This writer was first made aware of Barns Courtney at The Hotel Café in Los Angeles when he played an early set on July 2, 2015, the day after opening for Elle King at the prestigious Troubadour. From the start of the set, his deep, soulful, pitch-perfect voice and delivery were hard to ignore. As a performer, he was captivating, charming, and more than a bit mischievous. He became even harder to ignore when he stepped off of the stage onto a chair, and then onto my table, tipping it over and sending my drink flying across the venue. Like the coolest of cats, however, he landed on his feet without missing a beat and all was forgiven then and there.
Following the set we talked of his upcoming plans to head to Nashville to record and the ultimate goal of playing and touring with a full band. He expressed an admiration for Bowie and Reignwolf as role model musicians and performers, and told of an upbringing that combined time in England—he was born in Ipswich—and Seattle. He asked about The Hotel Cafe and I rattled off a few choice names to have graced the stage: early acoustic Katy Perry, Adele, Chris Martin, Little Comets, and more recently young Brit chanteuse Låpsley. “Wow! I wonder how come they let me play here,” he mused.
Barns is no newcomer to the British indie rock scene. From 2006-2009 he fronted the Ipswich band SleeperCell who rose to prominence in 2008 after winning a Channel 4 unsigned talent contest and received attention from BBC Radio Suffolk. Barns left the group shortly thereafter citing creative differences.
Over the past few months since our Hotel Café encounter, Barns Courtney’s visibility has increased in the UK, with BBC Introducing Suffolk and BBC1 Phil Taggart (sitting in for Huw Stephens) spinning his only currently available track, “Glitter and Gold”. He also caught the attention of The Libertine’s Carl Barât with whom he has collaborated on a track, and recently opened for The Libertines in the UK. Barns supported Ed Sheeran on his North American tour in Toronto with more dates to come. Finally, as of yesterday, it was revealed that Barns has inked a deal with Virgin Records. The future looks bright for Barns Courtney, like Glitter and Gold one might say.