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Courtney Barnett

"Playing live ends up being energizing and exciting. Trying new stuff live and knowing it could totally fall apart... that's kind of fun when you pull it off." Courtney Barnett discusses playing live and her color-coded songwriting process in this episode of String Theory.

Transcript

Courtney B.:
Guitar-playing to me, I guess, it's kind of a extension of songwriting. When I started playing guitar, I started writing songs straightaway. I always kind of lacked writing stories when I was a kid, so I guess I was more lyrical so it was kind of like a tool for me to write my songs too.

Courtney B.:
I would call myself a pretty basic guitarist. I don't like to overplay that much. A lot of my earlier songs only have like one or two chords, but it's what builds around it, that kind of building the atmosphere. But it changes from song to song I guess.

Courtney B.:
I kind of have lyrics written and then I muck around with cord progressions and see what fits. At home at the moment I've got pieces of paper, it's color-coded, like blue paper has lyrical ideas and story and narrative ideas and then it needs cords, and then I've got yellow pieces of paper that have chord progressions or like a riff or something, so the aim I guess is to bring them together.

Courtney B.:
I think playing live probably ends up being the most kind of energizing and exciting, trying new stuff live and knowing that it could totally fall apart. It's kind of fun when you pull it off. It's pretty satisfying. But in the studio, I mean, it's hard not to get too perfection obsessed, but normally I try to do stuff pretty live in the studio anyway and just a couple of takes. If there's a couple of mistakes then I just leave them in there.

Courtney B.:
The general goal is to just become a better guitarist than the day before. It's hard to kind of pinpoint, but over time I've got more comfortable playing guitar and felt myself get better in certain parts.

Courtney B.:
When I was a kid I got a job in a guitar shop and I got free strings and I'm pretty sure we had Ernie Ball ones there. I had to change people's strings and do like little set ups and stuff, so I think I kind of played them since then.

Courtney B.:
The guitar, for me, kind of goes hand in hand with the lyrics, like it's not just a vessel for the lyrics to ride on. It's kind of as much a form of expression in dynamics or whatever it is to kind of get the point across. It's an interesting thing to learn, how strong that can be.

Courtney B.:
I think lyrics come harder, a little bit harder, but I don't know. I think everything's hard. Everything's a struggle. It comes together eventually, yeah.

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