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How Courtney Barnett turned a troll's words against him

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Courtney Barnett says she was inspired to write about the "pain and hurt and anger" being expressed online
Shortly after Courtney Barnett released her debut album, a friend forwarded her a comment someone had made about the music. "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you."Rather than taking offence, the singer found it so funny she stuck it into one of her new songs - Nameless, Faceless - along with a withering response."Must be lonely, being angry... I'm real sorry 'bout whatever happened to you."The line is part of the song's broader take-down of male aggression, prompted by the anonymously-written screeds of "hurt and anger" Barnett saw online and in real life.
In the chorus, she adapts a Margaret Atwood quote - "Men are scared that women will laugh at them / Women are scared that men will kill them" - to explain how she feels unsafe walking home at night, clutching her keys between her fingers, ready to strike any assailants.
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Like many of the new songs, City Looks Pretty sees Barnett refusing to be crushed by the weight of the world: "Sometimes I get sad," she sings in the chorus. "It's not all that bad".By the end of the album - on the contemplative, tender Sunday Roast - Barnett is taking succour from friends as they gather around the dinner table."The overall idea in that song is community," she says. "We tend to base our lives around food; and lots of conversations happen at meals. That sense of friendship and love revolves around it, in a way."
No let downs
The success of Barnett's 2015 debut took the unassuming singer-songwriter around the world, playing on Saturday Night Live, attending the Grammys and sharing a bill with her musical heroine Patti Smith.Was she surprised to find herself thrust onto the world stage so quickly?"I tend not to think about it," she says. "But for who I am and the kind of music I play, it's really nice that sometimes it sits beside those other, bigger things."It makes it exciting - and it's an incredible position to be in, with a big crowd on the other side of the world, singing your songs."Early reviews for the new album suggest the singer will go on to even bigger and better things in 2018 - but she's not making any assumptions."I'm not good at setting those goals for myself," she says. It's almost like when you do, it becomes stressful, and if they don't happen it's a let down. "So I just try to amble along."Courtney Barnett's album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is out on 18 May. She plays the 6 Music stage at BBC Music's Biggest Weekend in Belfast on 25 May.
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