An interview with Paul Barrere
Bands can be fickle. Often, they burn brightly for a brief moment, only to wither into obscurity. When a band can remain relevant and at peace with itself for any length of time, it is truly special. Little Feat deserves this honor. Started in 1969 by the indomitable Lowell George, the band has not so much made music as explored it, creating a wide-ranging discography and playing with legends of every description, all while cultivating a diverse and loyal fanbase. They are currently on tour with their 16th studio album, Rooster Teeth. Here, we catch up with Paul Barrere, who joined the band in 1972.
You have your first album of new material in 9 years. Do you think a new direction comes with that?
Musically, it feels like an old-school Little Feat record, but we really stepped up with the recording. We had started putting together material for a blues-type record, touring around with it. Then other new material started coming up... Bill (Payne) and Robert Hunter (a renowned songwriter for the Grateful Dead) started writing together. We went to a great studio where we felt really comfortable. That was a blast; Bill was playing on Richard Manuel’s piano. With the history and setting, things just meshed.
You’ve been touring and performing for decades with Little Feat. How has it changed for you?
The band is playing and improvising better than ever; I love that part. The actual getting from point A to point B is a necessary evil at this point. Richie used to say “When I’m touring I want to be home, and when I’m home I want to be touring”. In that respect, it hasn’t changed very much.
How do you think the band has evolved?
Everybody has branched out, which is great. You gain a lot of experience playing with others, playing different music. Everyone did that and brought some of it to new records, expanding the parameters of the band. You can get tired of same old thing, the same old way. Finding ways to change up the old stuff is crucial. I’ve been playing the song Dixie Chicken for over 30 years, finding ways to spice it up makes it fresh for me and the audience.
How do you get the audience into it?
The most important thing to do is make sure we’re having fun on stage. If it’s getting us off, it’s getting the audience off. People come up to us after shows and ask, “are you really having that much fun?”, and we are.
Do you like Little Feat’s reputation as a band’s band?
I think it's great that we’re known for respect from our peers, and not commercial success. For me, it means we don’t just have to be a tribute band. We can create new music and go in new directions, and our fan base is cool with that.
Why do you think Little Feat has stayed relevant?
I think that staying power comes from the band itself; we’re like family. The spirit of what we do musically is the same, keeping that freedom that we started with. The one rule we had from the beginning is that there are no rules, and that has stayed with us.
What would you like your legacy to be?
If I was to go down tomorrow, I’d like to be known as a nice guy who played good music, plain and simple. Back in the early days I had troubles, I wasn't such a nice guy sometimes. I’ve been trying to make up for that now. Now, it makes my day when I talk to a fan, who says our music changed their life or helped them through tough times; it’s an incredible feeling.
What’s next for the band?
We’re all getting a little old (laughs) so we’ll probably slow down our touring pace. We’ll do an Allman Brothers type tour, a nice summer run. We’ll definitely stay touring with this for a while. But you never know in this business.
Little Feat performs at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Wednesday, August 15th.
Or, for a chance to win two tickets, leave a comment below telling us what you love about Little Feat; your favorite song, album, concert, or memory… anything goes!
*One random viewer will be chosen on August 14, 2012.