It seems like everyone has a friend like Courtney Barnett.
She’s the person who looks at the world in a slightly different way and points out things that the rest of the gang takes for granted.
In her songs, Barnett can turn a story about house hunting into a meditation on memories and loss or unspool humorous yarns about everyday things like shopping for organic produce or suffering an asthma attack. It’s that offbeat take on life that has many people calling the Australian singer-songwriter one of the best lyricists of her generation.
amNewYork spoke with Barnett.
When did you realize you had a talent for noticing details others overlook?
I was always good at reading people, picking up on body language and noticing things other people didn’t, like an emotional sponge. Plus I’m really good at triple-checking if anyone left anything behind anywhere. Maybe it’s slightly obsessive. I didn’t speak until I was three. My mum reckons I was just observing everyone and figuring out what they were all about.
Your songs seem so personal and autobiographical. How much of you is actually in them and how much is made up?
Most of it is real. Actually, basically all of it — 94% real, 6% poetic license. I like real stories.
What is your songwriting process like? Do you carry a journal all the time or do you sit down to write?
My process is quite disordered. I don’t know if I even have a process. I feel like I’m barely just figuring out how to get through life. Every day is a step at a time. Songwriting is secondary. Songwriting feels like a kind of happy by-product of my life, but, yep, I do have a book I write everything down in. The songs become like a musical memoir.
When did you realize you wanted to play music as a career?
When I found out there was a career called “exploring ideas and emotions through art as a way of understanding you and the world around you.” I thought that sounded like a good way to spend my time.
Who inspired you as a writer?
Everyone inspires me as a writer, especially bad writers. They inspire me to not be a bad writer.
If you go: Courtney Barnett is at Bowery Ballroom Tuesday through Thursday at 9 p.m., 6 Delancey St., $20.