91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tell Me How You Really Feel: A Conversation With Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2018.
Bob Boilen
Courtney Barnett at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2018.

We recently put out a call asking listeners to share their thoughts about the songs on Courtney Barnett's latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, and other tracks from her rich lyrical catalog. On this week's show, we share some of those listener stories and thoughts, and Courtney talks about what inspires her, the creative process and how her music can be interpreted.

Listen to the full interview with the play button at the top of the page and read edited highlights below.

Courtney Barnett on the cathartic power of songs:

"Writing songs like ['I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch'] in my private personal space and then sharing them is such a vulnerable thing. But then the unexpected element, which I guess I didn't think about or consider, is how people connect with them. And over time – especially the last few years of touring and people interpreting them in different ways and that comfort that we all find in music for whatever we need, like whatever our own situation is – we're always going to find what we need in a song."

On the Margaret Atwood quote in 'Nameless, Faceless:'

"I think the overall message and idea of that song has just been toiling around for forever. But that quote, I just wrote it down in my diary. 'Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.' I remember saying it and writing it down and thinking how powerful it was. And then, I must have slipped it in. I kind of always had the intention to take it out... I thought it was a bit too wordy. Then it ends up, I sing it around the house and I can't get rid of it. That song obviously touches on so many different kinds of levels of misogyny and violence and the anonymous online, seemingly harmless, versus the truly physical. So yeah, it encompasses that world."

On 'Anonymous Club' and the quest to understand intimacy:

"I feel like maybe it's a lifelong journey of figuring out that line of relationship and friendship and intimacy and vulnerability and all those things. But I mean, even back to the theme of interpretation – and I don't think that there's ever a right or wrong interpretation – but for me the 'Anonymous Club' was always more a kind of friendship, like the relationship of a friendship, and not so much in a loving relationship which is maybe what [the listener] was connecting with."

On which lyric of hers she'd get tattooed:

"It would probably be: 'I get most self defensive when I know I'm wrong,' which is from 'I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch.' I think that's a good reminder every day to recognize where your anger and frustration come from in moments and deal with it appropriately."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bob Boilen
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
Robin Hilton
Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.
Catherine Zhang