Courtney Barnett: “I explored a lot of my vulnerabilities”

Though it was once a source of fun and connection, social media can increasingly leave many of us envious of our glamorous friends, and antsy about “Keeping Up with the Joneses” in our own posts. However, for an artists who so effectively captures angst and melancholy on songs like “Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack Of Self-Confidence,” Australian rocker Courtney Barnett has a surprisingly upbeat take on the way that we’re all glued to our phones in this Insta-age.

Ahead of her performance at Fuji Rock, she tells us about her healthy approach to social media, her inspirations and muses and reveals her surprisingly eclectic tastes in music.

One of your best songs is “Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack Of Self-Confidence.” What kind of response does that song inspire from fans who might be struggling with the same issues?

It’s always really nice to meet people — after shows or hear from them on social media — who share stories about feeling the same way. I explored a lot of my vulnerabilities on this album (2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel). Such feelings seem to be a pretty common thing that people experience. It’s never really nice to see people suffering, but when they hear another person singing about it, hopefully they get a great sense of reassurance.

Photo by Mia Mala McDonald

Who are some musicians who did that for you?

They’ve changed over time. Leonard Cohen definitely does that for me. But… I don’t know, now I can’t think of anyone! [Laughs]. There’s are a lot of Melbourne bands who have done it for me, but I also get inspired by people from artists from far away, or with different backgrounds.

Right! I was surprised to see you Tweet about being excited about Sleater-Kinney’s new album, and also about artists from much different genres, like R&B singers Janelle Monae and Lizzo.

Yes, I like sharing artists that I love and inspire me. I just wanted to spread that around I guess. It helps the music world to keep spinning, which is the point of it all, right? I’m such a big fan of Janelle Monae. Our genres are quite different, but I think working with her would be incredible.

I don’t really love posting things about myself on social media. You won’t see many photos of me on there, though once in awhile I will. But I think it’s nice to post about musicians that I love.

Australian rocker Courtney Barnett will appear at Fuji Rock Festival
Photo by Pooneh Ghana

Does not wanting to post photos of yourself have anything to do with what you were singing about on “Crippling Self Doubt…”?

[Laughs] No. It’d be a totally separate, five-hour conversation to talk about the highs and lows of social media. It’s not my confidence that I struggle with in that regard, but instead wondering about the purpose of it all. What are we using it for? Is it a tool for communication, or is it about self satisfaction? So it’s a constant thing that I’m wondering about.

Aside from posting about other musicians who inspire you, I’ve also read about how you draw on inspiration from other varied sources. For instance: going on long while listening to Oprah’s podcast.

Yeah! You can find inspiration anywhere if you keep your eyes and ears open. I think walking is always good. Everyday we have so many distractions. And you can’t really walk while scrolling on your phone and looking at social media. So ideally it’s time to ponder and be inspired.

Feature photo by Mia Mala McDonald

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