“Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift
Simply put, this is Taylor Swift’s version of a crush song. And letting the cat out of the bag early, whom she is crushing on is a fellow professional singer named Stephen Barker Liles. Liles may not be a household name, but he and the musical act which he is a part of, Love and Theft, did, on a couple of occasions, serve as an opening act for Taylor.
You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Taylor Swift's Hey Stephen at Lyrics.org.
Lyrics of “Hey Stephen”
So going through the lyrics with that foreknowledge in hand, it’s very easy to ascertain what Swift is talking about. But without that foreknowledge, given her songwriting skills it’s more than obvious what, even if not specifically who, she is singing about.
And this is not really a simple ‘I like you’ kind of situation. For instance, the vocalist is wise enough to know that even if she is really diggin’ this dude, that doesn’t mean he’s the quality person she perceives him to be. But that being noted, she is smitten nonetheless.
She bears witness to a number of other girls trying to get with him, but in her opinion she’s the one who truly loves him. And despite coming off as an independent type of lady, her feelings have her fantasizing about the two of them settling down, so to speak.
And concerning why she doesn’t just let Stephen know how she feels, apparently this is not due to her being afraid of rejection. Rather she is intimidated by his luster, i.e. the lofty way in which she perceives him. But either way, she is still interested in getting into a serious relationship with the addressee.
And it is upon those two notions that the chorus is based. First is, as the thesis sentiment, the singer being totally enamored with the addressee. And secondly, as noted previously, she has a very strong desire to be with him. This is the way she has felt since the two of them first met.
And when you combine those two ideas, it’s sort of like she has feelings for him which she can’t really control, as illustrated by the phrase “can’t help myself” being repeated in the chorus and outro.
What “Hey Stephen” is all about
Conclusively “Hey Stephen” is a song of unrealized, not unrequited, love. After all this whole conversation Taylor is having with Stephen is actually one being waged in her own mind, not interpersonally.
She has a solid “50 reasons”, including writing a straight-up song about him, why she feels she would be a better partner than “all those other girls”.
So this is like a love letter from the singer to the addressee, her way of letting him know how she feels. But due to the whole secret nature of her crush, Liles didn’t even know that Taylor had written a song about him until she explicitly told him so.
Writing Credits for “Hey Stephen”
This is another song track from Taylor Swift’s early days that she wrote and produced herself. And production wise she was assisted by a regular collaborator, Nathan Chapman.
It so happens that just as Taylor Swift wrote a song about Stephen Barker Liles without his knowledge, concurrently he also penned one about her which she wasn’t aware of. And the name of that track, which he also went on to drop in 2008, is “Try to Make It Anyway”.
And as far as his direct reaction to “Hey Stephen”, Liles is on record as stating that “it was definitely one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for (him)”.
But to note, Stephen and Taylor never actually got together. Rather around this time, Swift was dating her first celebrity sweetheart, another singer by the name of Joe Jonas. This relationship would go on to provide lyrical fodder for some of her tracks.
More Interesting Facts about “Hey Stephen”
“Hey Stephen” came out officially on 11 November 2008 as part of Taylor Swift’s sophomore album, “Fearless”. That project, which really launched her into superstardom, was put out by Big Machine Records.
And of course a “Taylor’s Version” of “Hey Stephen” was released in 2021 alongside the entire re-recorded reissue of “Fearless”, this time being issued by Republic Records.
At that time (early 2021) the song made headlines when, while Taylor Swift was being interviewed by comedian / talk show host Stephen Colbert, he vehemently suggested that “Hey Stephen” was actually about him. This resulted in Swift somewhat dissing Colbert and rather asserting that she wrote the song about A list horror novelist Stephen King.
You may notice that there are two individuals, Emma McBride and Delaney McBride, credited with providing “finger snaps” to this track.
Those two are actually the daughters of country music singer Martina McBride and her husband, John. The latter is actually a studio engineer, and it was within his facility where Taylor recorded this song.
And the whole finger snapping came about due to McBride’s “daughters and their friends from school” wanting desperately to meet Tay Tay, which she accommodated. So the other credited finger snappers, of which there are five, are apparently the girls’ friends.