Transforming her witty journal ramblings into surreal lyrics and soaring song, Courtney Barnett has gone from Melbourne pub scene darling to frequent flyer. Her self-released poetic strokes 'Avant-Gardner', 'Lance Jnr' and 'History Eraser' echo the greats Patti Smith, Jeff Tweedy and Grant McLennan, and have had festivals, labels and media lining around the block. With over 40 gigs booked over the next four months, we can only assume this unrelenting worker is enjoying herself. Over a virtual coffee, Courtney slipped us this playlist as we discussed her next album, the Milk! Records roster and her vast wardrobe of band t-shirts.
You were recording an album this week after what seemed to be back to back touring. Is your style of songwriting compatible with this on-the-go lifestyle?
It's mostly just observational note-taking and conversation-quoting. The more on-the-go the better in fact cos if I am too focused then nothing happens. A watched pot. I like people watching. I wrote the first 2 EPs at like 4am every night after work. Even though I stress out so easily, I think I work better under pressure. Sometimes.
How has the new material evolved from what's already seen the light of day?
Recording new and un-perfected songs is a good process for me, it normally takes me about a year to figure out what each song is exactly about. Songs are always evolving, I suppose as I evolve the songwriting does too.
Your lyrics are littered with local references. Are you ever concerned that some of this is lost on an international audience or are you noticing that they're clueing up and filling in the blanks?
I try not to think about what concerns other people and when I do I try not to under-estimate them. If we only listened to what we know then we wouldn't learn anything, I'm one of those people that underlines words in books and then looks them up, and if someone is singing about a bar on some street in some town in some country I've never been to then I look it up and try get a grip on what they're singing about, it's kinda interesting that way.
What's your most prized band t-shirt from the ever growing collection and why is this particular garment significant?
Darren Hanlon gave me a shirt once, he's one of my favourite songwriters so that's pretty prized. I like my Paul Kelly/Neil Finn shirt especially because it's designed by Reg Mombassa. I once swapped the shirt I was wearing on stage with a guy in the audience who had a shirt with polar bears on it. That's probably my most prized shirt.
Can you please introduce your Milk! Records roster to the unenlightened?
I started Milk! Records to release my first EP, then a couple of friends had records they wanted to release so we put them out too. Jen Cloher's third album 'In Blood Memory' is one I'm real proud of. A few EPs and books of poetry by shoe-gazey The Finks. Psychedelic hippies Royston Vasie. Tropical folk songwriter Fraser A. Gorman.
You're well read. Maybe recommend a book or three while you're at it?
I just finished 'Slaughterhouse 5' and I'm currently reading 'A Confederacy of Dunces'.
What was touring with Billy Bragg like? Is he an inspiration of yours?
He is now!He was great to tour and hang out with, very supportive and inspirational plus his set was awesome and flawless every night.
Playlist (not really a mixtape!)
ST. VINCENT - Birth In Reverse
THE BREEDERS - Cannonball
WHITE DENIM - Shake Shake Shake
MONEY FOR ROPE - Nova Pilota
JACK WHITE - High Ball Stepper
WARPAINT - Keep It Healthy
THE NATIONAL - Bloodbuzz Ohio
REAL ESTATE - Talking Backwards
MAC DE MARCO - Ode To Viceroy
Thur May 1 Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool, UK
Sat May 3 Live At Leeds, Leeds, UK
Sun May 4 Stag & Dagger, Glasgow, Scotland
Tue May 6 Cluny 2, Newcastle, UK
Wed May 7 The Horn, St Albans, UK
Thu May 8 The Great Escape, Brighton, UK
Mon May 12 The Portland Arms, Cambridge, UK
Tue May 13 The Waterfront Studio, Norwich, UK
Wed May 14 The Duchess, York, UK
Thur May 15 The New Adelphi, Hull, UK
Sat May 17 The Harley, Sheffield, UK
Sun May 18 Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK
Mon May 19 Musician, Leicester, UK
Tue May 20 Joiners, Southampton, UK
Fri May 23 Dot To Dot Festival, Manchester, UK
Sat May 24 Dot To Dot Festival, Manchester, UK
Sun May 25 Dot To Dot Festival, Manchester, UK
Tue May 27 La Boule Noire, Paris, France
Thur May 29 Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
Fri May 30 This Is Not A Love Song Festival, Nimes, France
Sat May 31 Primavera Sounds, Barcelona, Spain
Fri June 6 Primavera Sounds, Porto, Portugal
Sat June 7 Field Day, London, UK
Tue June 10 Music Hall, Louisville, KY
Wed June 11 Exit In, Nashville, TN
Thur June 12 Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA
Sat June 14 Northside Festival, Music Hall Of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Tue June 17 Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Wed June 18 The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Thur June 19 Firefly Music Festival, Dover, DE
Fri June 20 NXNE Festival, Toronto, ON, Canada
Tue June 24 Varsity Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
Sun June 29 Down The Rabbit Hole Festival, Beuningen, The Netherlands
Tue July 1 Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
Wed July 2 Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
Fri July 4 Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver, BC
Sat July 5 Neptune, Seattle, WA
Fri Aug 1 Pickathon Festival, Portland, OR
Fri Aug 1 Osheaga Festival Musique Et Arts Montreal, Quebec
Sat Aug 2 Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago
Fri Aug 8 Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco, CA
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