INTERVIEW: Barns Courtney (Playing Great Scott, Nov 6th)
Photo: John Hutchings
Barns Courtney @ Great Scott
Monday, November 6th
The goal when we launched New England Sounds was always to catch the newest, most promising artists before they blow up, to search out those that have a bright future. One of those first acts I ever spoke to for NES was UK raised Barns Courtney. Our first chat went down when he came over before he felt he was ready and played to a hot five people in the same venue that he’ll be returning to next Monday. Since that time, he has toured the US constantly opening as well as playing in the headlining spot as well as finally dropping his much anticipated debut album, “The Attractions of Youth”. Due to his US tour with The Kooks being rescheduled, Courtney scrambled to book a make up headlining tour and really is grateful that it worked out this way.
So to jump right into it, obviously from talking to you in the past, this debut record it’s finally out. It’s something you’ve been working on for forever. When did you put the finishing touches on this record? When was it like ready to go?
I mean it felt like I had the songs for a while but with the touring schedule so intense, I never had time to get into the studio, like properly. Like I would do a vocal take backstage on a portable microphone one day or another day we would get in early for the gig and book a studio for a couple hours. Or record for a bit in my friend’s bedroom then some of it we did in a studio in the left end. So we kind of just did it whenever we had the chance. We didn’t want to back off the touring because it was growing the fan base so nicely that I wanted to make sure I kept on it. It really just came to a point where the label was like, dude you got to stop touring like right now. We need to basically put something out.
So there was never a moment where I had felt like I had put the finishing touches on it, the icing on the cake. It was pretty slap fast all the way through. But, it’s cool because it’s gritty, and it’s been really real. It’s kind of nice in a way.
Then like you said yourself, you’ve been touring so much. Pretty much nonstop since you first started coming over when “Fire” was really catching on. Is there a song that you feel is really catching on the most or maybe a song that’s surprising you? I know it’s only been out for about two weeks but a song that’s catching on the most with people.
It’s surprising how many of my fans are reacting to “Goodbye John”. That’s the track on my record that is very turned back. It’s a piece about my grandfather. It’s very much about the lyrics. It’s nice to see people hook on to that one in particular because that’s a very personal track. I just kind of put it on there as a salute to him.
I was going to ask you about the track. It’s obviously something very different, maybe something fans wouldn’t expect. I’m sure they’re excited to see that side of you.
I actually had a couple of stripped down piano tracks. That I like even better but I wanted the record to flow as a single piece of music so I actually left a few tracks off the album. Which is a difficult decision because the two tracks I left off the record have my favorite lyrics of all the songs on there. But, I couldn’t decide and I was feeling down and eventually I just went into my fourteen year old brother’s bedroom and was like can you help me out with this. He’s an organizational genius. This kid’s room is immaculate, he’s got a job already. He’s completely the opposite of me and my ADHD. He was great, he was brutally honest. He was like that one sounds Iike that one, take that off, you’ve got too many songs on it. He was like choose the one about our grandfather, that’s nice. He chose the track listing. He chose the order and he chose the songs for the whole record.
He knows you well so I’m sure he’s a helpful eye.
Yeah and also I think it helps that he doesn’t listen to that kind of music at all. He’s a fan of like EDM, that kind of stuff. So I think that helps with his opinions, the kind of opinions that I need to put together my record.
And there are obviously songs that you’ve been playing for a long time, ones that have been previously released. Were there songs that you wrote closer to the end of the recording process or were they all songs that you kind of had for a while that you had been sitting on?
Yeah there’s a record on there called “Never Let You Down” that I shoved on last minute. That was one that I wrote on tour and just kind of slipped in there. Then, what else, oh “Champion”. That I haven’t played live , it just kind of slipped on there pretty last minute. It’s always exciting to quickly insert random little bits and pieces into the record before it comes out.
And you said that’s something that you haven’t played live yet?
No yeah I haven’t played it live yet. So we’re in rehearsals as of today to prep and get ready for the tour.
Then speaking of the tour, you were supposed to be out with The Kooks but it got rescheduled and you’ll be returning with them when they do. But this tour would have picked up right after that tour. Was this something that you had already planned or was it something you put together in replacement of that tour?
Yeah we had to slam a tour together real quick after the dates got changed. I’m grateful actually because I get to go out to play for my fans where they actually are. People that bought the record personally in the towns where it matters the most. Obviously, being out with The Kooks, it would follow their routing.
And then fans get a copy of the album when they buy the ticket online?
Oh yeah, we’re still doing that. Yeah I’m excited to be able to play for the people who have been with me up till this point. It’s still very early days, it’s very humbling to see people singing the lyrics back to me at shows. Just to see we’re working hard and people are getting into the songs.
And is it something where you’ll maybe be playing new material or kind of going through the album? How is your approach for these sets, for people that haven’t seen you before? What is your game plan for this tour?
We’re thinking about putting a bunch of new songs into the set but ultimately, people probably want to hear the record and I should probably play the album. So I think there’s one new track that I’m putting in there. Just to kind of give a different flavor. I’m just going to play the full record at the shows. I just want people to be able to hear the album then come see it live. Get that experience.
Perfect then to kind of end it off, I know you start that tour on the 22nd, you’ll be back in the states with the Kooks next spring. What is the focus for you over these next few months? You’ve been going nonstop, is it something where you plan on taking a little bit of a breather, are you just going to keep on going on this route that you’ve been doing?
Oh, never! I’ll never take a breather. I don’t think I’ll be leaving the United States until I die. I don’t need to, what do I need a break for? I’m still checking my bank account constantly, still have to borrow money from people for Uber’s and I love touring. It’s the whole reason that I do this is to be out on the road. Meeting weird, interesting people. Exploring new cities. Yeah that’s the dream. No I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon!