Born in 1987, Courtney spent her early years on Sydney’s northern beaches, absorbing the influences of US rock bands, her family relocated to Hobart when she was sixteen, and around this time she became inspired by the work of Australian singer-songwriters Paul Kelly and Darren Hanlon. She relocated to Melbourne where she joined the grunge outfit Rapid Transit, as a guitarist, she continued to write and record her own songs with various bands including the Olivettes, the psych-country band Immigrant Union and in 2012 she established her own record label Milk! Records.
Her EPs’ Sea of Split Peas and How to Carve a Carrot Into A Rose, were released in 2013 and the two lead singles Avant Gardener and History Eraser garnered considerable critical acclaim, she released her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit in 2015, again to positive reviews. The world was becoming aware of Courtney’s witty, folksy song-writing style and her straightforward delivery, the indie rocker was something of a throwback to 90’s grunge and crunchy guitars, in a sea of vacuous, over-produced, global pop, she stood out with an incandescent rock and roll energy.
The song Depreston was inspired by a visit to a home open for inspection, in Preston, an inner suburban location to Melbourne’s north. The house was a deceased estate, the suburb had been a typical blue-collar working class area for many years, bisected by bustling Bell Street, heavy/light industry had existed cheek by jowl with low-rent private housing and State-sponsored commission apartments and houses for decades, but Preston was gradually being gentrified, just like its near neighbours Fitzroy, Collingwood, Prahran and Clifton Hill, and property values were heading north.
As Courtney’s lyrics indicate the gentrification process in Preston was still very much a work-in-progress “We drive to a house in Preston/ We see police arresting/ A man with his hand in a bag/How’s that for first impressions/ This place seems depressing/ It’s a Californian bungalow in a cul-de-sac…”, her stream-of-consciousness lyrical style is affecting and appropriate for the bittersweet observations of everyday life that she makes, particularly for a generation of disenchanted first-home buyers who have to borrow a million dollars to get a place within ten kilometres of the city.
The presence of some of the personal effects of the deceased owner in the house cause Barnett to dwell on her own mortality “Then I see the handrail in the shower/ A collection of those cannisters for coffee, tea, and flour/ And a photo of a young man in a van in Vietnam…” as the real estate agent drones on about the brutal reality of what will happen to a property that was someone’s home “If you’ve got a/ Spare half million/ You could knock it down/ And start rebuilding…”
Barnett can certainly conjure stirring guitar riffs, and this song is no exception, she has revealed that she was inspired by the Go-Betweens Streets of Your Town, another song by an indie band about suburbia, but for the Go-Betweens it was the domestic violence endemic to those communities, not spiralling land values, that inspired the Brisbane band.
Since the release of her debut album, Barnett has become a celebrated performer, in 2014 she won ARIA Awards for Best Independent Release and Best First Album, she followed up in 2015 with a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist, and won a further ARIA Award for Best Rock Album in 2016 for the album Tell Me How You Really Feel, in 2018 Time Magazine nominated her as one of the emerging stars on the global music scene.