Courtney Barnett combines the dexterous fingerpicking guitar style of Nick Drake with the wry songwriting humor and detached observational vocal delivery of Billy Bragg and folds it all into a blistering Indie Rock presentation that took American by total surprise five years ago with the 2013 release of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. A combination of the native Australian’s initial releases, 2012’s I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Harris and 2013’s How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose, the EP helped Barnett become a cult phenomenon and, ultimately, a Grammy nominee.
After concluding her studies at the Tasmanian School of Art, Barnett was inspired to try her hand at songwriting by a lifetime of exposure to American music and her discovery of Australian legend Paul Kelly, among other home country icons. She began her music career a decade ago, balancing band work with delivering pizzas; she played guitar with Rapid Transit until 2011 and joined Immigrant Union, the side project for Dandy Warhols drummer Brent DeBoer, for a two-year stint. In 2012, Barnett borrowed money from her grandmother to self-release the Emily Harris EP and the following year released her sophomore EP. A month later, The Double EP was picked up as a global reissue and critical acclaim thrust Barnett into the spotlight.
Barnett’s career exploded with the 2015 release of her debut full-length, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, the title taken from a poster in her grandmother’s bathroom. In addition to near-universal praise, Barnett was included on a variety of annual best-of lists and was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2016 Grammy ceremony.
The release of 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, highlighted by standout track “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence,” was met with similar enthusiasm. Bob Dylan and Tom Petty comparisons have been pervasive from the start, which are largely accurate, at least in spirit, because Courtney Barnett is a true original, an artist who uses familiar sources to craft her unique approach and execution.
Barnett recently did a run of dates opening for The National. She comes to Covington, Kentucky’s Madison Theater this Monday, July 1.