Sunday SOS Interview: Courtney Barnett

28-year-old Aussie on caring less what other people think

Sunday SOS Interview: Courtney Barnett
Photo by David Brendan Hall

Courtney Barnett's full-length debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, dropped only last year, but the 28-year-old Australian was already well on her way to trademark aesthetics following the fusion of two extended plays on 2014's The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. A few loud, fuzzy chords into any of her tracks – even before her sing/talk voice hits – and there's no question who's playing that guitar.

Accessible lyricism delivered in her accented deadpan has been her biggest asset, somehow casual and relatable even when she's at her cleverest. The self-effacing "Pedestrian at Best," for example, fills with internal rhyming: "Erroneous, harmonious, I'm hardly sanctimonious/ Dirty clothes, I suppose we all outgrow ourselves." Other tracks simply re-tell the mundane in almost Lou Reed speak.

"I do take notes and they're all over every different possible thing – in my phone or on a piece of paper or in my actual notebook, or I just try to remember them," says Barnett of her writing process. "Normally it's just little scraps of nothing that at the time seem really interesting, just scraps of sentences. I think it's a good way of doing it. It jogs your memory and turns into something else."

On the phone earlier this year, ahead of her not-yet-canceled stop at Levitation, Barnett proved sweet and humble, unable (or unwilling) to divulge any information about a potential follow-up to Sometimes I Sit. Whatever its status, she's keeping a level head in the face of rapidly mounting attention.

"I try to separate it, but realistically, I think that's kind of a hard thing to totally eliminate. It's always popping up, or people are always saying things that get me thinking about it," laughs Barnett. "I don't think I really care that much."

A pause.

"Well, I don't know, that's a weird thing to say. I think I'm starting to care less about what people think about me."

Courtney Barnett

9:15pm, Dragon’s Lair stage

Check out our daily Sound on Sound coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Courtney Barnett
SXSW 2015 Records
Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, March 20, 2015

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 Saturday Reviews
Courtney Barnett
Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (Record Review)

Scott Schinder, Nov. 7, 2014

More by Libby Webster
ACL Live Review: Nilüfer Yanya
Nilüfer Yanya
English singer-guitarist animates acclaimed Miss Universe

Oct. 7, 2019

ACL Live Review: Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish
Superstar teen proves she should’ve been a headliner

Oct. 6, 2019


Thursday, Courtney Barnett, Carcass, Sound on Sound 2016

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle