It was a good year to be Courtney Barnett. The Australian singer-songwriter released her first full-length, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, in March at SXSW, and nine months later notched a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The honor didn’t really set in initially, given she found out after just finishing a long international flight.
“It was weird, because I had just landed from the long plane trip back to Australia, and [drummer] Dave [Mudie] read it out on his phone,” Barnett tells EW over the phone from her Melbourne, Australia home. “We were both really tired — you know how you get on a long plane. It was weird, just like, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!'”
After three EPs, Barnett’s debut record collection garnered rave reviews (and ended up at No. 6 on EW’s list of best albums of 2015). The 28-year-old excels in translating life’s inanities and mundane activities into compelling and detailed storytelling over fuzzed-out rock riffs.
Along with Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, Elle King, and Florence + The Machine, Barnett is one of the marquee names in rock, a genre now largely represented by women. “Yeah, we all got together and decided to make some more rock music,” she says with a laughs. “I think it’s f—ing great. It’s a great thing. Couldn’t be better.”
The “Pedestrian at Best” singer is up against some steep competition in the Best New Artist category with James Bay, Meaghan Trainor, Sam Hunt, and Tori Kelly, a quartet of musicians she’s not particularly familiar with — “yet,” she adds.
Last month, Barnett took home five pieces of hardware at the 2015 Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards, including Best Cover Art for Sometimes I Sit, which she drew. She was particularly stuck on the literalness of the title and started there. “[I] started sketching all the chairs around my house and that I grew up with it. I didn’t think it would end up being the cover. But it seemed so reflective,” she describes. “My drawings are really simple and basic and line drawings. It’s just floating in that empty space and seemed kind of meditative and thoughtful.”
The album and ensuing accolades were a culmination of a family investment. Barnett’s grandmother helped fund her EP in 2012, and now the dough’s paid off: She was “stoked” for Barnett’s Grammy nod. “She’s just happy that I’m happy, doing what I like doing. That’s the vibe I’ve always picked up from her the last couple years,” Barnett says. “I don’t know she totally gathers the size of some of the things I do, but she’s like, ‘Wow, you’re doing music full time! That must be so great.'”
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As for her next release, Barnett is writing; however, nothing is concrete. “Plans, there aren’t any plans at this time, but I’m trying to slowly wrap my head around what to do. I’m pretty slow at doing things and making decisions. It could take another 20 years at this rate,” she says with a laugh. “When I get my s— together, something will happen.”