In July, I was lucky enough to get tickets for the intimate Friday at the Barn on the Farm Festival. One of the acts that caught my eye and indeed one of the highlights of the weekend for me was a young man named Barns Courtney, who played a solo set standing in front of his guitar case upon which his name was emblazoned in white tape.
His guitar was heavily patched with tape, and the moment he started to play it was obvious why as he beat the body of his guitar to provide the drumbeat to his blues-rock infused music. He mixed his excellent music with amusing banter and so when he announced a full band headline gig at Borderline in London it was a must-have ticket.
So here we are in September in a packed, hot, sold-out Borderline. This time Barns has a drummer and a bass player to help him belt out nine songs in a one hour set that grabs the crowd and never lets them go until he finishes with the excellent, ‘Fire’, accompanied for this song only by the addition of a female lead guitar throwing her blond hair around to add to the foot stomping gospel-infused recipe of this excellent finish. If it was necessary to raise the temperature in Borderline that night, then “Fire” lived up to its “burn, burn, burn” refrain.
There is a confidence and swagger about Barns that is born of his phoenix-like rise from the flames of an early record deal with Island Records that fell through, leaving him wondering if he’d ever make music again. Going from living his dream of making music everyday to a nine-to-fiver in a London computer store has instilled a determination that this time he will be heard and not forgotten.
Born in Ipswich, Suffolk before moving to Seattle at three and living in the States till he was fourteen has given him an American accent that is strong enough to make it a surprise that he is English-born. He was named Barnaby after his mother’s childhood favourite Barnaby the Bear, but shortened it to Barns so as not to be confused with another UK singer called Barnaby. On his current level of performance, there will be no confusion!
His self penned single ‘Fire’ is starting to gain traction, and it is all down to a friend of Barns who was so blown away by the track that he played it to anyone who would listen until finally, Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul, heard it and instantly wanted it for his movie ‘Burnt’, starring Bradley Cooper. Apparently Cooper only took one listen to love the track, and suddenly Barns went from living on sardines and sleeping in his girlfriend’s car to taking his mother and grandmother to the red carpet London premiere of a major movie.
Barns has not forgotten how hard it was when he was living day-to-day and that has inspired the song ‘Hobo Rocket’, a song about being poor, which he introduces with a story about buying a basket load of sardines which prompted the checkout lady to ask if he was having a fish party, whatever that could be. His response of “no I’m just f£&@ing poor” draws one of many laughs from the crowd. Barns’ chat and personality on stage is as much a factor of his stage presence as his music and swaggering confidence.
‘Hobo Rocket’ has just been added to the soundtrack of FIFA 17, which will bring his music to another audience. This combined with the airplay that ‘Fire’ is getting should soon mean that Barns Courtney is a name to take note of. Barns played nine songs at Borderline including the equally excellent, ‘Hands’, ‘Glitter and Gold’, and ‘Goodbye Mr John’, and ‘Somebody to Love’. They all had the sell-out crowd singing back at him and dancing. Grab a performance while you can, this guy is the real thing!
Barns will play XOYO London on 30 November and I would advise getting on board!