Top image: photography by Pooneh Ghana
This year has been a major marker for Courtney Barnett. Having released her second solo studio record (third if you count Lotta Sea Lice, her collaborative effort with Kurt Vile last year) Tell Me How You Really Feel to critical acclaim, the Australian singer-songwriter has confidently certified her place as one of the most exciting and distinctive storytellers on the circuit.
Away from the studio, 2018 also took Barnett on the road. Extensively. Touring across North America and Europe, Barnett hand-selected different musicians to support her throughout the schedule. The likes of Loose Teeth, Palehound, Waxahatchee, Molly Burch, Vagabon, Lala Lala, Julien Baker and JaySom, here those musicians come together for a special ‘Ask Courtney’ feature, pitching their questions to Barnett to answer. So if you’ve always wanted to know Courtney Barnett’s favourite Halloween costume, or what would be her last meal, you’ve come to the right place. Scroll down and dive in.
Question from Loose Tooth:
Do you find that when you’re on the road, you are more or less likely to be writing new music? Does the physical drain of touring stunt your creativity?
Courtney Barnett: I think it comes in waves. It’s a strange paradox because tour seems to see-saw between too-much-time and not-enough-time. lots of sitting around waiting for things to happen, but also not quite enough mental space to make anything happen. I think you just gotta grab it where you can. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing lately. I have lots of weird dreams on tour. Anxiety dreams and surreal mash-ups of people and places and emotions – though sometimes exhaustion breeds grand ideas.
Question from Lala Lala:
What have you dressed up as for Halloween each year of your life and what is your favourite Halloween costume that you’ve seen?
CB: We never really dressed up in Australia as my dad was anti-Halloween. But we were on tour in Seattle for Halloween once and me and the band half-dressed up, I had a jumper that looked a bit Freddy Krueger-ish and my tour manager Hook found an old umbrella and fingerless gloves and made me some claw-hands. I planned to spew blood in the last song of the set but I got nervous.
Question from Julien Baker:
What was the first piece of gear you ever owned that was particularly special to you or influential to your playing?
CB: I bought a second-hand Boss loop pedal sometime in my early twenties. I found it a really useful tool for songwriting and wrote most of my first EP on it. I would just sit there in my room and make some little riff and chord pattern and then read out loud from my journal trying to find a melody or some sort of direction. It opened up a whole other world of experimentation and happy accidents.
Question from Molly Burch:
Hey Courtney, I’m hungry right now so I will ask you this: If tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would you want for your final meal?
CB: Vegetable soup with tofu, egg noodles and veggie broth. With a starter of veggie spring rolls, and maybe some sort of vegetarian dumpling, and chilli sauce. And a tall glass of sparkling water with ice.
Question from Palehound:
If you were given an empty building and could turn it into whatever you wanted to (and it can’t be solely music related!) what would you do with it?
CB: A public library (free entry) full of weird and amazing literature, poetry, history, zines and artwork. It would host nights of spoken word, book readings, live acoustic performances, exhibitions, community discussions, local activism, movie nights and book clubs. Everyone welcome. Also, there’d be a library cat.
Question from JaySom:
Hey Courtney, shoes are one of the most vital and important things in the world, what shoes are you wearing on tour and on stage?
CB: I’ve worn my Blundstone boots down to the sole, so I’ve starting wearing my R.M. William boots and they seem to be holding up pretty good.
Question from Waxahatchee:
What’s your favourite record from this year so far?
CB: Mmm, I can’t pick so I’m gonna make a short list, Evelyn Ida Morris self-titled, Kurt Vile Bottle It In, Cat Power, Wanderer, Camp Cope, How to Socialise and Make Friends, Janelle Monae Dirty Computer, Breeders All Nerve
Question from Vagabon:
Can you think of a piece of art or an artist who has moved you to a point where you recall not being the same after consuming that work? It can be a book, a piece of music, a painting, a movie… any body of work that has transformed you after you consumed it – that transformation can be small or huge.
CB: I bought my first ever piece of art a few years ago, a painting by my friend Mick Turner who also plays guitar in one of my favourite bands The Dirty Three. I adore it. It holds a magically calming effect on me.