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Courtney Barnett on “Finding Joy Amongst the Mess” with Her New Album Things Take Time, Take Time

"I learned a lot about being more open, more trusting, and more vulnerable," the Aussie musician says

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courtney barnett interview
Courtney Barnett, photo by Mia Mala McDonald

    When Courtney Barnett turns on her Zoom camera, she’s squinting from the sun. The singer-songwriter, whose new album Things Take Time, Take Time arrives this Friday (November 12th) via Mom+Pop, is calling from outside the house she’s staying at in Joshua Tree, where she’s been rehearsing for her upcoming tour and, deservedly, taking some time to relax. “I’ve just woke up,” she tells Consequence with a laugh.

    Barnett began writing her follow-up to 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel in late 2019 and early 2020, before the you-know-what put most people’s plans on an indefinite pause. Strict COVID safety protocols in her native Australia meant that Barnett had an abundance of free time on her hands: “I was living by myself in Melbourne, and we were in lockdown, and I was writing every day working on these songs.”

    Though the circumstances surrounding the record might suggest otherwise, Things Take Time, Take Time is, as Barnett herself puts it, an ultimately happy record. “For me, it’s such a joyous album,” she explains. “A lot of it is is about finding joy amongst the mess.”

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    “The mess,” as the record’s ten songs outline, can be as broad as life itself or as particular as a futile romance. “I hear all your fears and they are understandable, my friend /Why don’t you let go of those ideas? They’re never gonna serve you in the end,” Barnett croons on the jaunty “Turning Green.” On “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight,” she weighs the risks of confessing her feelings to a crush: “There’s a ninety-nine percent chance that it’s requited.”

    But no matter the topics she sings about on Things Take Time, Take Time, Barnett’s knack for homey, endearing, and — for lack of a better word — relatable lyrics is more evident than ever. “I mostly write about stuff that happens around me or stuff I see or feel,” she says. “Sometimes songs have dream elements, as well.” When asked about what moments in her songs were directly inspired by dreams, however, she has trouble remembering, which perhaps just serves as indication of her no-frills approach to writing.

    Since her beloved 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just SitBarnett has been heralded as a master of plainspoken, humorous lyrics that often illustrate life’s mundanities without ever feeling boring or trite. Things Take Time, Take Time is no exception; the album’s opening lines recall watching the neighborhood garbage truck make its early-morning route.

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