It was over 40 degrees Celsius as Courtney Barnett pulled weeds from her garden. Having gotten herself out of bed she was “feeling proactive” and slightly productive as she thought about growing tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, sunflowers and the like. A few minutes later the 20-something musician struggled back inside and called an ambulance despite the amazing costs. She told the Huffington Post about the experience, “I was just looking at myself in the mirror and freaking out.”
“I was like, oh, my God, why do I smoke?”
It was up until that time that Barnett had been a smoker, but the heat, combined with the physical activity of gardening, forced her to take stock of her health and well being admitted to the hospital.
Fast-forward a month, Barnett, the then struggling singer songwriter from Melbourne, had quit smoking and sat down to write her first breakout hit “Avant Gardener” based on the events of that day, which was featured on her 2013 release The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.
This sort of diary-esque approach to songwriting, her nearly complete disregard for pop-style lyricism and form, along with her sort of ‘rambling blues’ meets ‘slacker rock’ aesthetic makes her music instantly charming. Of course, she continued this charm throughout her 2015 critically acclaimed release, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit.
Again writing from personal experience, one of the standout tracks “Depreston” was inspired by a draining house-hunting expedition she took in the Melbourne suburb of Preston. In an interview she did for Radiotopia’s Song Exploder she said visit to a deceased person’s estate made her dwell on mortality. “You’ve built this life. You’ve worked to raise money for your family, and then you die,” she told host Hrishikesh Hirway.
Courtney Barnett has a very simple way of telling her perspective, but it’s a way that is so unique to her own sense of melody that it draws a listener in, wanting to hear more and dig deeper. Barnett, although being labeled as a bit of a ‘slacker-rocker’ is nothing but a story-teller. Relaying things that happened in a beautiful way.
Barnett has earned many (many) awards, nominations and accolades for her work over the last few years from both ARIA and the Grammys, just by telling us all about how her day went that one time she almost passed out in the heat, or that time she went to go see that house.
As Barnett continues touring we can only imagine the next steps from this Aussie rocker. She’s recently added her voice to The National’s compilation of Grateful Dead covers, Day of the Dead, with her cover of “New Speedway Boogie” in support of HIV/AIDS research. But there’s been no real news of a forthcoming follow-up to Sometimes I Sit and Think….
Speaking with the Huffington Post about “Avant Gardener” Barnett said “I remember kind of working hard on it and it had come out of this very surreal experience, so it was important to me.” Barnett continued, “When it all came together, I felt such a sense of accomplishment, because it was hard to fit all those words in. Get the whole story.”
Barnett’s ability to tell the whole story is now, a few years removed, a lot more refined and it’s exciting to hear how her days have been going since we last heard from her.