Modern day voice and guitar man Barns Courtney is on an excitingly unexpected journey.
His first track ‘Glitter & Gold’ was dropped unceremoniously on Soundcloud in September, where, with its hybrid of gospel-blues, Westerns soundtrack, the marching hip hop of Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’, and Barns’ honey & sand delivery, it charged out of the gate with over forty thousand plays on Soundcloud and an addition to the BBC Introducing Playlist.
Born in Ipswich, Barns spent most of his childhood living in Seattle before returning to his native UK aged 15. Following several aborted musical projects straight out of school, searching for his identity as artist and performer, it was Carl Barat who would give him a newfound break. Coming across the radar of his guitar hero from The Libertines, the two ended up writing and recording together.
The past few months have seen Courtney winning over fans in person when opening for his hometown acquaintance Ed Sheeran on his North American tour, supporting the aforementioned Libertines as well as bringing his ecstatic one-man acoustic guitar assault to small London venues.
Apparently Barns Courtney comes from both Ipswich and Seattle. He’s also apparently a human man, and not a haulage company, or a team of solicitors, as his name might suggest.
If you ever wondered what the White Stripes would sound like if they had friends then step right up!
Strident beats, energetic guitars, and genuinely thoughtful lyrics, perfect shoop-shoop backing vocals from what Courtney describes as his “fantastical bumchums – we’re still working on the name.”
Barns Courtney works a crowd better than anyone else I’ve seen for a while. Saying hello to his dad with unguarded delight, reaching down to borrow his camera and getting the whole lot of us to pose like we were at a Bon Jovi stadium gig was a moment of sheer genius, and absolutely won us over.
At one point something goes wrong with the drums so Courtney covers by taking over with just him and his harshly abused acoustic guitar, and still rocked harder than most people I’ve seen this weekend.
I cannot imagine a gig in this venue going better. Barns Courtney had the entire tent, from front to packed-out back eating out of his hands. Clapping along, call-and-response, he worked the audience like a far more seasoned artist.
I see a lot of four-piece guitar bands, and nearly every one is 7/10. They do nothing wrong but nothing new. This was different. I was so impressed in fact, that I caught up with him briefly afterwards, when the throng of panting teenage girls had somewhat subsided.
So, that went ridiculously well as far as I could see. I looked behind me, and that looked like how I’d imagine in my dreams a gig might go at that venue.
Yeah, I was really happy to see such a big crowd turn out to be honest. It was nice to see my dad in the front row. He features a lot in my dreams!
Yeah like: [snooty voice] “Oh, hello Barns!” *Collapses into laughter*
So what other gigs have you played recently, that went down well?
Recently we did a gig in Croatia, Zagreb. And I just got back from France, which went really well, but the band hasn’t been able to afford to come out for a lot of these, so this is only our fourth full-band gig.
I noticed that when you filled in by yourself, you could keep the crowd happy, which was impressive.
It’s funny because I’m actually a lot more comfortable when it’s just me. ‘Cause I’ve been doing that for about a year now, so like with a band I’m like: “Oh God! I’ve got to stay in time with the drummer!”
There were some lovely backing vocals going on there.
Yeah, those guys commit!
So, can you tell me a little bit about what your influences are? I’ve written: “If the White Stripes had friends”.
Ha! That’s amazing! Yeah I guess. I mean, I love the White Stripes and I kind of set out to make music like that but, without a band when I started it kind of ended up being a lot of home recording. A lot of the drums were made from stuff around the place. A lot of the bass was just done on an old piano because we didn’t have a bass guitar. So invariably, it went quite far away from that hard, gritty, Jack White kind of sound and morphed into something else.
It was quite a poppy sound I thought, in a good way.
I mean, I love pop music. I’m really into, like, Vampire Weekend, and I listen to the charts on radio 1 and stuff, so I think that would probably weasel its way in there somewhere.
Well it went really well. I was really impressed. Thank you for your time!