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A Chat with Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett’s deadpan delivery and the ability to turn the mundane into poetry are qualities that make her one of the best storytellers in music today. That’s one of many reasons why her music has been on constant repeat in my life since first hearing her on the NPR Tiny Desk Concert in 2014. 

I saw Courtney Barnett at Forecastle Music Festival last summer and let me tell you this, she puts everything on the table when performing. It is a show you will not soon forget. You can catch her at Madison Theater on Monday, July 1st!

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I was beyond excited to chat with Courtney recently about expectations, Milk! Records, and what is next.

We are so excited to have you play in the Cincinnati area for the first time! Do you have any expectations for the show on July 1st?

I'm excited. I'm excited to come there and I really never know what to expect you know, but I think it will be fun.

Your lyrics are such a rush of interlocking wordplay. Do you compose them beforehand or do they come out as you work out the music (or both)?

Most of the time I have lyrics, I like to kind of start with lyrics and then kinda piece them together with music but, sometimes I sit down, and they’ll come at the same time.

Tell me a little about how Milk! Records came to be. I am so impressed with those such as you and Ani DiFranco who just say, ‘Screw it, I’m just doing to do things how I want to do them.’

<laughter>I think I just started it to put out my first record, cause, I was playing everywhere all the time and, just doing these tiny shows and no one was really interested. I would cold call venues and labels for support and, no one was interested. So, I think in the end I set up a label so that if anybody ever showed up and did ask if I had something to sell, I could point them there. I used to walk to the post office everyday with like one record that someone had bought, and I'd post it off. <laughter>Slowly it just grew over time, and I'm really proud of how it's grown on.

The album you did with Kurt Vile was amazing. Do you prefer to work alone or collaboratively? 

Oh, I think it's always different I mean, I think it's fun to work collaboratively. I really enjoy doing lots of different things, I think it's good, creatively. You know to have that level of experimentation and experience. I've been wanting to just hole myself up in a little studio and do everything by myself. Which is kind of terrifying but also, I just feel like it'll be hard and that's what will be rewarding about it.Maybe, maybe I'll do that next, I dunno, I said that a few years ago and then, I loved just making music with friends as well, you know so, it's hard to make a final decision.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I mean lately, you know I've been listening to stuff like um, Cate Le Bon, and the Dirty Three. I mean, it chops and changes depending on the day.

Yeah, mine does too. Lately I've been hooked on Lizzo.

Oh yeah well, I love her. <laughter> I saw her at a festival years ago and I've loved her since then, but she just had a couple of random songs so, when her album finally came out, I was so happy.

What is next after the tour?

I've got a few projects I'm working on, once the touring stops. It's been a really good year. I have all these ideas and songs and poems, and I just need to finish them and put them into the world. So that is my next goal.