Until recently, Australian music hasn’t had a huge impact on North American music markets. This has changed over the past few years, with the emergence of acts such as The Jezabels, Gotye and Empire of the Sun. The folk side of the surge of Aussie music arrived here earlier this year with the re-release of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, by Melbourne-based songstress Courtney Barnett.
She has been growing a large audience in her home country over the past few years, with the release of two EPs (I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris, and How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose) and the re-release of the two together as an album.
She was recently signed to Mom + Pop records earlier this year, who released the album on April 15. She has been described as a folksy Sheryl Crow with the singing and writing style of Bob Dylan circa mid-1960s. Some people may see her as being bored while performing songs, but she is far from that.
Accompanied by flawless electric and acoustic guitar played by her, Courtney presents each story in a spoken way of singing, such as “Avant Gardener”, where the protagonist goes into anaphylactic shock, and explains it as “My hands are shaky, my knees are weak. I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet. I’m breathing but I’m wheezing, feel like I’m emphysemin’. My throat feels like a funnel filled with Weet Bix and kerosene and…”
Courtney puts a voice to what many artists and people overall don’t talk about: everyday life. No topic, no matter how mundane or obscene, is off limits to Barnett; she also sings about rowdy adventures with friends, masturbating to the music of a friend (but admitting to not being in love with him) and just hanging out with close friends.
She has made a large impact on the music scene, with performances at a bunch of music festivals this past summer, including NXNE here in Toronto, where she played three nights in a row at the Silver Dollar Room. Before her last show, I was able to sit down with her and ask her a few questions:
So what are your major musical influences, genre and also artists?
Probably Jimmy Hendrix, Talking Heads, Pixies, I don’t know. I’m not really into choosing just one, I just kinda like rock and roll, although it’s not really. Kinda punk rock but not really.
What is your reaction to being compared by critics and writers to Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, like mid-60s Dylan, and Sheryl Crow?
I think it’s kinda funny. I think it’s also kinda lazy criticism. People are like “Hey, you kinda sing-speak”, and then they just compare you to Dylan, when I hear just a million people who do that. Like fucking Lou Reed, David Bowie, alot more than just Dylan.
Any weird things happen on tour?
Not really, it’s been pretty chill.
So this is your third of three shows at the Silver Dollar Room. How has the reaction of the crowd been?
Oh, it’s been fucking awesome. We’ve never been here, so I was scared to do three shows, not knowing the reaction. But it’s been sold out and everyone’s singing the songs and dancing around. It’s awesome.
What does the next year look like for you?
We’ve made a new album, but it won’t be out until around next year or something. Also going to be touring and hitting up different festivals.
Because of the blog being called The Indie Blender, and we talk to independent artists and record labels, what was it like starting up your own label in Australia, Milk! Records?
It’s cool, alot of work and it’s been a journey. There’s not alot of bands so it’s more of an art thing than a music label, but it’s fun. Putting out zines, t-shirts, art installations and then releasing the album, it’s alot of pressure and expectations. I love writing music and songs and doing your own thing is alot of fun.
Check Courtney out live when she comes to Lee’s Palace on October 25th in Toronto, and check out her website for other tour dates: http://courtneybarnett.com.au/