Courtney Barnett Has Been Working on 'Tell Me How You Really Feel' Songs Since She Was Thirteen

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Larry Hirshowitz for KCRW
Courtney Barnett performs during KCRW's Apogee Sessions.

The Australian musician described working on songs from her forthcoming studio album on and off for over 15 years.

Courtney Barnett played an intimate show for 200 fans on Wednesday (May 9) to showcase new material from her upcoming album Tell Me How You Really Feel.

In an interview at the prior to her hour-long set of new and old material, Barnett told LA radio station KCRW DJ Gary Calamar that she had written the guitar part for album closer “Sunday Roast” at the age of thirteen.

Barnett explained to Calamar and his endearingly nervous daughter, Zoe, who came out to assist him in the interview, that she had also begun writing single “City Looks Pretty” since she was a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. 

The indie superstar lamented that she wanted to attribute the prolonged writing process of the songs to writer’s block, but she wasn’t sure if she could use that excuse, since she always seemed to be suffering from it. 

Barnett took to the stage with her four-piece band, made up of Barnett on guitar, Dave Mudie on drums, Bones Sloane on Bass, and new member Katie Harkin on keyboards. The left-handed guitarist crooned through staples like breakout single “Avant Gardener” and singles from her first studio album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, “Pedestrian At Best,” “Elevator Operator,” and “Depreston.” 

The set, which took place at Apogee Studios in Los Angeles, also consisted of new tracks from Tell You How You Really Feel including “City Looks Pretty,” “Need a Little Time,” and a trashing version of aptly-named punk-rock tune “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.”

"Nameless, Faceless," the lead single off of Barnett’s upcoming sophomore album, was also played, with the father-daughter duo inquiring about the socially charged track’s origins. 

“That song was taken from soaking in a lot of media,” Barnett said of the song that quotes the lines, “Men are scared that women will laugh at them/ Women are scared men will kill them,” from Margaret Atwood’s novel “A Handmaid’s Tale.” 

The song details the nameless and faceless internet commenters who spew hateful words from lonely places. 

“You sit alone at home in the darkness/With all the pent-up rage that you harness/I'm real sorry/'Bout whatever happened to you,” Barnett sings on the track, going on to add, “He said ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup/And spit out better words than you.’"

“I thought it was good, so I stole it,” Barnett joked about the alphabet soup lyric. 

KCRW’s Apogee Sessions featuring Courtney Barnett will broadcast on the station’s show, Morning Becomes Eclectic, on Friday, May 18 during the 11:00 AM hour. The same day, Barnett’s long-awaited second studio album Tell Me How You Really Feel will be released via her label Milk! Records.