Courtney Barnett (Sydney, Australia, 1987) doesn't give life.
She has just arrived home, agitated, in a hurry, and while she connects by Zoom to the interview she is drinking water to quell a coughing fit, preparing herself a coffee and making a hole at the kitchen table to settle down.
All this with the only two regulatory hands.
And she without leaving for a moment the angle of vision of the mobile camera.
A marvel of coordination.
In just eight years, Barnett has established herself as one of the most interesting singer-songwriters in independent rock (if that adjective still has any fairly consistent meaning today) thanks to three albums:
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I just sit
Tell Me How You Really Feel
Things Take Time, Take Time,
published at the end of 2021 and somewhat calmer than its
Along the way, an LP has also fallen in collaboration with Kurt Vile, with whom he half-published
Lotta Sea Lice
In addition, he has played a lot live, almost as if he were going to be banned, becoming a regular face of the best festivals in the world.
At Barcelona's Primavera Sound, without going any further, she has already made three appearances (in 2014, 2019 and 2022).
“I love touring, visiting different cities, acting, but you can't be like this all the time because it's exhausting.
And I'm also passionate about working in the studio, ”he says from his home in Melbourne, on one of those stops between tours.
She remembers her adolescence listening to the records of her brother, four years older than her.
"It was a bit of a '90s mix: Nirvana, No Doubt and Michael Jackson," she admits.
“And there weren't that many CDs at home, really.
So the few that we had, we played them over and over again, on a loop.”
She acknowledges that, in that formative stage, she never had any big musical dreams or aspirations.
“When I was a child, the only thing she wanted was to grow up and find a job as soon as possible so that I could become independent.
I loved the idea of working.
Yeah, I know that sounds a little weird,” she jokes.
"I really liked music, although I never thought I could dedicate myself to it professionally."
Shortly after, he enrolled at the University of Tasmania to study art (hence his habit of designing all his covers), while making a living delivering pizzas to homes.
As of 2010 he joined his first bands, Rapid Transit and Immigrant Union, but soon focused on his own compositions.
“At that time the most I could hope for was to one day record a
and have an audience of five people in front of the stage who wanted to hear my songs,” he says.
Public had, what it lacked was a record company, so in 2012 he decided to found his own, Milk!
Records, from where he continues to release his own releases.
“I started the label a decade ago, it's like it's always been there.
I was never interested in having total control over my music, what happened is that at first nobody wanted to publish my songs, so I had no choice but to do it this way.
So, in addition, I can support artists I admire”.
On that list of house friends (there is a majority female presence, of course) are Sleater-Kinney, Tiny Ruins, Chastity Belt or Jen Cloher, Barnett's ex-partner and former collaborator of hers.
Things Take Time, Take Time
is the first album after the breakup between the two.
Hence, perhaps, the title, with that call to calm.
"I think the idea of knowing how to wait is very beautiful, of learning to live with that patience in any aspect of our lives, not just in love," she explains.
“On too many occasions we rush through situations that we don't know how to handle well at the time.
Love, melancholy or even frustration have their own rhythms.
All of them quite uncontrollable, by the way.”
A kind of life philosophy that connects with the exciting
Need A Little Time,
one of the singles from her previous album.
Courtney Barnett, during her performance at BBK Live. Gordon Stabbins (Redferns)
However, his case does not fit with the mythology of the tormented artist: “But I do need a kind of romantic haze.
I don't think you have to be in a certain state of mind to write good lyrics.
Although, yes, sad songs tend to come up more easily if you find yourself in that situation.”
And he adds: “Music is like therapy.
It helps keep my head from spinning on the same issues and helps me process a lot of ideas and thoughts.”
In 2021, Barnett found time to participate in
I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico
, an LP tribute to the twisted New York band, with a version of the title track.
The album is a kind of
that brings together Iggy Pop, Michael Stipe, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Thurston Moore and Bobby Gillespie.
“I have always been a big fan of the group, especially their debut.
I'll Be Your Mirror,
specifically, is an overwhelming song, something unattainable”, she declares.
The last thing on his hands is
a documentary directed by Danny Cohen, recently released in Australia (and to be seen at the end of 2022 in Europe), which reviews the last stage of his career.
“Danny is a great friend and a sensational filmmaker and photographer.
He was following me with his camera for three years wherever I went on tour, even in the most intimate moments.
I think it has become a rather subtle and curious film”.
The synopsis of the film defines her as “an
and an energetic female artist in conflict with herself”.
Are both statements true?
Well, you know how the press releases are… I don't even know what an
“It's not that I hate social media, because I still use it, but not as much as I used to.
There was a point in my life when I realized that I spent all day online, looking at
things and not finishing what I had planned.
Anyone in the room with a similar problem?
Here's Barnett's advice: “I now only connect to my networks once a week.
Or at least that's what I try to do."
One last recommendation for emerging artists?
“Work hard on what you believe in and keep doing what you love, even if you think it won't get you anywhere.
The phrase sounds very hackneyed, but it is true.
The moment you start doing things you're not passionate about, for whatever reason, all you can do is resentment and unhappiness."
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