Before last year, Courtney Barnett was a relatively obscure Australian singer-songwriter known for spinning mesmerizing rock songs out of prosaic life experiences (allergic attacks, real-estate open houses). But then she got nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy, and beat out Tame Impala and eight other acts for the prestigious Australian Music Prize. “They’re some of my favorite bands, so it’s kind of overwhelming,” she says from the road.
In April, Barnett will embark on her biggest tour yet, which will include gigs at Coachella and New York’s Governors Ball. She’ll be playing one of her catchiest songs ever, her new single “Three Packs a Day,” an ode to ramen noodles that recalls one of her 1990s alt-rock favorites, the Lemonheads. She’s also thinking about her next album: “I might make a record this year, or it might take me fucking forever. I take a really long time to make decisions.”
How were your first Grammys?
I’d never been to anything like that – it was like being part of a reality-TV show. I went with my girlfriend, Jen, and afterward, we organized a little party at a bowling alley with one of our friends DJ’ing. It was fucking awesome.
So you didn’t go out to any of the big afterparties?
I don’t know any of those people – how would I get into their parties? I’m not a party person, anyway. I just wanted to catch up and talk shit.
I love “Three Packs a Day.” How did you decide to write a song about ramen?
I was on holiday, playing guitar and talking about how much I love noodles, and I started singing it as a joke. Then I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of catchy.” So then I tried to write, like, a real pop song, something really bouncy and catchy, just to see if I could.
Tina Fey recently said she’s never met anyone from Australia who’s uncool. Is that true?
I’m one of the most uncool people I know. I’m a dork. I live with my girlfriend, and we have board-game nights. We play Scrabble, a game called Nouns, which has a bit of acting, like charades. All you need is pens and paper, and to be willing to be stupid. It sounds funny for a front person to say they don’t like being the center of attention, but I really don’t. I don’t know how to talk to people – I get weird around them.