Why I Stan: Courtney Barnett

In this week’s edition of Why I Stan, Close-Up Culture’s own James Prestridge explains his love for singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.

When did you first discover Courtney Barnett?

It was in my first year at university. I got into this phase where I wanted to watch every movie I could get my hands on. One day, I decided to broaden my music horizons too. I remember googling and scouring YouTube for a variety of artists – up-and-coming and established – to try out. Courtney Barnett made it onto that long list.

Avant Gardener was the first song I listened to (I played it on my iPad for some reason!?) and, as the weeks passed by, I realised this clever and quirky song was one of the only songs on the list that I kept coming back to. So, I dived further into Courtney’s work. I think it was when I stumbled across this early video of her playing on a tram that I knew she was my new favourite artist – sorry Johnny Cash.

What drew you to Courtney Barnett’s music?

The obvious thing to say is her lyrics. She’s a great writer – that’s evident from any song you listen to.

Beyond that, I instantly felt connected to her voice. I’ve always been drawn to vocalists who have character to their voice – whether it be Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, or even Miley Cyrus. To me, a distinctive voice adds a layer of authenticity that you don’t feel in some polished, radio friendly artists. With Courtney it feels like you’re listening to someone, rather than something (a manufactured product). Also, she’s a badass performer!

How do you support her work?

I do the usual: buy merch, attend shows and encourage others to check out her music. I’ve also done a few articles on the website to promote her work. That’s about as far as I go though. Does that disqualify me from being a super-fan? I don’t know. I just think it’s healthy to keep a respectful distance from your heroes, which means focusing more on the artistic output than the person. I’ve never felt the need to delve too far into interviews or anything else out there about Courtney’s personal life – her music is enough.

That being said, I’d never turn down an opportunity to interview or meet Courtney in the future!

Do you own any Courtney Barnett merch?

A lot. I have a bunch of shirts, most of which are now too worn out to wear. I love wearing hats, so a bunch of those too, including a cool homemade one a friend made for me. I have enough show posters to fill a gallery, but I still fight the urge to buy more! The artwork on them is always beautiful. My most cherished piece of memorabilia is probably a handwritten note from Courtney.

A few years ago, Courtney was selling limited edition artworks. I was a poor student at the time and couldn’t afford one. But if there’s anyone out there open to selling one, let me know!

What is your favourite Courtney Barnett song?

I bounce around a lot with my favourite. Depreston, Sunday Roast, Charity and Sunfair Sundown are probably my most played.

Do you have a favourite performance?

She did a brilliant cover of Leonard Cohen’s So Long, Marianne for MTV Unplugged. My dad’s a huge Cohen fan, so that gives it even more weight. But my favourite performance remains her take on the INXS album, Kick. She’s clearly having fun with it, but it’s still a really impressive listen.

What is your favourite memory involving Courtney Barnett?

A few months ago, me and my partner went to watch Courtney perform in Brighton. We’d seen her live a few months earlier in London, but this whole weekend stands out to me as a great time.

Courtney closed the concert with a stripped back version of Oh The Night. It blew me away. I’ve never experienced anything like that live before – and that’s saying a lot given I’d been hypnotised by the brilliant music of Gregory Alan Isakov a few weeks earlier. This might sound clunky or corny, but the song felt like this profound moment of clarity. Like the entirety of my messy existence was folded up neatly for the duration of this one song. There I was, sitting next to someone who means the world to me, listening to an artist who has been the soundtrack of my early adult life. I was overcome with gratitude and love.

Also, the song underlined that Courtney can fucking sing!

What direction would you like to see Courtney’s career move in?

I’ve enjoyed the evolution of Courtney’s music, so I have no thoughts on where it should go next. I do love when she puts out stripped back performances, like a few I’ve already mentioned. A whole album of those would be fun.

This is random, but I once remember the film writer Alex Greenfield pitching his vision for a noir movie set in LA, inspired by the music of Lana Del Rey. I think Courtney’s music would be great fuel for an absurdist Aussie comedy-drama. Just a thought if any film producers are reading.

Before I finish, I should also say a huge shoutout to Bones Sloane (bass) and Dave Mudie (drums) who have been integral to Courtney’s music.

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