When she was a kid, Courtney Barnett and her older brother would record copies of the CDs their neighbor’s stepdad brought back from America. They didn’t have a CD player in the early days, “He would play them for us and then we would copy them onto tapes,” she recalls. That was her first DIY mix-making experience.
When the Melbourne-born artist puts together mixes these days, it’s less labor intensive. She’s been busy making a name for herself as a critical darling on the heels of her excellent debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. In the last year, it earned her both Grammy and Brit award nominations, a TV performance on The Tonight Show, and a handful of international tours.
In April she kicked off a new run of live dates with a performance at Coachella in Indio, Calif. For Barnett, spending time on tour with her bandmates Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie is the perfect setting to share tunes. “It's nice to introduce each other to new music,” she explains over the phone just before hopping on a plane to Vancouver for a show. “You discover new stuff.”
We asked her to put together a playlist of songs she’d listen to on the road, specifically ones to help get the crew in motion first thing in the morning. “I've always been a sleep-in person,” says Barnett. After years of working the late shift in bars and restaurants, Barnett requires coaxing in the morning: It usually takes a hot beverage and some easy listening music. “I started learning the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground and that stuff when I was taking guitar lessons,” she says, complementing them on her playlist with newer folk like Kurt Vile and Angel Olsen.
“It shouldn't always be background noise,” she notes, saying she’ll choose classical music or something without lyrics if she’s going to zone out. “I like properly listening. That's why I like to take a walk in the morning if I can. I can listen to a whole album, especially if it's something new that I want to check out.” She developed a soft spot for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, listening to the record daily for months after it came out.
For mornings when a leisurely walk isn’t an option, she’ll go for something uptempo. “If I've got to get up fast, smash a coffee, and go do a lot of stuff, then I've got to amp myself up,” she notes, “‘Cause I'm a lethargic person.” That’s where Peaches and the Beastie Boys come in handy. “That's my get-excited-for-life kind of music.”
Check out Courtney Barnett’s Playlist for Waking Up On the Road below.
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