Last month, pop star Taylor Swift re-released her 2008 album Fearless as Fearless (Taylor’s Version), having completely re-recorded the album and added six new songs dating back 13 years. The new version boasts new cover art as well. Swift did this to make good on a promise to re-record and release the six albums she lost the rights to the master recordings of two years ago, attempting to render the old recordings obsolete.
When Fearless was originally released, music publisher Hal Leonard published a songbook of it, as it has with much, if not all, of Swift’s material. Now, the company is set to re-release Fearless as well. It expects to have the songbook available next month.
According to Ben Culli, vice president of editorial and production at Hal Leonard, this was a no-brainer. “It was a very easy decision for us to release an updated, repackaged folio,” Culli said. He pointed out that getting Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’s six new songs alone in print is “very exciting” but that there’s more on the table than that. When Hal Leonard’s Fearless songbook was first published, it only transcribed the original release of the album, which was 13 songs. A subsequent deluxe edition added six songs.
“A couple of those have been released as singles in print in the meantime, but there were four additional songs that had not been in print before,” he said. “So we have 10 brand new Taylor Swift songs dropping into our laps here.”
Hal Leonard made sure that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is a close enough copy of the original album that it did not need to re-transcribe its first 13 songs. “We took the time to listen to the whole album, each song, all the way through, comparing them to our existing arrangements,” Culli said. “We did our due diligence to [determine] did she change lyrics? Did she change harmonies? And for the most part, no, she stuck to the original composition.”
Hal Leonard even considered whether or not Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’s six new songs feel like they were written at the same time as 2008’s Fearless.
“They definitely feel like they were written back in 2008 with the rest of the album,” Culli said. “I touched base with Jeff [Radke, Hal Leonard, keyboard editor] and I touched base with another editor who helped on the production of the new folio, and they both agreed with that this is very much a cohesive album. It doesn’t feel like the songs were pulled out of context.”
Culli pointed out that some of Swift’s fans may not have even been born when the original Fearless was released, so getting a songbook of the new version on the market is an opportunity to create new musicians.
“It’s wonderful when we can find when an artist like Taylor Swift, who connects with those younger musicians who want to play,” Culli said. “Taylor Swift is so print-friendly, if you will. Her music translates so well into print. It’s so musician-friendly. If you want to sit down and play these [songs] on piano or any instrument, they work wonderfully.”
Hal Leonard was grateful to have some advance notice on Fearless (Taylor’s Version). When Swift released her eighth and ninth albums Folklore and Evermore last year, the company was caught off guard.
“In both cases, it was literally overnight, there was no advanced warning whatsoever,” he said. “We were surprised along with the rest of the world.”
Both albums came out at midnight on a Friday. “We have a team of freelance transcribers that are at the ready anytime things like this happen,” he said. “So by the middle of the day Friday, we had the entire album assigned out to these various transcribers. And over the course of just a couple of days, we have brand new transcriptions in from our team and those undergo our editorial process, and as quickly as we can coordinate with Universal we have these arrangements made available.”