Australian indie musician Courtney Barnett plays the Eastern in Atlanta

Courtney Barnett returns to Atlanta on Saturday in support of her recent album "Things Take Time, Take Time."
Courtesy of Mia Mala McDonald

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Courtney Barnett returns to Atlanta on Saturday in support of her recent album "Things Take Time, Take Time." Courtesy of Mia Mala McDonald

The critical favorite is touring behind latest album ‘Things Take Time, Take Time.’

“This happens on every album,” says Courtney Barnett about the evolution of her songs, calling from the Upper Midwest the day after the first show of her tour. “You see the transition from the writing process to the studio process to the performance, and everything just changes so nicely and grows over time.”

The Australian indie rock musician and songwriter returns to Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 29 in support of the album in question, “Things Take Time, Take Time” (her third full solo release). The concert, with an opening slot from folk/pop singer Cassandra Jenkins, is happening at one of the city’s newest venues, The Eastern.

Born in Sydney and raised there and then Hobart, Tasmania, Barnett now calls Melbourne home. After playing in several bands and recording two solo EPs, she released those two as a single package in 2013, and the songs began to resonate with listeners at home and abroad. Fronted by manic single “Pedestrian At Best,” 2015′s debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” was a worldwide hit, commercially and critically.

After making a well-received collaborative record with American singer/guitarist Kurt Vile (2017′s “Lotta Sea Lice”), Barnett returned to her solo career the next year with “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” Noticeably darker than her first, the album was another global success and her reputation as a dynamic performer grew with extensive touring.

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Australian indie rock singer Courtney Barnett performs at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29. Courtesy of Ian Laidlaw

Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Australian indie rock singer Courtney Barnett performs at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29.
Courtesy of Ian Laidlaw

Credit: Ian Laidlaw

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Australian indie rock singer Courtney Barnett performs at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29. Courtesy of Ian Laidlaw

Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Credit: Ian Laidlaw

“Things Take Time, Take Time” finds Barnett in an introspective, hopeful moment. Written and recorded in lockdown and released in November, the record features a fairly relaxed array of 10 songs, many centered on the theme of friendship.

A shining example is “Sunfair Sundown,” which gently blends keyboards, a drum machine and acoustic guitar and celebrates a friend’s new home: “You’ve escaped the rat race as they say/Now you’re settling in for the stay anyway you got a blank slate to renovate.”

Barnett confirms the song came together as easily as it sounds like it did. “Yeah, actually — it was always felt quite natural, that song. I wrote it on acoustic guitar, it was slightly more folky when I wrote it.”

“Essentially it’s a love song for a friend, so it’s got a really happy, joyful quality to it,” she notes. “I feel like it I wrote in a few days, and then I was forever trying to figure out how to turn it into a more interesting song, because it doesn’t have a chorus.” Barnett decided she didn’t need to tinker with it anymore, and the result speaks for itself.

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Courtney Barnett rocks out at Shaky Knees on May 4, 2018. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Courtney Barnett rocks out at Shaky Knees on May 4, 2018. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

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Courtney Barnett rocks out at Shaky Knees on May 4, 2018. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Most recent single “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” is an earnest, heartfelt love song, and its performance on a recent “Jimmy Kimmel Live” program highlights that it’ll be a seamless addition to the set list. The mid-tempo closer “Oh The Night” glides along seemingly effortlessly, a piano part intertwined with Barnett’s languid vocals: “And I don’t really need reminding/I know it’s only in my mind.”

Another highlight from “Things Take Time, Take Time” is the jangly “Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To.” “The song was actually written before COVID even started,” acknowledges Barnett. “But I think it still crosses over pretty perfectly,” she adds, in response to a comment about the title alone seeming like a good guide for navigating pandemic blues.

Barnett got a tip when she needed it: “The idea came from when I was quite depressed, and a friend suggested I write a list of things that I was looking forward to in my life, just as an exercise.” The song’s video complements the positivity, as an optimistic Barnett writes letters and receives packages ranging from music for her plants to her trademark Fender guitar.

Speaking of which, the song sounds tailor-made for the guitar most associated with jangly sounds, the Rickenbacker. Southpaw Barnett, though, doesn’t play them. “No, but I’ve always loved the way they look,” she says. “I don’t even know if I’ve played one, because I’m left-handed, so they don’t often come into my world.”

These new songs came together before and during the early 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, in parallel with Barnett having more time to listen to music than she was accustomed. Some of those sounds became influences. “Arthur Russell is probably one that first comes to mind that I listened to a lot of and inspired the record,” she notes. “I listened to a lot of Nina Simone records and Joni Mitchell records. And a lot of instrumental music and ambient music.” Against that sonic backdrop, “Things Take Time, Take Time” was born.

Warpaint multi-instrumentalist and fellow Aussie Stella Mozgawa played a massive role on the album, sharing production credits with Barnett and performing most of the drums plus some bass, keyboards and samples. In addition to her usual lead vocals and guitar parts, Courtney added some bass, percussion and piano.

“All of her ideas always seemed like the right ideas,” says Barnett about Mozgawa’s contributions. “It just helped make the songs exciting to me and a breath of fresh air.” Stella’s also joined the band for this tour, as a keyboard player. Rounding out the lineup are longtime collaborators Bones Sloane (bass) and Dave Mudie (drums).

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Courtney Barnett's tour, with an opening slot from Julia Jacklin, lands at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29. Courtesy of Mia Mala McDonald

Credit: Mia Mala McDonald

Courtney Barnett's tour, with an opening slot from Julia Jacklin, lands at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29. 
Courtesy of Mia Mala McDonald

Credit: Mia Mala McDonald

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Courtney Barnett's tour, with an opening slot from Julia Jacklin, lands at The Eastern on Saturday, January 29. Courtesy of Mia Mala McDonald

Credit: Mia Mala McDonald

Credit: Mia Mala McDonald

The tour’s off to a good start, and several new songs have jumped out to their creator in a live setting. “Turning Green” is one. “‘Here’s The Thing’ as well,” notes Barnett, “is a really fun one to play live.” With so much material to draw from, she employs variety (including one song from the Vile collaboration, “On Script”): “It’s a really mixed set list, which I love.”

Fellow Melbourne resident Julia Jacklin had been scheduled to open the tour, but was unable to perform, so Jenkins has taken the spot through the Atlanta date (with Shamir as the opener starting the next night). “I watched her set last night, she’s incredible,” declares Barnett about Jenkins. “She’s doing it solo. I’ve been listening to her album so much, her latest album, which is incredible. It’s really cool to hear the songs stripped back a bit.”

“I’m just excited to be there and to wander around,” she concludes with a nod toward her Atlanta return. “I’m really grateful to be playing these shows, it’ll be special.”


CONCERT PREVIEW

Courtney Barnett with Cassandra Jenkins

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29. $31-$36. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test within 72 hours required for entry. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. easternatl.com.