Interview: Courtney Barnett – 'It's madness, I'm sure there's a better way to write a song.'
Australian singer-songwriter heads out on UK tour in December
Courtney Barnett seemed to hit the UK music scene fully formed with her quirky tales of modern life. Humorous lyrics, delivered in her distinctive Aussie twang, underpinned by searing garage rock. Barnett first picked up a guitar at the age of 10 and started writing and performing her own material at the age of 18, also playing guitar with a number of bands in Tasmania and Melbourne (including Immigrant Union formed by Brent DeBoer of The Dandy Warhols).
2013's 'Avant Gardener' marked Barnett as a talent in her own right and made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. Her intimate, relatable, funny and brilliantly-written vignettes struck a chord. Championed by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and The New York Times, even Jack White's a fan and recently produced two tracks with Barnett at his Third Man Studios in Nashville. 'It was a real honour to be invited along to record with him,' says Barnett, 'he's a really nice guy, really supportive. It's nice to know someone like that is listening to your music.'
Barnett isn't the most talkative interviewee, it's hard to tell if she's uncomfortable, shy or just incredibly laid-back. You get the impression she's a reluctant rock star, in love with the music but less impressed with the attention off-stage. Downplaying her accomplishments, describing her live band, The CB3, as simply 'three people on stage making noise.'
Barnett takes her lyrics from a notebook she keeps every day. 'It's pretty scattered. I might just write down a sentence or a conversation I overhear, draw a picture or something, there's no solid way that it works, I just keep note of everything so I don't forget it,' she explains. 'Sometimes the right thing jumps out at you and if it feels right I just go with it. I go through my journal and write out my favourite lines, so it's like a culling process, and I stick them on the wall, look at them, rearrange them. It's madness I'm sure there's a better way to write a song.'
Courtney Barnett plays the O2 ABC, Glasgow, Wed 2 Dec.