Live from Anne’s backyard: Courtney Barnett
Intimate performances, fresh sounds and candid conversations with a view.
Hang onto your existential ennui, because our favorite purveyor of shredded riffs and incisive lyrics, Courtney Barnett, is back with a brand new album. The Australian artist popped by the Hollywood hillside backyard of KCRW Music Director Anne Litt to kick off our new, sun-kissed live performance series and grace us with some solo acoustic cuts from “Things Take Time, Take Time” and more — including her first ever performance of a new song.
She stuck around after for a heartfelt (and also hilarious) conversation with Morning Becomes Eclectic’s Anthony Valadez about crafting the record, using humor in songwriting, and her latest TV binges.
Check out a video of the performance plus audio of the full set and interview below.
"Write A List"
"Before You Gotta Go"
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KCRW: How much adapting and overcoming have you done on this record, considering the events of the past few years?
Courtney Barnett: A lot of it was written in this flat in Melbourne that I was living in while Melbourne was locked down, and it was a very quiet year. And I set up a very small, very simple home studio, like a laptop and a microphone and a drum machine, and I did a lot of demoing at home and couldn't get into a studio for a while. So I guess in that sense, nothing too wild, but a little bit more time in that writing process instead of kind of rushing ahead.
As a creative, was it a conversation with your inner voice having a say in terms of creatively where you go? And how did you deal with that inner voice?
Yeah, good question. I think it's an ongoing conversation. This past year especially, with that really focused time, it was a bit of a face to face with a lot of those internal conversations. A lot of it was probably working through that and trying to change certain thought patterns.
You've mentioned that every word should count in your songs. Does that ever add pressure in the writing process of trying to convey a message or a feeling and make it fit into those words?
Yeah, I do think every word counts, and I don't want to waste words, or [when] I don't know what it is I'm thinking about or feeling, and just trying to find a creative way to say that or to get that across differently, because I feel like I'm kind of talking about the same stuff a lot in songs. It's just figuring out different ways to say it or the different lessons learned along the way of how to launch off from the last lesson.
There's a sense of humor in terms of your perspective. Where does that come from? Does that come from how you grew up? Or was it television? Or do you even know?
Um, no one's ever asked me that. I don't know. Maybe like early television or something. [It’s] probably a lot of music that I've listened to along the way and just soaked in. I think maybe I connect with that in other music. I'm learning that you can be sarcastic and defensive, and it's not always the best thing. Because it's a bit of a defense technique. But I think that seeing the lighter side of a really hard situation sometimes is just a way of dealing with it.
Stella [Mozgawa] from Warpaint is a big part of this record. The album feels a little lighter compared to previous records that you’ve put out. Is that a fair assessment?
Yeah, I've been trying to think about that. I feel like it's because I did a lot of the demoing at home. And it was kind of similar to my first EP, where I recorded a lot of the vocals at home, so it's soft, because I was living in a shared house then. And for this album, I was living in a flat, and I would sing quietly so I didn't annoy neighbors. So I feel like, honestly, that's the energy. Especially last year, [with] the overwhelming moments and the unknown elements of the world and the future, I think that I probably had a couple of anxious, kind of overwhelming, moments. And I think some of it is me trying to convince myself to be calm. It was kind of like this strange coping mechanism of trying to write peaceful songs to calm myself down, maybe.
Is there anything new that you've learned during this time?
Well, this is maybe not that interesting, but I'm trying to learn how to — is it propagate? Like to get a cactus bit and regrow it? Propagate?
Yeah. [Laughs] Please come and see me afterwards with any tips.
You're a big TV buff. What are you watching currently that is blowing your mind?
How did you know that about me?
[Laughs] You’re well-researched. I just watched “The Sopranos” for the first time in my life. I'm ashamed it has taken me this long, but that was a fun journey through Melbourne lockdown, of not being able to leave the house and just like, really falling into the world.
KCRW Music Director: Anne Litt
Video Director/Editor: Angie Scarpa
Director of Photography: Vice Cooler
Camera Op: Leslie Bumgarner
Producer: Melanie Makaiwi
Digital Producer: Andrea Domanick
Sound Engineer: Paul Smith
Artwork: Gabrielle Yakobson