“I know Alan Partridge, I love Partridge!” Ahead of her Norwich gig singer Courtney Barnett talks comedy, touring, storytelling and life on Twitter
15:30 22 April 2014
It’s been a good 2014 so far for Australian singer. guitarist and songwriter Courtney Barnett. Rave reviews, worldwide radio airplay, a debut album in the can and a tour that will see her play at several major festivals - and a stop off at Norwich’s Waterfront for one-night only. She spoke to David Powles ahead of the May 13 gig.
Some of the lyrics from Avant Gardener
I sleep in late
Oh what a wonder
Oh what a waste.
It’s a monday
It’s so mundane
What exciting things
Will happen today?
The yard is full of hard rubbish it’s a mess and
I guess the neighbours must think we run a meth lab
We should ammend that
I pull the sheets back
It’s 40 degrees
And i feel like i’m dying.
Life’s getting hard in here
So i do some gardening
Anything to take my mind away from where it’s sposed to be.
The nice lady next door talks of green beds
And all the nice things that she wants to plant in them
I wanna grow tomatoes on the front steps.
Sunflowers, bean sprouts, sweet corn and radishes.
I feel pro-active
I pull out weeds
All of a sudden
I’m having trouble breathing in.
It must be a strange life being a rising musician.
It’s an otherwise normal Tuesday afternoon (morning in the US) and I’m taking a bit of time out of the working day to talk to Courtney Barnett.
She’s on the other end of the line, hundreds of miles away, conducting interviews while in the middle of two dates at the world-renowned Coachella Festival.
As I gaze out of the office window at Norwich’s Rouen Road car park, I imagine her in a hotel somewhere, surrounded by empty beer bottles, groupies and all types of rock and roll royalty. No doubt the reality of that particular daydream is somewhat different.
Nevertheless, having to make chit chat with the likes of myself, ahead of gigs at places you’ve never even heard of, must be a strange experience for someone who has already gone a long way in a relatively short space of time.
For the uninitiated, let me first bring you up to speed.
The Melbourne-based performer is riding the crest of a wave following the late 2013 release of Double EP: Sea of Split Peas. In particular, track three Avant Gardener, which received considerable airplay on BBC Radio 6 music and has been rightly lauded by those whose opinions still matter in the music world.
It’s a song that gives a good introduction to the rest of her work. The story of a panic attack while doing some gardening, told over a brilliant, addictive, guitar-hook and strange, psychedelic sounds.
It initially brought to my mind The Velvet Underground and the EP is more than worth a listen, following a similar path.
What stands out is Barnett’s lyrics. So personal, each telling a story - it’s a style that instantly connects her to the listener. “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cos I play guitar, I think she’s clever ‘cos she stops people dying,” she retorts on Avant Gardener.
I tell her it reminds me in some ways of Jarvis Cocker from Britpop favourites Pulp.
She replied: “I missed Pulp, but I’ll definitely have to check them out. It’s not deliberate (her writing style) that is just what I do. I guess it’s because I’m writing for myself, not anybody else. I think I’m probably trying to work out stuff.
“We have just finished recording the new album before we left Australia. It will be out at the end of the year.
“It’s all new stuff but similar to my previous stuff. It’s still me telling stories about my life.”
That desire to bring people in to her life is something that comes across even in a short, crackly over the phone interview in which she asks as many questions as she answers - and certainly on her Twitter account (@courtneymelba) where it’s noticeable she replies to pretty much every tweet.
She explained why: “I try to reply to people because I appreciate that they have taken the time to speak to me, or say they liked a song or show. It only takes a second to write a few words back after all.”
Although she’s been on the musical radar in her home country for at least two years, her recent ascent worldwide is something she’s still struggling to get her head around.
She said: “It’s been pretty unbelievable. We were unheard of a year or so ago but for some reason people like the music and seem to relate to it.
“It’s really funny how it just happens suddenly. The last tour we were suddenly sold out in the US and London. It was a massive change.”
Turning to her forthcoming UK tour, which will include a slot at Glastonbury Festival (where musical careers can be shaped or shattered), she admits to having not previously heard of Norwich, once again turning the tables to enquire what it’s like.
I ramble something about Alan Partridge, last years premiere and the fact it calls itself ‘a fine city’.
“I know Alan Partridge, I love Partridge!” she excitedly exclaims.
While professing a love for playing gigs and seeing new places while on tour (though she admits to massively missing family and friends), she wishes she’d have more time to explore the places at which she performs.
She added: “Unfortunately most of the time I have to fly in and out for the shows, which is a shame because it is always nice to get to know a new place and get a feel for it.
“Hopefully I’ll put on a good show though, I’m looking forward to it.”
It will be a flying visit to this fine city, so you’d better make the most of it while you can.
Her debut album will be released later this year, For tickets to her Norwich show click here