tiffi | Credit: Minori Ueda

Love Letter to a Record: tiffi on Bright Eyes’ ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. 20-year-old Taiwanese-Australian pop artist tiffi heaps praise on Bright Eyes’ landmark indie-folk LP, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, released in 2005.

Suburban pop musician tiffi has released dating pool, the follow-up to her 2021 debut EP, growing pains. The new EP was made with the executive oversight of LA producer City Girl. “For me, this EP is healing,” tiffi said in a statement. “I’m putting it out there that I fucked up, a lot. I didn’t make the best decisions, I wasn’t always kind, other people fucked me over, I fucked them over. It’s a part of life and that’s okay.” Check out the EP’s latest single, ‘bored’, at the bottom of this page.

tiffi’s love letter to Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

tiffi: Six years ago, I was 14. I sat in my bedroom recording a cover of ‘Lua’ into my phone with my three-quarter size, $100 guitar, singing in a horrendous indie girl drawl that I cringe at listening to now. I uploaded the cover onto my Soundcloud, which had maybe a thousand followers.

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is, I think, the beginning of many indie singer-songwriters’ journeys. It was the precursor to my love for Big Thief, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. I own the CD for this album – of course – and I put it on when I feel a sense of longing or when I want to feel the feeling of what it’s like to walk home in the dark, unafraid of who or what is behind me.

The record starts with ‘At the Bottom of Everything’, with a spoken prologue about a woman who is on a plane that’s tanking. Conor Oberst sips his coffee and speaks to the audience and I never, ever, skip this part of the song. It gives me chills. To me, it’s a joyful celebration of relief juxtaposed with the bleakness that at the bottom of everything, we aren’t important. “I’m happy just because / I found out I am really no one.”

I love the lift where Oberst sings, “While my mother waters plants / My father loads his gun.” I feel like this song really shaped my understanding of the world. I am not scared to die, and it brings me peace to think there will be an end.

The start of ‘Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)’ makes me think of Phoebe Bridgers, and then Oberst’s beautiful, shaky voice comes in. This imagined coup – “There were barricades to keep us off the street / But the crowd kept pushing forward / Till they swallowed the police” – makes me feel a triumphant feeling of a new beginning.

I have daydreamed so many times of being new, showing people I’m different and I’ve changed, and for an overturning of myself – to be transformed, improved, and to one day recount my chaos, misfortune and pain like this song does.

‘Lua’ was the first song I discovered on this record and I remember how profoundly it affected me. How beautiful and intimate it felt. It was like a friend to me, just guitar and voice, and it showed me that I didn’t need anything else to tell an amazing story and for it to resonate with others. This song built so much of what my music is, and I hold it so dear to me.

I love how unspecific yet personal the lyrics are on this record. You can’t tell exactly what it’s about but the feeling is so, so familiar, like when Oberst sings, “Don’t be fooled / No, don’t get lied to / Love was always cruel […] It happened to me / Now it’s happening to you” in ‘Train Under Water’.

‘First Day Of My Life’ is really special to me, too. If ‘Lua’ is nighttime, ‘First Day Of My Life’ is daytime. It has so many sweet lines, like “This is the first day of my life / I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you.” I can only hope to find a love as pure and hopeful as that.

“I’m literally crying writing this and listening to the songs” – tiffi

Many of Oberst’s lyrics on this record talk about transportation – being someone else, somewhere else, a new world – which has resonated with me so deeply through the years. He communicates the feeling of being stuck in lines like, “Dream about a train that’s gonna / Take me back to where I belong,” in ‘Another Travelin’ Song’. My favourite line from that song is, “I will find my fears and face them / Or I will cower like a dog […] I’ll fight like hell to hide that I’ve given up.”

I could go on and on about how much I love every song. How he sings so solemnly in ‘Landlocked Blues’ and ‘Poison Oak’, and the feeling that ‘Road to Joy’ gives me. This album was my first love. It taught me so much about life and kept me warm when I was cold. I’ve cried many, many times listening to it. And I’m sure I will continue to.

P.s. My fave line is, “I could have been a famous singer / If I had someone else’s voice / But failure’s always sounded better / Let’s fuck it up, boys – make some noise.”

tiffi – ‘bored’

Stream and purchase tiffi’s new EP, dating pool, right here

Further Reading

SXSW Sydney Invites Public Along to Music Festival, Announces More Artists

Bright Eyes Announce 2023 Australian Tour

Bright Eyes Share Elliott Smith Cover Feat. Phoebe Bridgers

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