Barns Courtney chats getting sweaty, walking in the desert and “Fire”!
Monday nights are easily my favorite night for rock and roll in Boston. I’m a weirdo, it’s true. I find that those nights are the most intimate laid back nights and I’m always looking to be out somewhere. This week, I on a whim requested an interview with someone a friend was thinking of checking out and that guy was Barns Courtney from the UK. After looking him up on Spotify, I was instantly feeling it after just hearing the two songs he currently has available.
While Boston’s show was a quiet one after a run of sold out and packed shows, I think it only made this night more special for the people in attendance. Courtney is poised to break out and put on a great show despite the slim audience. He just pointed it out and joked around about it. He still put on a full energy performance and won over the room. In our chat below, we grabbed a few minutes on the patio outside at Great Scott also known as my favorite place to do an interview ever. We talked repeatedly about his buckets of sweat (hello ladies) and we talked his music videos to how this tour has been going. I know in a few months, I’ll be saying how I caught Barns Courtney at the beginning and I’m sure the group of people that were there Monday and this tour will say the same!
Like you said, this is your first time in Boston but you played SXSW and you’ve been playing some shows around the US. Maybe the three things you’ve realized you must have with you while on tour?
Towels! I sweat a hell of a lot. I was not aware of how sweaty I am. I think if you sweat enough and shout loudly enough, people just assume that you mean it. I think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was right. Towels are very important. I’m not used to being warm. I’m used to being in the freezing cold of England. I went to SXSW and played my first show and my head looked like I had put it in a bucket. I turned my face slightly and all this water was coming off. I had my own splash zone it was ridiculous.
Were those your first shows in the states. I know you spent some time in the states.
I grew up in Seattle for about ten years but I didn’t get into my first band until the year I moved to England. I was born there but spent ten years in Seattle from the age of four to fourteen.
So just buckets of sweat from those first shows in SXSW?
Yeah, yeah! A lot of sweat but I’m pretty sure that the ladies liked it. A lot of hormones kicking around in that sweat.
So maybe besides towels, what do you have to have? You realized that you sweat a lot so you need some towels.
Super sweaty….ladies. What else do I need? Lady nails because I play with my fingers and I’ve worked my nails into little bloody stubs. So I’ve just had a nice manicure. It didn’t work at all. Basically, it’s chipped the top of my cuticle so now it just catches my guitar string really awkwardly. When I had a good one, it worked really well. So yeah, towels, manicures.
Very manly of you.
Yeah I should think of a manly one to round it off. What else? Don’t know, I’m trying to think. What’s the most manly thing? A good collection of pornography for all the lonely nights I spend in the hotel. When I don’t get any chicks from being sweaty and having lady nails.
Then maybe how have these shows been going? Obviously online and then looking at Spotify, you have two songs out. Obviously still very new.
Two is enough! I mean, don’t be greedy (laughs).
So obviously they’ve been going over well. Obviously you’ve been playing more then the wo songs, how have these shows been going?
The shows have actually been phenomenal. I wasn’t expecting the turn out that I’ve been getting in some of these places. Chicago was packed. Philadelphia was sold out. Tonight, absolutely nobody is here (laughs). But as an artist that is pretty much unknown in England as well, I was not expecting to have anybody turn up to the shows. I was kind of expecting that this would be more about radio and getting out there to like the three dudes and their dogs who might be just hanging out in the bar anyway. It’s been a pleasant surprise. I’m very happy.
Everyone starts this way.
Exactly. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. Got to plant those seeds and water them for flowers to grow.
My god, I love it.
It all sounds really good when I say it in a certain tone of voice but when you put it in type, it just is going to be so shit.
Going back later, I’ll be like oh god what is this.
Then like I said, you have the two songs out right now that are obviously doing pretty well. They’re being listened to.
It’s weird. We weren’t going to come to the states at this stage. Usually when you’re based in the UK, you don’t go to America until you’ve got a profile of some sort. We definitely weren’t going to release “Fire”. I was going to just do a couple of EP’s. Keep it low key and then do a single much, much later but it got picked up by that film Burnt. That just like completely catapulted everything God knows how far ahead for me. Then radio picked it up over here and then my label was freaking out, like oh fuck we literally had no idea this was going to happen. You better just haul your ass over there and try to do what you can with your acoustic guitar because we don’t have time for you to practice with a band. Or money. So just go and here I am.
And you’re with Virgin EMI?
Virgin EMI in the UK, Capitol Records out here.
Pretty good company.
Yeah, it’s alright. It’s a cool label actually. It’s like a museum in that building.
In the Capitol building?
Yeah, there’s so much cool shit in there. They’ve got like all the Beatles original tape back catalogues. Like the reels and they’ve got Nat King Cole’s piano, Frank Sinatra’s mic. You can just go and see all that shit.
Yeah, it’s like a fortress of history.
Did you go visit that I’m sure?
I did, yeah. They were really cool. They had one of their senior staff members give me a tour and everything.
That’s really cool.
Yeah it was fun.
Perfect and then speaking of that, I know you said you were thinking of releasing a few EP’s but the songs really picked up. Is that something that’ still a while away fro you or is there something that you’re currently working on?
I mean I’ve got songs. I just need people to give me time to go and record them and it’s been so hectic which is a great problem to have. But there’s so much promo and there’s so much radio so I’ve just been totally bogged down. Having a great time. Sweating on all of the ladies.
Sweating buckets on all the ladies.
But like we had to shoot the video for “Fire” in between radio and gigs. With no concept of what the video was going to be. We just had to like fly the first people out that we could find to do it and just make it up as we went along. So we’re like out in the desert and it’s boiling hot. It’s just ridiculously hot. We went to this place called Salton Sea outside Palm Springs which used to be a booming holiday resort in the fifties but then a river full of pesticides overflowed and just killed everything there. Everyone moved out. There are now beaches made entirely out of like dead fish. It smells fucking horrible. I mean it looks amazing but it’s a fucking horrible place.
Looks great on film but in real life.
The video director had a nervous breakdown because he was like I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is fucking horrible. Everything looked shit. We’re like wandering around the desert. It stinks of dead fish and he’s just like trying to make something. So eventually, we just said well why don’t we just put the camera in the back of the car because we couldn’t get steady shots across the desert. We had no equipment so my tour manager Leon drove the car about three miles per hour while the camera guy sat in the back and the director sat in the shot gun seat sort of saying slow down or speed up and I just walked behind them with a guitar. I had to put the speaker in the back of my jacket like wedged between my back and my leathers so I could sing the lipsync and we just wandered around the desert for several hours. So I really hope that it comes out alright.
You made it work it sounds good!
Well, we’ll see! We’ll find out. We had to shoot two actually. We had to do one for another song that I’m putting out in the UK called “Hands” and that was the same deal but just in San Francisco. So equally unplanned just wandering around. I haven’t seen them yet so I really hope so. I have no idea. Don’t know if they worked or not.
And then maybe to end it off, the first CD or cassette you remember buying as a kid and the first concert you can remember going to?
The first CD that I bought I believe was the American Idiot single by Green Day which I still think is a great song.
It’s a great song.
The first concert I went to was like a little intimate Foo Fighters gig. They came to Ipswich which is like not on anybody’s tour circuit but it was their first run with this singer that they were touring with. I can’t remember who it was and they wanted a warm up practice gig so they came to my little town and it was really nice.