Australian singer and songwriter Courtney Barnett has returned for RollingStone on the unexpected joys of his third solo album, Things Take Time, Take Time.
Meet Courtney Barnett on June 24 at the La Magnifique Society festival
At the start of 2020, Courtney Barnett was looking forward to a hyper-productive year of writing, with only one condition. “It’s important to remember to live and experience and to have something real to write about”she told RollingStone in an interview in January of that year. “Not just sit in a room and write an album for the sake of making an album.”
Barnett laughs when reminded of that conversation now. ” It’s funny “the Australian singer-songwriter, 33, said on a call from her home in Melbourne. “Very ironic… Whether I like it or not, that’s what the world has given us. It’s probably the quietest year I’ve ever had. »
This is perhaps the most personal album ever recorded by an artist who has already revealed many of her emotions to the world.
Genesis of a new chapter
The album she spent most of 2020 writing is called Things Take Time, Take Time, and it will arrive on November 12 on Mom + Pop Music and Marathon Artists. For fans of Barnett’s distinctive writing, it’s a rich reward, full of sly observations about the peaks and valleys of everyday life that have made her one of the most beloved freelance artists in the world. last decade. The album also has some surprises in store: The album’s ten songs shine in a new light, mostly devoid of the crushing rock band sound that filled his first two solo albums, and instead presented in a more close to the radical honesty of chamber music. This is perhaps the most personal album ever recorded by an artist who has already revealed many of her emotions to the world.
Barnett describes Things Take Time, Take Time like an album about research “out of a kind of joy and gratitude, out of pain and sadness”.
She had started writing new songs soon after the spring 2018 release of her second solo album, the turbulent Tell Me How You Really Feel, but ended up discarding most of them. “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To” is one of the first songs she kept. She arrived towards the end of 2019, at a time when she felt deeply distraught, not least because of Australia’s devastating bushfire season.
“I was just really sad”she recalls. “I was in a really dark moment. My friends didn’t know how to help me. They said to me, “Why don’t you try to write down a list of positive things in your life that you look forward to? “. At that point, I said, “Nothing. There’s nothing I’m looking forward to. »
When Barnett felt ready to record some demos, she turned to a vintage Roland CR-8000 drum machine.
between four walls
She then performed at a bushfire fundraiser in early 2020, then flew to the United States for a short solo tour that ended with a charity performance at Los Angeles on Valentine’s Day. By the time she got back to Melbourne, a certain Covid forced her to self-quarantine. With no place to stay, she moved into a friend’s empty apartment. “I ended up staying there for the whole year”she says. “It was an amazing little apartment, with big windows and lots of light. I was very lucky to have this place. »
As the reality of confinement sets in, Barnett learns to cook, subscribes to the Criterion channel, immerses himself in films ofAgnes Varda and D’Andrei Tarkovskyreads books and paints watercolors. “I had a lot of big plans”, she said, laughing. But most of the time she sat by the window, drinking coffee and playing the acoustic guitar.
One of the new album’s sweetest songs, “Turning Green,” directly reflects that experience in its lyrics, which evoke renewed hope after a sluggish season (“The trees are turning green/And this springtime lethargy/Is kinda forcing you to see/Flowers in the weeds”). “I sat by this window, and there was a huge tree out front, so I watched the seasons change”said Barnett. “I guess it’s also metaphorical. There is something so joyful about this song. We feel that the characters have undergone a kind of transformation, and that they have come out of it on the other side. »
When Barnett felt ready to record some demos, she turned to a vintage Roland CR-8000 drum machine she had purchased a few years earlier after a visit to Wilco’s loft in Chicago, filled with instruments. “It’s a somewhat bulky analog device”explains Barnett, who describes himself as “addicted to small drum machines”.
So she called her friend Stella Mozgawa – the threshing machine warpaint who had played drums on Lotta Sea Lice, Barnett’s 2017 album duet with Kurt Vile – and followed a tutorial. Soon, she and Mozgawa were trading playlists of artists who had made innovative use of programmed beats, from Arthur Russell to Yo La Tengo. “It was fun and exciting”said Barnett. “This regular drum machine does something to my brain that makes it calm and peaceful”. Realizing that Mozgawa was “the perfect musical match”Barnett invited her to co-produce his next LP.
In December 2020, she and Mozgawa reunited at the Golden Retriever Studios from Sydney to start recording. At this point in his process, Barnett would normally have called his live bandmates and put the drum machine back on his shelf. “I think I just thought it was for the demos, and when you go into the studio, you take a real drummer and you stay authentic”she says. “I was adamant about that. »
“Finding beauty in a place where you least expect it. This is the lesson I constantly teach myself. »
The world after
This time, however, she wanted to preserve the meditative magic of her demos. Most of the songs contain lo-fi beats programmed by Mozgawa on various drum machines, as well as a few lines of real drums. All accompanied by Barnett’s voice and guitar. “There is practically only us”says the musician. “It feels so alive to me, like it’s all happening at once.”
Other songs were developed. “Here’s the Thing,” the floating, beautiful ballad that is one of the album’s centerpieces, came to Barnett when she was playing guitar in front of television. She captured the vocal take later, while traveling in the countryside in northern New South Wales. “We were staying near this huge mountain”she recalls. “It was the most beautiful environment. There’s something so special about those vocals.”
Soon Barnett will hit the road for his first gigs since early 2020, starting with a few solo dates in New Zealand. In November, around the release of the album, she will set her bags in North America for a tour with the whole group which will extend until next February. She can’t wait to get back on tour and see how her new songs unfold. “As the concerts go on, there will be other versions of these songs, as I play them live with the band”she says. “They will start to sound different again. It’s always like that. »
In the meantime, she has a new album that she can’t wait to share with the world. “On the one hand, nothing happened to me last year”she says. “But at the same time, so many things happened! There’s this text in “Turning Green” about flowers in the weeds – finding beauty in a place where you least expect it. This is the lesson I constantly teach myself. »
His new album is available
- Rae Street
- Sunfair Sundown
- Here’s The Thing
- Before You Gotta Go
- Turning Green
- Take It Day By Day
- If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight
- Write A List of Things to Look Forward to
- 0 Splendor
- Oh The Night
Translated by Jessica Saval
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