“I’d love to have a House of Gaga. Like a team of people, who create outfits specifically for the stage.” – Barns Courtney
Meeting the British-American rock star, Barnaby George Courtney, does not feel like going to another interview, it weirdly feels like meeting a buddy, even though for us it’s only the second time we had the chance to have a chat. While talking about some mutual friends, like the lads from The Hunna or Brighton based band Yonaka, as well as talking about his sense of fashion or the struggles of being a solo artist and his brand new studio album ‘404’, it quickly becomes clear that Barns is just that kind of rock star today’s world needs – smart, funny, honest and full of energy and talent.
Hello Barns, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us and welcome back in Berlin – what was the first thing that came into your mind when you woke up this morning?
Fuck me I’m tired! (laughs)
It’s the same every morning, isn’t it?
Yeah, pretty much. I didn’t get much sleep these days.
You were born in Ipswich, UK and moved to Seattle at the age of 4. Do you feel more American than British or do you see yourself just as a citizen of the world?
Yeah, I definitely feel like a mid-Atlantik nowhere boy. For sure, America was were I grew up and I think think from 4-14 that’s very defining part of our life, as far as your characteristics go. But definitely a mix.
But your mum lives in Seattle, guess that’s home then?
She does, yeah! But I don’t have a room in my mums house. Well you know she moved to a smaller place, so yeah it’s more like a gypsy life.
Have you ever wanted to become a musician when you were younger and how did music come into your life?
I always wanted to do something creative, performance based. I wasn’t sure exactly what, but my mum and I we used to sing stupid songs and make up parodies together and danced and put on funny accents for each other, so it was always in my life, you know. And it just seemed to follow me around as I grew up. My teacher just gave me a guitar, one day for no reason ‚cause I was sitting around her house. The first friends that I made when I moved from Ipswich to Seattle were all musicians in a band. So it seemed in some ways, that it was kinda set out for me.
From my own experience I can tell that it’s not always easy as an artist to keep on doing what you really love and to be positive about your passion in rough times. I read you used to work in a computer shop, while you were living in London at friends places. I bet that’s been a tough phase, too. What would you say is the best thing about being an artist and what’s the worst?
I guess the best thing about being an artist, professionally, is that you get to do what you love every single day and you can’t put a price on that. I just get to make noises at people (laughs), like joke around and have fun and see new places.
What’s the worst thing about being an artist? – I don’t think about that a whole lot. Being a solo artist can be lonely.. you’re the only going through what you’re going through and all the pressure is on you. And when you’re tour as much as I do, you loose touch with your friends. You make a family on the road out of people that play in your band. But when you come off tour, there’s a crashing realisation like ‘these people were only there, because I paid them to be‘ and now I’m all alone (laughs).
In which way are you influenced and inspired by other artist?
I had this conversation with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols about it doesn’t matter how cool you are or what you’re listen to, you will always be influenced by whatever music was around you when you were twelve. And that was when growing up in Seattle, a lot of grunge music and my mum pretty much exclusively listened to Paul Simon and Coldplay (laughs).
Did you also listen to Fall Out Boy when you were younger?
Oh yeah, I loved those guys!
I thought so, because you have that one song ‚Champion‘ and I could be a Fall Out Boy song.
I never thought about that with ‚Champion‘, but yeah! I actually learned to sing, listening to Fall Out Boy records. I used to listen to Fall Out Boy records and trying to copy Patrick Stumps voice, when I was young.
Do you have any childhood heroes?
When I was a teenager, like Steven Taylor from Aerosmith. I used to watch him obsessively and like write his different stage moves in a notebook and tied all my scarves like him. As a really really young kid, I loved Jim Carrey (laughs). I loved how over the top and theatrical his performances were.
Your second studio album ‚404‘ is out now. After releasing ‚You And I‘ what more can we expect from your new record and would you say that ‚404‘ is a continuation to your first album ‚The Attractions Of Youth‘?
The first album it’s all fight songs. It’s all like marching tunes in an attempt to lift myself up. I had a terrible depression. And the second album is completely different in terms of the subject matter. So it’s a continuation in the .. it comes from an honest places and I’m writing about things that I believe in and writing about my own life, but it’s completely different in terms of the subject matter.
What’s your favourite song to play live at the moment, besides from your classy ‚Agamtimor‘ instagram hit single and why?
(laughs) I really wanna play ‚Agamtimor‘ live. I were recording a version of it and I need to put vocals on it.
You should put it on the B-sides!
I should release it on the B-sides, so funny (laughs)!
But anyway my favourite song to play live – I love playing ‚Fun Never Ends‘ because I can fuck around, like run all over the stage. I really enjoy dancing, uninhabited to a fast paste tune. And it’s the first song of the set and I love coming out and seeing all the bored faces of people who the fuck don’t know who I am. And looking at them in that first moment when I come out and being like ‚I dare you not having a good time‘ (laughs)!
Do you have an all time favourite karaoke song?
I love to sing ‚My Way‘ by Frank Sinatra and like be really inappropriate and get on tables and take my clothes off.
What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you on tour?
When I was 19, I used to swing my microphone a lot. And once I swang it up into the air, it kinda disappeared into the lights of this like stage where I was on. It was at Manchester Arena, in front of 5.000 people and I like pulled my cable down, to catch the microphone. But I couldn’t see it and it just disappeared and something appeared out of nowhere and smacked me screwing the head. I like fell over and the whole band stopped playing. That was pretty embarrassing.
Back to the future – imagine you were able to do a time travel, would you go back in time, see what the future holds for you or are you totally fine with the present?
I guess I know what happened in the past. I’d like to go like way in the future, like after I die and see like what’s going on. Like have we destroyed ourself through climate change or nuclear war. Are we doing crazy shit, like can I go on a spaceship and visit another solar system!? That’d be pretty cool. I don’t wanna know how my life pans out, that would be like going to the cinema and figuring out how the story ends in the first 5 minutes. You know the fun part is not knowing.
Fashion wise – you grew up in the 90s, but obviously that’s not what influences you in the way you dress. What means fashion to you and how would you describe your style?
I got a lot of clothes, that are quite reminiscent of the 70’s I guess, but not all of them . I got some stuff that’s more like 80’s. I guess I love the glam rock period and I love the period of like the 70’s Rolling Stones kinda vibe. But I don’t stick to that exclusively. Right now I’m definitely very 70’s inspired, for sure. But yeah it’s kind of an amalgamation of my favourite miss-matched bits of the 70’s, 80’s and today.
Do you have an indispensable piece of clothing, like a leather jacket or a pair of boots?
This is my only pair of boots! I have a gypsy life, I don’t have a home, I just live out of a suitcase (laughs). I have one pair of shoes.
How important is the way you dress (especially for your shows)?
xx smoke and echoes
It’s really important and you know I kinda wish I had a house, so that I could have more clothes for the stage. Because I tend to wear the same thing every show, which I think is a disservice to the fans. You can listen to music at home, but you can’t experience something visually. So I’d like to have a different outfit every night and maybe even costume changes between the songs. I’d love to have a House of Gaga. Like a team of people, who create outfits specifically for the stage. Because I wanna give my fans as much visually as much as I give them sonically at a show. But for now, it’s probably just gonna be the same leather jacket (laughs).
From what we can tell, Barns’ red ‘404’ customized leather jacket which he’s wearing on stage for the ‘404 tour’ is almost as great as one piece of House of Gaga and an eye candy for sure. You should definitely get tickets to see Barns Courtney playing live in a venue nearby, to get visually and sonically entertained by this powerful man. For tickets and more, visit Barns website!
xx smoke and echoes