Melbourne’s own Courtney Barnett is currently far beyond Australian borders. She has just appeared at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and has shows in Paris and London to come. But do not worry, the singer-songwriter will be home soon, along with her new double EP A Sea of Split Peas. Questions were asked of her. This is how she answered.
How would you say your musical style developed? Did it come from any major influences or simply through writing lots of songs?
Barnett: I reckon it naturally develops as I write more, tour more, read more, listen more, play more, talk more, love more, eat more, travel more, watch more movies, meet more people, make more mistakes, etc.
How was the idea conceived for combining I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and the How To Carve a Carrot Into A Rose for a double EP?
Barnett: It seemed like the easiest way to introduce all the songs to the rest of the world who hadn’t been around for the Australian bashing of Emily Ferris. You don’t show someone Empire Strikes Back before New Hope.
My friend Brent told me that The Beta Band did it (The Three E.P.’s) and I thought…why not?! There’s no rules. I’m really proud of all these songs, they represent a real journey for me, and I reckon they’d all sound good on vinyl together.
In an interview with Artrocker you say that that your debut EP may be the most honest thing you’ll ever make. Were you able to uphold the honesty despite the increased expectation and attention surrounding How To Carve A Carrot?
Barnett: How To Carve A Carrot still holds back no honesty. But I think on a psychological and sub-conscious level, Emily Ferris will be the most honest thing I’ll ever do because I honestly made it in my bedroom thinking nobody except my friends would honestly ever hear it or care about it. And now that I know people are listening I think it’s unrealistic to propose I would write in EXACTLY the same way. Maybe a very, very, verrrrry similar way, but not exactly the same. I’ll continue to make records for the rest of my life, and I’ll make a lot of records, but the Emily Ferris EP was special because it had zero preconceptions 🙂
Why is “Out Of The Woodwork” your favourite of the new songs?
Barnett: I came up with the chords after seeing The Drones for the first time at the Corner a few years ago, and I thought “wowwww, i wonder how to write a song like that” so I mucked around with songwriting techniques (and playing more than 4 chords at once) to try something different as a bit of a challenge to myself. It took about 2 years to finish. Also the lyrics felt a lot more revealing than anything else I’d released. So I guess I was proud I explored that part of me and liked the result. Plus it’s really fun to play live.
In your recent Pitchfork feature you mention that you didn’t know there were decent Australian bands until you were around 20. What were some of the Aussie one-hit-wonders that sidetracked your musical listening?
Barnett: I kind of just listened to whatever other people were listening to, because they weren’t really into what I liked listening to. But I’d still always go home and my brother & I would listen to Frogstomp, Ivy & the Big Apples, Nevermind, Unplugged, Experience This, Dookie, Blood Sugar etc. When we made the progression from mix-tapes to actual CDs, these were the only ones we owned for years haha, then we got robbed one day and the robber took ONLY our Nirvana Unplugged and Spiderbait CDs and we were gutted.
You say that founding your own record label is like “throwing your own party”. Apart from your solo work, you’ve played in some fine Melbourne outfits. Is it an easy balancing act between bedroom CEO and working musician?
Barnett: Nah it’s not easy at all! I’ve become a workaholic! Plus I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I get disappointed in myself when I can’t do everything at once. I just need to learn some time-management skills and it’ll be sweet. But seriously, it’s all good, I’m in a very lucky position to be doing what I love doing.
You’ve got a big few months ahead in terms of overseas appearances and festivals back at home. What are you looking forward to the most?
Barnett: Seeing how many cute dogs I can spot on the sidewalks in New York, London & Paris.