“Did I think she’d become the biggest star in the world? You don’t think that, but I did know that she was special”: Liz Rose on how she and Taylor Swift co-wrote All Too Well, and what she thinks about it becoming a fan favourite

All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault) (Lyric Video) - YouTube All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault) (Lyric Video) - YouTube
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Tonight, Taylor Swift finally brings her world-dominating Eras Tour to the UK, with the first of three shows in Edinburgh preceding dates in Liverpool, Cardiff and London.

One of the songs that’s expected to be on the setlist is All Tool Well, a fan favourite that, in its original five and a half minute incarnation, appeared on the star’s 2012 album, Red.

The song originally had a much longer running time, though, and so when Swift’s album re-recording project reached Red, she had the chance to introduce the world to the 10 Minute Version. This became the longest song ever to top the Billboard 100 (the original had only managed to reach number 80, incidentally).

Both versions, though, list Nashville stalwart Liz Rose as a co-writer, and back in 2020 - before the 10 Minute Version had been released - she chatted to Music Week about how All Too Well came about.

“I first met Taylor Swift when I played a writers’ room at a record label and she was there,” she revealed. “She heard a couple of my songs and asked if I would write with her. That’s what I’ve learned in this business: you’re never too big to write with a new artist. We had a great time the first day we wrote and we just kept writing and writing. There’s nothing like songwriting with her.

“Did I think she’d become the biggest star in the world? You don’t think that, but I did know that she was special. With her drive and her talent, I knew that she was going to do something, absolutely.”

Taylor Swift

(Image credit: Larry Busacca/TAS/Getty Images for TAS)

Rose would end up writing 17 of the songs that Swift has released in her career thus far, starting with Tim McGraw, her debut single, in 2006, and ending with All Too Well.

“For All Too Well, she called me, said she had an idea and she really wanted me to help her sort it out,” recalls Rose. She also remembers that, unsurprisingly given the song’s eventual journey, one of the things she was tasked with was reducing the running time.

“Artists know I’m going to get the story out of them and help them be true to their artistry,” believes Rose. “It was a 20-minute long song at the time so I had to help her look at the pieces and say, ‘This needs to go here, this is important’, listen to her and grab the important lines.

“We had a really good day sorting the song out. It’s a great memory to have watched her dig that out. It’s the best song we did together.”

Taylor Swift - All Too Well (Taylor's Version) (Lyric Video) - YouTube Taylor Swift - All Too Well (Taylor's Version) (Lyric Video) - YouTube
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How did the writing session actually work, though? “We got in the zone and just bounced it back and forth,” Rose explains. “She would start playing a melody and [singing] dummy words. With Taylor, it’s about getting the emotion out in a song and if it resonates and it’s going to fit on a record, great. Sometimes when we wrote, it did and sometimes it didn’t - and sometimes the ones I thought were maybe better than others didn’t ever make records! But All Too Well was a ping-pong match, pretty effortless and joyful.

“I remember the ‘You call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest’ line just falling out of her face. I was writing it down as fast as I could. The emotion hit her and those lines came out.

Red, of course, is widely recognised as the album on which Swift moved away from her country roots and into the musical mainstream, but this future career trajectory isn’t something that she discussed with Rose at the time.

“I believe this was the first song she wrote for Red. But I don’t think she was deliberately ‘going pop’ when we were writing All Too Well, she was just writing songs,” she says. “Then she went to LA and wrote with Max Martin and it just morphed into that. But she’s always been a little pop!”

Taylor Swift Liz Rose

Liz Rose with Taylor Swift at the 2023 Grammy Awards. (Image credit: Stewart Cook/CBS via Getty Images)

What of the future, though - is it possible that Rose could end up working with Swift again? 

“We’re still in touch through people but she just has a different life now,” Rose admits. “We have tremendous love and respect for each other and you never know. I always say, ‘I’d be shocked if we did write together again, and I’d be shocked if we didn’t’. She’s fantastic and I’m always excited to see what she does next; she just continues to grow and that’s hard for an artist that starts that young.”

Whatever happens, thanks to her involvement in All Too Well, Rose is part of Swift folklore for evermore, and that’s clearly something she takes great pride in.

“I still choke up when I hear that song,” she confirms. “It’s funny, because [the original version] was never a single, but it still resonated. I love it when they do a fan poll for people’s favourite Taylor songs and they pick All Too Well at No 1. It’s like, “Oh man, that is so cool”.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.