Courtney Barnett‘s Best New Artist Grammy nomination came widely as a surprise when the list was announced earlier this month, seeing as the newcomer award has a history of favoring pop over indie rock.
Yet apparently Barnett’s sharp wit delivered with a lackadaisical attitude on the 28-year-old Aussie’s brilliant debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, resonated enough with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to get her shortlisted alongside the more mainstream James Bay, Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt and Tori Kelly.
After picking up top honors from Australia’s ARIA Awards, Independent Music Awards and Triple J J Awards, the awards circuit isn’t anything new for Barnett but she tells Billboard that the international scope and scale of the Grammys holds some real significance. But that’s not to say she’s holding much stock in the whole thing.
We spoke with Barnett about what her Grammy nomination means personally and why she probably won’t be taking any time to size up the competition.
You’ve recently won a number of big Australian awards, did you have any expectation you might get a Grammy nomination as well?
It was kind of like a maybe hopeful thing that we were kind of talking bout, but I don’t know it seemed pretty farfetched to me. So it was pretty exciting when it happened.
A lot of people seemed pretty surprised by it, basically because the Grammys just haven’t shown much attention to indie rock in the past. Does that make this nomination any more significant to you?
I’m just not that interested in… You just live in your own little bubble, like, or I do anyway. So I don’t know anything about, like, electronic music or anything — you know? I don’t know much about anything really. I don’t really follow that much. I’ve found a couple of albums or artists I like, but really I just do my own thing — I’m not so concerned about what everyone else is doing and what the trend is.
What you said about the Grammys sort of branching out to a different… I’m sure there are millions of other artists that I respect that have won Grammys, maybe. I don’t know, I’ve never followed the Grammys, I don’t know. But its just nice to have that recognition on such a huge international scale.
Seeing as it is an American-based award, does it register differently with you than the big Australian awards you’ve picked up?
It just feels like a kind of different level, they both have as much importance or whatever but it’s just… I don’t know. Like I said, I’ve never really followed this. It’s nice regardless of where it is.
And I’m going to take it that your fellow nominees — James Bay, Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt and Tori Kelly — aren’t really quite on your radar then?
Yeah, I don’t know who they are.
Do you think they’ll check them out to hear who you’re going up against?
I probably won’t. I listen to music when my friends recommend it to me, I don’t often just go out and buy a record because it was in a magazine or it was on a list or something. So, yeah, I probably won’t. I feel like there’s so much music in the world that I haven’t listened to yet that I want to listen to.
Who would make your own personal best new artists of the year list?
I don’t even know what new artist means. We did some shows with Sharon Van Etten last year, and I love her, and Benjamin Booker as well, last year. But I don’t know, there’s so many. I’ve been listening to Sleater-Kinney and, like, it’s new to me but they’re obviously not a new band.
These nominations came out just as a bunch of year-end lists are starting to as well, many of which have you and Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit ranked at the top or high up as the best act or album of the year. Spin just named you the best songwriter of the year. It’s a lot of attention for someone who — at least in your music — doesn’t seem to be seeking all that. As your public profile grows, how has all that been affecting you?
It’s a weird thing. It’s strange. I don’t get recognized that much and I think that if someone knows my music enough to recognize me, they’d probably know that I wouldn’t want to be made a big deal out of — if that makes sense. If they like the music, then they get it. I don’t know what to say to people… But I talk to a lot of people who like the music and come to the shows and they’re cool and we swap stories and they tell me why they connected with the songs and I love hearing that shit. It’s cool.
Looking back over the past couple years as things for you have really picked up, are there any certain events you can look back at and say this is where things really started to happen for me?
It’s just constantly like that. Yeah, we’ve done some awesome stuff in the past couple years and traveled so much and I don’t know playing on TV and just like all these fucking crazy things that you never think would happen.