As Bob Dylan once put it, things have changed. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Oz. Australia became the 25th country to recognize same-sex marriage in December 2017. The move was controversial, with LGBTI groups objecting to a human rights question – equality before the law – being decided by popular vote. As the cliche goes, politics is show business for ugly people. And that goes not only for elected officials, but the penumbra. Talent is not about gender. It's about recognition. Smart people recognize talent. Dumb ones pay attention to gender, or color, or pronoun. Some say, we’re all broken. We all have hopes and dreams. We all have secrets. Who do we tell?
30yr. old Courtney Barnett is a left handed Australian singer, songwriter and musician. Known for her rambling lyrics and deadpan singing style, Barnett attracted attention with the release of her debut DIY EP: 'I've Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris', on her own label, Milk! Records. Her songs and style are meant to take you back to the time, where people felt music in their soul and related to it. International interest from the UK and North American music press came with the release of 'The Double EP: 'A Sea of Split Peas', in 2013. But it's not easy. Almost everything is singles-driven in the music business now, and anything TV related is now going the same way. Most 13yr olds don’t even own one full length album in any format. Instead, they have over 100 artists on the playlist on their phone. It's a reflection of their cognitive dissonance, caused by being born into a slave system, while developing Stockholm syndrome along the way. Artists can’t sustain a career off hit singles only . And yet, young listeners don't want to be in on the album journey anymore, nor do they even listen to songs the way today's 18yr olds did when they were growing up.
Men are scared that women will laugh at them. Women are scared that men will kill them.” — Margaret Atwood
Over the past few years, the music scene in Oz has been blossoming again, and some down under artists are going for the golden ring full throttle. This is the advantage of Australian bands. They’ve paid their dues. They’re ready. In an era of poseurs, very few have got the goods. Ever feel alone, like no one understands you, like you’re an outsider and everybody else is connecting, but you’re not? And then you meet someone who gets you? It’s always a surprise. It’s always when you’re not looking. Courtney Barnett has got the goods. Her debut album: 'Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit', was released in 2015 with a lot of good press. Courtney learned that she can sit there self satisfied. But the burden was upon her to create the game, not play it. At the 2015 ARIA Music Awards, she won 4 awards out of 8 nominations. She was nominated for Best New Artist at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, and for International Female Solo Artist at the 2016 Brit Awards. Not bad for DIY. When you've got nothing to lose, you play by your own rules. That's when you sometimes win, or fail miserably. To win today, first and foremost, you must be honest. And that's where Courtney scores big.
In 2017 she released 'Lotta Sea Lice', a collaborative album with Kurt Vile. By 2018, Barnett released the single "Nameless, Faceless" followed by "Need a Little Time". Her latest single: "Sunday Roast" was released on May 10th. with a music video, and her new, 2nd album, 'Tell Me How You Really Feel' dropped May 18th., 2018. Talk about a battle plan.If this seems like a short story about an artist who became a star over night, it's not the case. Is the goal of art is to make us feel so not alone? Barnett's music and live performances started getting traction, fans and trolls responded knowing there was a buzz in the air, and fans invested in her works. Courtney does her best to keep it real. You can’t run to the center. You can’t triangulate. That’s what killed Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s records, instead of being pure pop, they mixed their tracks with beats. They were phony, and failed in the marketplace. So pop ruled. And then it didn’t. People don’t want manufactured pop like they used to.
She is truly influenced a lot by Kurt Cobain, as well as The Breeders, Pavement, and The Lemonheads. Many love her and her songs. Others don't. Neither side understands the other.Despite that, when writing her latest album, it's said that 'Barnett turned the focus of her pen inward like never before'. Detractors wish the pen had hit a major artery. Her self-reflection brought some interesting results. Courtney Barnett plays songs in the key of empathy. “I was trying to dig deeper and seeing what came, and being a bit clueless about it, really. I was open to whatever happened.” It's been said that this is her most revealing, reflective, and at times, darkest work yet because she began to let her guard down during the writing process.
She says: “Maybe where I would normally put up that natural defense that comes out when your mind goes to a certain place, noting how your mind often wants to protect you from yourself. This time I was trying to push through that a little bit and get to the bottom of certain thoughts or feelings. That was my personal challenge to myself.. to be more open.” Males and females buy into her recorded music confession therapy. Others, not so much. She's not alone. Many are also dealing with their demons, which are prescription meds. Courtney's been there-done that. Once she couldn't leave her bedroom for 23 days. Whether she's still on meds is never asked nor discussed in the press. Ever wonder why?To keep the promo tanks rolling and pushing 'Tell Me How You Really Feel', Barnett appeared on the 'much watched' Tonight Show w/ Jimmy Fallon yet again, to perform ‘Nameless, Faceless’. Donning her signature left-handed Fender, Courtney led the band through the alt-rock tune that 'features a pensive lyrical musing on women’s safety'. Again, many love her, her music, and her 'confessions'. Others don't buy the hype, and sense that behind the curtain, political activist power brokers are pushing her and the massive, strategic media exposure. Is that a bad thing? That's the idea, right?Sometimes she wishes she was more like Jen. “Jen Cloher, by contrast, is a 'take no bullshit' kind of person". Barnett says she struggles to get angry, and prefers to think about where people came from, and why they might act the way that they do. Even when she does write songs out of anger. And you think there's a big division between those on stage and those off. There isn't. It's all just posturing, LA promoters will tell you. Courtney makes her way back home with a run of Aussie shows August and September 2018, giving eager fans their first chance to hear her songs from the new album in full, up front and personal. She’s loyal. She cares. Think about it. You’ve got to give the people hope.
Corporate music itself is so ho'ed out to money, there’s little truth left. The only people speaking any kind of truth have little to no traction, because they’ve got nothing to lose. Courtney (and Jen) play it honest and slow. Don’t try to go too broad. Play to an active niche, and then if you’re lucky it will grow. And it has. Music is best when it tests limits, when it’s different from what came before. Some people know which way the wind blows. It’s hard to cut through the clutter of noise without aggressive marketing. The media hype tank battalion was put in motion. It started rolling, growing, and gained momentum. Where this roller-coaster ride goes is anybody's guess. Nothing is set in stone. Especially today, in the media, arts and entertainment business. In the information society, people might be affected by spin, but they will eventually learn the truth. That’s the hardest thing to do in today’s marketplace. To spread the word. especially to people who want to know. Having grown up on the sounds of American bands, Courtney discovered Australian singer-songwriters who inspired her to start writing her own songs. From 2010-11, she played 2nd guitar in Rapid Transit, a Melbourne garage grunge band. They released one self-titled album on cassette. Between 2011-13, she was in Immigrant Union, an Australian psych-country band. It was a musical project founded by Brent DeBoer of the Dandy Warhols, and Bob Harrow. She shares vocals and plays slide guitar on the band's 2nd studio album: 'Anyway'. DeBoer also plays drums on her first EP: 'I've Got a Friend called Emily Ferris'. It appeared in 2012 on Barnett's Milk! Records. Yes, she takes care of business, too.
In 2013, Barnett played lead guitar on girlfriend-partner-wife(?) Jen Cloher's 3rd studio album: 'In Blood Memory'. Following the release of her first EP, Barnett signed to Marathon Artists. Shortly thereafter, MA released 'The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas', a combined package of Barnett's 1st and 2nd EP, 'How To Carve A Carrot Into a Rose'. 'The Double EP' brought her positive attention from the likes of Q Magazine, Pitchfork Media, and Stereogum. The track "History Eraser" was nominated for the APRA Song of the Year. Following the release of more singles with videos, her debut album, 'Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit', was released worldwide in 2015. It was accompanied by tours in the UK, Europe, America, and Australa-Asia. It was met with thumbs- up from The Guardian, The Times, Pitchfork and the Chicago Tribune. Going 'old school', her UK label then launched a global, guerilla campaign for the release of her single, 'Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party'. They put up billboards and posters bearing the song's title in London, NYC, LA, Melbourne and Sydney. It worked. The campaign netted a lot of interest online and across social media.
At the end of 2015, Barnett was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best New Artist category. She was later nominated for the Brit Awards Best International Female in 2016 , and was the music guest on Saturday Night Live's 41st season. In 2016, Barnett appeared on the cover of a popular Australian music magazine, and performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and again in the spring of 2018. About the new album's title, 'Tell Me How You Really Feel', Barnett said: "It's just anger that's always there within me. It's maybe just been politely restrained or something." Barnett is openly lesbian, and in a relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Jen Cloher. The song "Numbers" was co-written by Barnett and Cloher about their relationship. Barnett's song "Pickles from the Jar" also details their relationship. Cloher is mentioned by name in the first line of "Dead Fox". Barnett admits to Jen being a "huge, constant influence" on her music. Barnett also plays guitar in Jen's band.
Courtney 'went deep inside herself, and out came beauty and darkness'. It's a bit of a stretch, but she's even been called “the female Bob Dylan” for penning his sort of intricate and detailed songs.. well, sort of. She often sings with a fresh-clean voice, and sometimes with a Courtney Love raspiness on top of familiar Hole/ Nirvana chord changes.
While writing her new album, she worried that maybe art was the last thing that the world needed: “I was like, ‘What am I saying? Nothing groundbreaking’. I’m not saving the fucking planet. I wish I was. But I don’t feel like I am. I feel like all I’m doing is making more noise for people’s ears to have to hear. Sometimes it’s hard, the knowledge that there’s so many people writing songs and making music; so many bands and so many professional session musicians. You’re like, Who am I? I’m just another one of them. Am I even good? Should I even bother?" Songs never go out of fashion, just styles of music. Fans say that you’ll hear everything here in her music, her struggle to make it.
Does Courtney Barnett bring Kurt Cobain back to life?
Does Courtney Love dream of electric kangaroos?
Does it really matter? After all, it's only Rock n Roll.