Courtney Melba Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist from Melbourne, known for her witty, rambling lyrics and deadpan singing style.
Courtney Melba Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist from Melbourne, known for her witty, rambling lyrics and deadpan singing style.

Accolades just keep on coming

COURTNEY Barnett isn't Australia's secret anymore.

The indie-rock darling is now, arguably, the "it" girl of the Australian music scene, snagging a swag of awards this year, thanks to her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

She took home four ARIA Awards and took out Triple J's J Award for Best Album of the Year.

Capping off the year, she was recently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

The introverted singer isn't sure how she'll go at the Grammys, especially if she wins.

"The general idea of them (awards) is great, Barnett tells APN.

"You know, to highlight talent or achievements or whatever it is is a really nice thing but sometimes the other parts of it get a bit carried away.

"I've never really followed awards or things like that … I appreciate the recognition."

If you're not already familiar with Barnett and her style of music, then that long-winded album title is one clue.

Barnett played guitar in the Melbourne garage band Rapid Transit and psych-country band Immigrant Union before going solo on her own label Milk! Records with the "slacker-pop" song Avant Gardener.

The indie wunderkind is as much a wordsmith as a musician.

Her rambling lyrics are unapologetically Australian, and sung with an unmistakable Aussie accent in her trademark laconic singing style - both of which make her Grammy nomination even more impressive.

Growing up in Mona Vale on Sydney's northern beaches, Barnett's first love was the guitar, learning "upside-down" on a right-hand guitar before finally getting her own proper left-hand instrument.

Despite her laidback demeanour, she found it hard to muster up the courage to sing.

"I never sang until I was 18, but I've been playing guitar since I was 10," she says.

"I always just loved music and wanted to play guitar. I always wanted to sing - I was just too scared to do it.

"I definitely still get nervous, sometimes horribly nervous.

"It's better now - way better than when I was 18. I've learned things along the way and I feel like I've gotten better at certain things."

Barnett is enjoying increasing popularity in the US where she supported Blur and made waves on Jimmy Fallon's late-night talk show, and Europe where she recently completed her own headline tour.

She was on her way back to Australia from Paris when the news of her Grammy nomination came through.

"People (at my show) said they were so happy we were there and hadn't cancelled (because of the terror attacks)," she says.

"People just wanted to celebrate music and life and do things like normal. That was the vibe I was getting. It was a great show as well … it was a really great way to end the tour.

"It (cancelling) was talked about … but it didn't seem like the right thing to do."

In the next two weeks, Barnett will make her debut at two festivals: the Woodford Folk Festival and Falls Festival at Byron Bay.

"We haven't really done that many Australian festivals … It's going to be a fun summer," she says.

"My first festival (as a punter) was Homebake in Sydney. Then when I lived in Tassie, I went to Falls and a couple of Big Day Outs.

"When I moved to Melbourne in my early 20s, I was always working and people were always taking the time off to go to festivals so I opted to work instead. "I couldn't afford them when I was in my early 20s, but now I've been playing at them which is cool."

She still has more touring to do in support of her album before a two-month break in February, but a life on the road with her band (bassist Andrew Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie) appears to suit the 28-year-old.

"I don't think I ever had a normal life anyway. I've always been moving around or touring or trying to do music outside of other jobs," she says.

"The last couple of years have been totally crazy, but when I can, I just come home and do normal things."

She's not in a rush to follow up her debut album, either.

"I'm in no rush to do anything," she says.

"I'm going to spend a bit of time at home (in Melbourne with girlfriend Jen Cloher) writing and with family."

 

Courtney Barnett plays the Woodford Folk Festival on December 28 (www.woodfordfolkfestival.com) and the Byron Bay Falls Festival on January 1.

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