• Tajette O’Halloran
Courtney Barnett's two Pickathon sets on Sunday are her first-ever in the Portland area, and it's been a few months coming. I first heard The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas—her de facto debut album, cobbled together from two excellent six-song EPs—late last year, and it blew me away. It's woozy but direct, loose but full of purpose: "a tough, untamed collection of tunes that's equal parts sandpaper and salve," as I described it in this week's Pickathon feature.

Barnett lives literally half a world away in Melbourne, Australia, and when I tried to pick her brain for her upcoming Pickathon show, we ran out of time to connect with her. But! I emailed her some queries, and trouper that she is, she answered them on the flight over. Check out our Q&A below.

Barnett plays Pickathon this Sunday at 7:40 pm on the Fir Meadows Stage, and a second set almost directly after that, at 9:40 pm in the Galaxy Barn. Both will be great. If you don't believe me, listen to her cover the Lemonheads' "Bein' Around."

MERCURY: Portland's been waiting a long time for you to play a show. How have your first experiences in North America been so far? Do you have a favorite place that you've visited in the last year? (doesn't have to be North America)
BARNETT: I've got lots of friends from Portland who tell me I would love it and I trust them, so I've been waiting a lonnnng time to come visit. We drove through Oregon last month on the way to Seattle and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The trees, the rivers, the deer. Good window watching.

How long does it take you to write a song? It sounds like you write a lot, in notebooks and on phones and things. Does a lot of stuff get cut in the editing process?
It can take anywhere between 30 minutes and seven years. I edit a lot, I'm always editing. I'm a weirdo perfectionist.

Is there any connection you'd care to draw between your fine arts education and your songwriting? Do you think a particular field of artistic study can inform another completely different field?
I think everything you experience informs your art. I was only 18 when I was at art school. I loved hearing new and unusual ideas, and other people's perspectives. Up until then, I guess you're kind of stuck in high school mode with friends and teachers and parents. Then you leave school and people question your work and question your answers and question your questions. If I went again now, I'd probably experience a whole new thing. Always learning is a good way to be.

Are you a natural live performer? I'd imagine that, in theory, writing songs in private vs. performing them in public are completely different things. Do you like being up in front of a bunch of people?
I'm pretty quiet in everyday life. I've always been pretty nervous on stage and in front of people in general. But in the last year or so especially of constant touring and recording and hanging out with my friends in the band 24/7 I've discovered a really comfortable and natural presence.

Can you tell us a little bit about the new album? Will you be playing songs from it?
Yeah, we are doing a couple of new songs! It's fun to play the new stuff. The new album is pretty varied. Dark, light, heavy, timid. All the emotions wrapped up in 10 catchy songs.

Will you be bringing the band to Pickathon? Who's currently playing with you?
We're currently playing as a three-piece so I'll be bringing Bones [Sloane, bass] and Dave [Mudie, drums].