Hailing from the stomping grounds of Anglo Saxons, ‘The Great Migration,’Shipcord Cheese, Richard Ayoade, oh, and, Horatio, Lord Nelson, Ipswich, is songwriter Barns Courtney. I’m officially claiming him for the British before the Americans take all the credit for nurturing the Seattle raised talent. Courtney has already experienced more highs and lows than most artists could wish to encounter in an entire lifetime.
His is a story of family turmoil, bad record industry deals, homelessness, serendipitous meetings with movie moguls and sheer talent and hard work winning out is the definition of a underdog story. Far from shying away from the past and becoming entirely celebratised and, dare I say, cliched, the artist has spoken out humbly about those challenging times and conquering the odds without any fanfare or agenda by saying “My first single appeared in this Bradley Cooper movie and before I knew it I got this call from my manager while I was slinging laptops as Currys and PC World who told me I didn’t have to work there anymore. I was so downtrodden after my experiences that even when I was sat in Virgin Records with a bottle champagne in one hand signing on the dotted line, I just couldn’t speak to anyone. I was so afraid the rug was going to be pulled from under me. It was another two years before I thought it might actually turn out alright”.
Signed to Virgin EMI, Barns has a new album coming out this September hot on the heels of last year’s project ‘1999.’ With his singles soundtracking shows and films including ‘Safe’ (Dominic West), Burnt (Bradley Cooper), Gold (Matthew McConaughey), and lots more; his music is instantly recognisable. In the past Barns has shared thoughts of self confessed geekdom; “I was born in England and grew up in suburban Seattle.” There is a charmingly self deprecating vibe and he is eager to keep it saying, “The universal goal is that to be successful is to have shiny status symbols, so there are people who’ve grown up and got the house and the Ferrari, but here I am clutching my old Sega Megadrive.”
As I spoke to the transatlantic troubadour his new release, “You and I,” was set to hit the world so, given that he had nothing important to do (?!!) I harassed him him with questions across email and Instagram…
When and why did you start playing/performing?
I’ve always loved performing! My earliest memories are trying to make my mom laugh and vis versa. We still put on accents make up songs together, it’s very much been a part of my life since I was a kid.
What band name alter egos have to tried out on your musical journey?
Oh I’ve been in a million bands. Sleepercell, Stem Ginger, A Fate Untold, Dive Bella Div, Dead Money, this is actually my first solo venture.
What was the first tune(s) you learned?
First ever….I think it was “I wanna fuck a dog in the ass” by Blink 182!
What is the most embarrassing song in your music library?
Ummmm…Does Your Mother Know by ABBA. Still a fuckin tune though!
How do you handle a fuck up on stage?
“This is the best job in the world! All people want from you is to get up there and genuinely have the time of your life! As long as you’re doing that, you can get away with almost anything.”
Who or what is your ultimate influence, musical or otherwise?
So hard to pick. Jagger, Freddy, Steven Tyler. I love a showman. You can listen to music at home but you cant be transported into another world. Specific to music, I listen to a lot of different stuff…hard to pinpoint exactly where my influences lie. I try to just let whatever’s in me out with the least amount of thought possible.
What scares you most in the world?
Failing to live a good life. Getting too caught up in myself and my goals and forgetting to live.
If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Can I only have one? I mean flying would be a blast! But I suppose responsibly speaking I ought to have the power to invoke world peace…
Where and when would you travel back in time to perform?
I’d love to have been around San Francisco for the summer of love, or London!
If I gave you an elephant where would you hide it?
I wouldn’t hide him at all! Dude should be roaming free about the Savanah! A nice nature reserve for the lad! Surrounded by gunmen to protect him from poachers!
Which instruments do you play?
A little guitar, a little piano, a little harmonica…that’s about it!
Crunchy or smooth?
If you could have anyone locked in a room so that you could torment them for a day, whom would you choose and how would you torment them?
I don’t think I would you know! Violence only leads to more violence. Maybe I’d finally beat my brother at super smash bros!! Smug mother fucker!
Who wins in a fight, a grizzly bear or a giant squid?
Depends on who’s house you’re in!
What is your greatest vice?
Pastries! Serious answer! I have a problem!
If music is the answer, what is the question?
How can I be happy?
My favourite facts:
Once lived in an abandoned nunnery.
Sometimes, on a day off, he orders several meals from room service and falls asleep with them around him in a circle like he’s performing a food seance.
Has a peculiar love of Pokemon
The next single from the release ‘You & I’ is out now!
An interview wouldn’t be an interview without a little tune shaped challenge, so, here is Barns playing an acoustic LIVE cover, Lou Reed’s “Sitting on the dock of the bay!
Daisy Sells | WRITER