As a Musician in the Digital Age on the Search for Self-Coherence: A Conversation with Barns Courtne

After his show in Buffalo last month, the charming and unafraid Barns Courtney went backstage drenched in sweat after his dizzying and energetic on-stage performance. Then once he was all cleaned up, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter sat down and suddenly began singing a made up Christmas jingle he wrote for his younger brother about a llama, which references Barack Obama.

Last month, Courtney released his second studio album ‘404,’ an intense blend of swaggering and glittering rock and roll, thrusting synth-pop hooks and some pounding drum beats. But it was Courtney’s rich and soulful vocals that carried the album. However the recording process didn’t come easy this time around for Courtney like with past releases such as the ‘The Dull Drums’ EP and his major label debut, 2017’s ‘The Attractions of Youth.’ Courtney was used to relying on his depression and anxiety for his creative drive.

“It was difficult for me going into the studio for the second time because I was used to this extreme well of like depression and frustration that had always fueled my musical pursuits for the three years prior,” Courtney says. “So now having been introduced to a life where I get to do everything I want all the time and feeling much happier,

I was trying to search for something deeper within myself.”

Going back-and-forth in tempo, many of the tracks deal with isolation and feeling lost in the Digital Age, especially in the life of a touring musician. According to Courtney, the album’s concept is much more than just dealing with the pitfalls when on the road.

“The album is about the sort of departure from your authentic self as you age,” Courtney explains. “The idea that we sort of become ghosts of ourselves as we grow older. And the people we are as children who may be a bit more pure and awe-stricken by the world become somewhat jaded if we’re not careful. And unfortunately we all fall into that trap in some way or another.” The title for his new album comes from the “404 error” of a URL, which means that the page you were trying to look for cannot be found on the server. However, it’s also clearly a metaphor for the never-ending search for something that would always be there, but then wasn’t. Courtney compares his present self to his past self that only exists in memory. There’s time to grow and develop for your present self instead of pondering things in the past. “I loved that as a metaphor for searching for parts of yourself, memories or emotions or traits that when you really dig down and have gone with the present moment that they existed in,” Courtney says. “The whole album was really an attempt to explore all of that.”

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