The Real Meaning Behind Phoebe Bridgers' Kyoto

Everyone is obsessed with Phoebe Bridgers' sharp and moody ballads, but it turns out that even her up-tempo songs have a personal, gut-punching message at the core. The artist, who is a February 2021 musical guest on Saturday Night Live (no biggie), is known for her brilliant songwriting, and particularly her all-too-real lyrics.

Standout tracks on Bridgers' first album, Stranger in the Alps, included "Motion Sickness" and "Scott Street," which had some not-so-veiled references to her relationship with much-older fellow musician Ryan Adams. While most of the songs on Bridgers' recent second album, Punisher, stick to her signature mellow style, fans were drawn to the fast-paced rock sound of "Kyoto."

Bridgers has since opened up about her change in tone with "Kyoto," as well as the personal stories and relationships that inspired lyrics like, "He said you called on his birthday / You were off by like ten days / But you get a few points for tryin.'"

Keep reading after the jump to see what Phoebe Bridgers herself has to say about "Kyoto." 

Phoebe Bridgers' complicated relationship behind 'Kyoto'

In recent interviews, Phoebe Bridgers recounted what inspired the emotional lyrics of "Kyoto," her up-tempo track off the musician's 2020 album, Punisher. The song's opening line, "Day off in Kyoto/Got bored at the temple," was inspired by her time on tour in Tokyo, where she really did spend a lot of time in 7-Elevens, according to The Line of Best Fit. Most of the lyrics, however, are actually about Bridgers' complicated relationship with her dad.

In The New York Times' "Diary of a Song," she says the lyrics are like "a collage chopped up into one experience," and describes how the inspiration came when she and her co-writer Marshall Vore were talking about their dads and realizing how similar they were. "It's just about that complex relationship that you can never kind of get rid of," Bridgers said.

The specific details in the lyrics, like missing birthdays, are more interpretations of the truth than cold, hard facts. She explained in The Line of Best Fit that her dad is actually pretty good at remembering dates like birthdays, and it's her grandfather who tends to forget them. She also revealed that they never talked about the meaning of "Kyoto," but when the song was nominated for a Grammy, he joked that he'd "like to take some responsibility" for it. 

Even though her feelings about her relationship with her dad are complex, Bridgers said that she's begun speaking to him again since the pandemic, and it's actually been nice.