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Courtney Barnett Used to Really Love Instant Noodles

The Melbourne songwriter's latest track is an ode to the cheap but nutritionally void staple of students everywhere.

Courtney Barnett used to be a three-packs-a day kind of person. Before work, after work, or whenever she had a spare five-minutes, it was a guilty pleasure that delivered immediate satisfaction.

Mi-Goreng, instant ramen, two-minute noodles, call it what you will, the cheap but nutritionally void staple of students everywhere, were Barnett’s go-to snack when she was starting out as a musician and working part-time at a local Melbourne bar.

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It is also the subject of the singer-songwriter’s first new song since her single with Jack White and her critically acclaimed debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit. "That MSG tastes good to me/ I disagree with all your warnings,” she sings on “Three Packs a Day”, a track that appears on Good For You, a new six-track compilation from artists on Milk! records.

“I’d be going to work and I’d eat a packet of noodles and then get home at 3am and eat another packet of noodles. I probably don’t eat much of it now but there was a while when I was eating it three-times-a-day because I had no money. But I loved them.”

Barnett’s career, like her diet, has improved dramatically since the early days working at Northcote’s Workers Club and playing small gigs around Melbourne. The success of Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit came with awards, international touring and late night television show appearances.

2016 is shaping up to be another busy year for Barnett. She’s just returned from sharing her skills with aspiring female musicians at the Girls Rock! music camp in Canberra. She's been nominated for a Brit Award and Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards and she's working on a follow up to Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit.

Before her appearance at Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain we caught up with Courtney to talk noodles.

Noisey: Would you try to ‘gourmet’ your noodles by adding other ingredients?
Courtney Barnett: I’ve done that in the past but in the end I couldn’t be bothered. I’d sometimes make two packets and just add two flavour sachets and make one big bowl.

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Did you know that MSG is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be?
Interesting!

Yeah, apparently it’s not really any different to flavouring and preservatives you find in a lot of other food.
There are so many conflicting stories about what or what isn’t good for you nowadays. I probably don’t eat a lot of it now anyways but back in the day when I had no money I ate it a lot.

“Three Packs a Day” has a real Lemonheads feel.
Oh totally (laughs) I can see that. When I was writing it started out as a little bit of a joke song. I started writing it on holidays in Washington in between tours and I was trying to write a really poppy and bouncy song. And I was probably listening to a lot of Smudge and Lemonheads.

You have been nominated for a Grammy. Are you expected or obligated to attend?
I don’t know. I think so. It falls on a non-tour time. I don’t really like awards nights so usually I’m thankful when I’m tour and can’t go to them (laughs) With the ARIA awards I saw some comments on how me not being there meant that I didn’t respect the awards but I was working man, I’m on tour. I’m working hard doing my job. That’s how I got the award. (laughs)

You’ve been playing a lot over the last 12-months. Has the live show changed much?
It used to be forty-minutes now we play for an hour-and-a-half sometimes which is cool. A typical day breaks down to an hour of music then forty per cent music and forty per cent press and the rest of it waiting around. But I do enjoy it all.

How is the new album coming along? Will it be much different to Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit?
It’s hard to tell as a lot of the songs haven’t been written yet. They are more pieces of ideas. They are songs about looking at my shoes but now in Canada rather than Melbourne (laughs). I’ll probably record something this year but at the moment they are just ideas.

'Good For You' is available now from Milk! Records.

Catch Courtney Barnett:
Jan 22 – Melbourne at Palais Theatre
Jan 23 – Melbourne at Sugar Mountain Festival
Jan 28 – Sydney at Taronga Zoo