Aussie singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett sitting pretty for 2016
Aussie indie singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has been Grammy-nominated and has recorded with Jack White and toured with Blur and Billy Bragg. She talks to Brian Campbell
COURTNEY Barnett has gone from playing small indie clubs in Australia to getting Grammy-nominated and supporting Blur at the Hollywood Bowl.
Her album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit was also rightly hailed as being one of 2015’s absolute best. With her hypnotic Aussie vocals, her grungey guitars and razor-sharp and witty lyrics, Barnett is a true talent.
Pedestrian at Best, Depreston, Dead Fox and Elevator Operator are just four standouts, while previous EP tracks including History Eraser and Avant Gardener had already got Barnett plenty of recognition.
She was recently named SPIN magazine’s songwriter of the year, she’s nominated in the 'best new artist’ category at next month’s Grammy Awards and her end-of-year albums of 2015 plaudits included top 10 finishes in SPIN (number two), The Guardian (number six), Rough Trade (number three) and Stereogum (number six).
“It’s always nice to know that people connect with your music. It’s lovely to hear that,” she says of the reception her album has been getting.
And while the line 'I wanna go out but I wanna stay home’ from her song Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party perfectly sums up how most people feel about New Year’s Eve, Barnett was gigging last night and again tonight at the Falls Music & Arts Festival in Byron Bay, New South Wales. She’ll do more Australian gigs in the next couple of weeks, including one in the Palais Theatre in Melbourne with Cloud Control.
“That’ll be rad. It’s a beautiful theatre in Melbourne, so it’s an exciting place to play. And I used to go to the Falls Festival when I was a kid, so it’s cool to be playing that.”
She says there are pros and cons to touring. “Travelling has its good parts but it can be pretty boring and stressful, but the pay-off is amazing when you get to play songs to people all over the world. It’s an amazing position to be in. We’ve played in some pretty amazing places, so it never really gets old.”
Jokingly, I suggest that her favourite gig to date must have been Whelan’s in Dublin last year.
“Correct,” she laughs. “That was our first gig in Ireland. It was a really fun show; really sweaty. And I’m sure I’ve got some sort of Irish in my blood somewhere.”
She says she would love to play Belfast in the next year. One of her biggest gigs of 2015 was supporting Blur at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, a venue Barnett describes as “totally amazing”.
She also got to record a couple of songs with Jack White in Tennessee. “We were doing the Bonnaroo festival and had a day off and got invited to Jack White’s studio and we whipped up a couple of songs. It was great. I dig what he does.
“I also did a tour with Billy Bragg, which was great. And I did some shows with Belle and Sebastian, who I love.”
While Pedestrian at Best has been singled out as one of last year’s best songs, Barnett names another couple of tunes as her favourites to play live.
“I like to do the more challenging ones like Small Poppies and Kim’s Caravan, which are a bit more intense and make you think a bit harder. And we’ve been adding a couple of new ones too.”
Born in Sydney, Barnett and her family then moved to Tasmania and now she lives in Melbourne. So what kind of music was she into growing up?
“Well my older brother was in charge of the CD player, so it was always Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses and Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that, which was good.”
:: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is out now (courtneybarnett.com.au).