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Courtney Barnett lives in Melbourne and writes songs. Great songs. She's one of the winners of our APRA/AMCOS Song Summit competition to attend an exclusive workshop with Gotye and Adalita. Check out her brand of dreamy, honest, suburban slacker pop.
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Interview: 21 May 2012
Tell us about your music. How did you develop your sound?
I've always just focused mainly on lyrics but for this EP "I've got a friend called Emily Ferris" I got bored of writing songs so I was just mucking around with a loop pedal recording demos in my bedroom. I made these insane layered songs, with way too many guitars and weird organs and real tacky electric drums. They're real simple songs so i filled them out with clean guitar, distorted guitar, semi-distorted-clean guitar, semi-super delayed guitar, slide guitar, 6-layered harmonies, banging on the wall, stomping on the ground etc. I was just experimenting and i was never gonna show anyone. It was embarrassingly overly self-indulgent and in some parts i was just blatantly ripping off other bands. Then I showed my best friend Pete who's a super talented musician and he was like "this is cool, let's play these songs". So i showed the demos to alex and brent and then we re-recorded it as a band. So the sound that we ended up with was just a monster combination of everyones natural style mashed together, that's why i like it so much.
Your debut EP has a host of talented guests performing on it, but what’s a Courtney Barnett live show like?
We recorded the EP live, so when we play live it pretty much has the same vibe. There's no gimmicks or anything, we're just dudes standing around playing our guitars but we're playing them good and we're having fun. We try to keep the song structures pretty loose so we play bits different every time, shit gets boring if you play every song exactly the same way at every single gig you do. They're all so talented, it's ridiculous. I like pushing things a bit, it's pretty easy to write a pop song, but it's pretty hard to write an interesting song that has one chord the entire way through. No one does that. That's pretty hard. There's one song called Canned Tomatoes that fades out with a guitar line that we overdubbed, and no one has room to play it live so we sing it like the outro to on a plain on Unplugged or nevermind. Like that Russell Morris song "the real thing". I forget the story but Molly told us that the reason that happened is cos dave (our drummer) his dad was the guitar player or something and he didn't rock up to record that day so they had to sing the line instead. So basically we're trying to make things difficult for ourselves because it's more interesting. Brent played drums on the EP but he's touring with the Dandys and when he's not doing that he's writing Immigrant Union songs, so we're super lucky to have Dave who's pretty much like Ringo Starr. Then because I recorded all these ridiculous harmonies on the EP I had to back that up live somehow, so I got my friend Maddie to come along and sing, then Alex who plays guitar is also a killer singer, so's Pete and so is Dave. So that's all bases covered.
You’re one the winners of our APRA/AMCOS Song Summit competition. What are you most hoping to gain from your exclusive songwriting workshop with Gotye and Adalita?
It'll be fun hearing what other people do and how they do it. I think Wally and Adalita are really amazing songwriters, and both their musical styles are pretty different so it'll be cool to hear them talk about their processes and what keeps them going. i guess songwriting isn't some special secret that you can teach other people, it's just something that happens when you spew your thoughts onto some paper and then sing about it. So it'll be a kind of sneaky voyeuristic peak into their creative world which isn't a chance you get every day.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given and who was it from?
"Stop trying so hard." I can't remember who said it. But the day I stopped trying so hard is around the same time that everything started going right.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Doing a residency at the Tote in Melbourne tuesday nights in June. Launching "I've got a friend called Emily Ferris" at GoodGod (Sydney) 16th June, and the Republic Bar (Hobart) 12th July. Got some cool support slots, Liz Stringer, Laura Imbruglia plus more to be announced... Then we're gonna make another record around October. Also I play in another band Immigrant Union and we're recording another album soon.
Australian music is…?
......Frenzal Rhomb doing the entire Young Einstein soundtrack on a gum leaf.
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