Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

01/21/2005 | Boston Herald | Feature
How to tell if you're a music-industry hottie:

** You've been hanging out with Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M.

** When you ask Emmylou Harris to sing harmony on your new CD, she says yes.

** You put out two simultaneous singles and they zoom past Usher and Chingy to land at No. 1 and No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart in the same week.

Yes, Bright Eyes, also known as Conor Oberst, is causing a stir. It's especially notable for a 24-year-old singer/songwriter who records for a small, Omaha, Neb.-based indie label, doesn't make videos for MTV, doesn't get played on commercial radio and refuses to play venues operated by concert industry behemoth Clear Channel.

Now, Bright Eyes is pulling the kind of stunt usually associated with heavyweight, cash-register stars such as Springsteen and Nelly: He's releasing two new, full-length CDs on the same day.

Both ``I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning'' and the very different ``Digital Ash in a Digital Urn'' arrive Tuesday. The night before, Bright Eyes performs in Cambridge at Sanders Theatre. Oberst - who will be backed on tour by six musicians including producer Mike Mogis and members of Rilo Kiley, Tilly and the Wall and the Good Life -will perform material from ``I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning,'' the folkier of the two albums. In late spring, he'll launch a second tour to do the electronica pop ``Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,'' backed by Saddle Creek Records-labelmates The Faint.

At least Oberst is driven by creative ambition, not greed. Here's proof: Both ``I'm Wide Awake'' and ``Digital Ash'' will be available for free digital download from the Saddle Creek Web site in their entirety. In fact, you can download all of Bright Eyes' previous releases. Oberst cares more about people listening to his music than getting rich from it.

``My belief is you give the music to the people, you don't try to supress it or control it,'' he says on a promotional interview CD. ``You try to get as many people to hear it as you can and that will come back to you in sales . . . the people that love the music are going to support it.''


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