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Singer songwriter Courtney Barnett discusses Nirvana, Lou Reed, ahead of Field Day gig
How are you finding the UK? How does it compare to Australia?
It’s different to Australia in little ways, but similar to Melbourne, where I live. With the small streets, alleyways, cafés.
How would you describe your sound?
People ask all the time and I never know what to say. Garage Rock? I’m not sure what it is, it’s a combination of lots of music.
Who influenced you musically, growing up?
Nirvana, Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Talking Heads, Television, Lou Reed, P J Harvey. I listen to classical music at home now though.
Did your family have any impact upon your music?
Mum and dad listened to heaps of jazz and classical when we were growing up, so I’ve got a real soft spot for that. My brother played guitar with his friends and I wanted to hang around them, like an annoying little sister. Some of them taught me some guitar tunes and sent me off to learn it, so I’d keep out of their way. After that I begged mum and dad to let me have some guitar lessons.
What was your first guitar?
It was a classical, ¾ nylon string guitar that an old family friend leant me. It was falling apart, the fretboard was coming off the neck, so it vibrated really funny and it sounded pretty bad. It was hard learning on guitar like that, because you don’t know whether it’s a bad guitar... or you’re a bad player.
When did you decide you wanted to become a musician?
At about 12 or so. It wasn’t like a breadth of life-long ambition, it was just what I wanted to do, I thought it was fun, I thought it was cool.
What inspires the lyrics for your songs?
I’m inspired by those who write in a similar vein – slightly sarcastic, a bit Lou Reed. Simplistic yet observational.
Avant Gardener is a track people will be familiar with. What’s the song about?
I was having a panic attack, where I couldn’t breathe properly. So the song’s lyrics, that’s what happened to me.
What’s it like being on tour? Is it all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?
Not in the slightest. It’s all hard work. You’ve got to be places on time and you’re constantly working.
Courtney Barnett will play east London music festival Field Day on Saturday, June 7. Tickets on sale now.
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