This is the first single from American Country Pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's third studio album, Speak Now
. Swift wrote all of the songs by herself, mainly while on her Fearless tour. She explained during an Ustream
chat: "I wrote all the songs myself for this record. It didn't really happen on purpose. It just sort of happened that way. I'd get my best ideas at 3:00 AM in Arkansas, and didn't have a co-writer around and I'd just finish it. And that would happen again in New York; that would happen again in Boston; that would happen again in Nashville. The songs that made the cut for the albums are the ones that I wrote by myself."
This song is about Swift's "tendency to run from love." "It's been sort of a recent tendency, and I think it's because, for me, every really direct example of love that I've had in front of me has ended in goodbye and ended in break-ups and things like that," she explained. "So I think I've developed this pattern of running away when it comes time to fall in love and stay in a relationship. The song is sort of about finding the exception to that and finding someone who would make you believe in love and realize that it could work out, because I'm never ever going to go past hoping that love works out."
The song's music video was shot in Portland, Maine. Swift gushed regarding the clip's location: "Portland, Maine was the most beautiful place I have ever been. It was gorgeous. I absolutely fell in love with it. I had heard people talk about how they go to Maine and I was almost like, 'I wonder what Maine is like? I wonder why people love it so much?' It's because it is amazing and gorgeous! I went there and got to spend two to three days falling in love with it. When I am old and have silver hair, I want to go live in Maine and have a house and make necklaces or something and have a lot of cats. It's a whole fantasy for me. So at least I know where I'm going to end up."
Toby Hemingway, whose credits include the 2007 drama Feast of Love, co-stars in the video as Swift's on-screen groom. She explained to People magazine that the casting of the British actor was connected to her love for the number 13. "I saw 'Feast of Love' and just loved that movie and thought Toby was so great that I thought it would be perfect to put him in the video," Swift said. The country star added: "I was doing some more research and watched another movie he was in called The Covenant," she said. "I've got this crazy 13 lucky thing, and he walks on screen for the first time wearing a sweatshirt with a 13 on it! That was the deciding factor. It wasn't really up to me, it was about the number."
The song was released on August 4, 2010, ahead of the planned August 16 release, after a bootleg version appeared online. Swift's label said in a statement that the MP3 file of the song was "low-quality," and it wanted fans to hear the single in its proper form.
Swift admitted to Rolling Stone that while she didn't expect it to be released prematurely, she eventually appreciated the overwhelmingly positive response to the track: "[My manager] said, 'I don't want you to panic.' And I said, 'The song leaked, didn't it?' " she said. "I turned on my phone and there were texts saying, 'Congratulations.' A leak is so out of my comfort zone, but it ended up good in the end. It made me so emotional that I started crying."
Taylor revealed to Rolling Stone that she penned the song out of nostalgia when thinking back to an unrequited relationship with a boy she once had a crush on. "I was reflecting back on a boy I liked at a certain time," she recalled. "The song is about what it would be like if I actually let my guard down."
The song's music video was directed by Roman White, the man behind Taylor's "Fifteen
" and "You Belong With Me
" clips. He recalled about the shoot: "We shot the video in early July in Maine, and it was insanely hot. The first day we shot at this private estate. They had a private beach and everything, which made shooting a lot easier, because when you go out in public and somebody spots Taylor Swift, I mean, it doesn't take 15 minutes and there's a huge crowd.
The beach shot we shot was mostly her and Toby falling in love," he added. "It was more kind of walking hand in hand along the coastline, and then later on in the video, we kind of mimic that same beach. But it's Toby and older Taylor, and older Taylor has shorter hair. That's pretty much it."
Taylor told Ladies Home Journal her writing process: "I have an app on my iPhone that's a voice recorder. I'll be in the middle of a conversation and will literally walk away and record a bridge, a pre-chorus or half of a hook, then go right back to the conversation like nothing happened."
Chris Willman of Yahoo! Music
asked Taylor how this song about a flirtation, which turns into a committed relationship (according to the video, marriage) fits in with the true confessions theme Speak Now
. "It actually is a confession of some sort," she responded, "because this is a situation where a guy that I just barely knew put his arm around me by the water, and I saw the entire relationship flash before my eyes, almost like some weird science-fiction movie. After I wrote the song, things sort of fell apart, as things so often do. And I hadn't talked to him in a couple months. And the song came out, and that day I got an email from him. And I was like" - she claps her hands - "'Yes!' Because that one was sort of half-confession, and half-prediction or projection of what I saw. And the fact that it came across so clearly to that guy that he would email me meant that I had been direct enough."
Taylor explained on his website why she chose this as the lead single from Speak Now: "This song is the first single because it has this… there was this moment between Nathan and I, my producer, when I brought this song in and when we made this demo in one day in his basement and we just kinda looked at each other and we were like, 'This is it. This is the one.' All of the times that I've had 'The Moment' with songs of 'This is the one,' it's been a good call, so I'm hoping for the best on this one."
As on her other albums, Taylor capitalized seemingly random letters in the printed lyrics for each song. These spell out little messages, like the one revealed for this song – TOBY, which most likely alludes to Toby Hemingway. Music writers have been forced to speculate what Taylor actually means as the song was written well before she met the actor on the set of its video.
The visual won Video Of The Year at the 2011 CMT Music Awards. Swift accepted her award live via satellite from her concert in Milwaukee with a banjo draped around her neck. That way Kanye West couldn't get to her.