first place.
folklore: the long pond studio sessions won the “Grand Award for Special or Variety” at the 2021 Gracie Awards, which are bestowed by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to honor standout women in the media industry and regocnize entertainment.