A friend of mine recalls that, a few years back, every other concert she went to had Courtney Barnett as the support act. Stories of overnight success excite the imagination, and every time a band or artist bursts into the public’s consciousness the narrative is almost always that of the sudden, unexpected, success. But my friend’s anecdote illustrates the unacknowledged – and often explicitly ignored – truth of making it in the music business; it takes time, a lot of hard work, and plenty of persistence.
My first experience of Barnett’s music was seeing the video-clip for Pedestrian At Best – the self-deprecating lead single from her 2015 debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – one Saturday morning on rage. Like many, I was initially ambivalent regarding Barnett’s droll, deadpan, vocal style – in many ways I’m still not sold on it – but her semi-autobiographical lyrics display an interesting take on the everyday experiences of the every-person.
Barnett’s lyrics also veer into social commentary, as on the track Depreston, which gently pokes fun of the Australian obsession with real-estate and property prices, and the belief – fueled by “reality” TV competitions – that people can renovate their way rich, while observing the lives of those left behind by economic advancement.
Following the release of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit in 2015, Barnett was nominated in a number of categories for that year’s ARIA Awards – taking home several wins – and, with a growing awareness internationally, she also received nominations in the 2016 Grammy and Brit Awards and has been included on a number publications’ lists of top albums of 2015. Due to her unique style and humour, and for having done the hard-yards as a support act, Courtney Barnett has earned a place among the Women-Who-Rocktober.