Interview: Paul Barrere

Guitarist/vocalist Paul Barrere joined the legendary band Little Feat in time for their classic 1973 album Dixie Chicken. Other acclaimed Little Feat albums followed, including Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and Waiting for Columbus, but things came to a halt when bandleader Lowell George passed away in 1979. Little Feat, including Barrere, returned with 1988’s album Let It Roll, and most recently released the album Rooster Rag.

This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert by Barrere and fellow Little Feat bandmember Fred Tackett on 1/31/14 for The Rhythmic Arts Program (TRAP), an educational program founded by drummer Eddie Tuduri that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing, arithmetic, and life skills for children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/23/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?

Paul Barrere: Fun, that’s the name of the game whether it’s in front of 100 or 1000 folks. The object is to play the songs and have a good time. We’ll do a bunch of Little Feat songs that are guitar oriented, or suited for guitar and mandolin, with a few covers as well, but it will be upbeat.

JM: This is the latest in a series of performances that you and Fred have done to benefit The Rhythmic Arts Project. How did you get involved with helping out that organization?

PB: Eddie Tuduri is an old friend and asked us the first time. I had no idea what the benefit was for but since it was Eddie I said sure. Now that we’ve done a couple and I have a grasp of the TRAP objective I told Eddie I was on board anytime and anywhere. What they do is so amazing, and the fact that Eddie started this all after drawing a bad hand himself, as life is want to do, he’s made something so positive from a negative, that if you ask him I’m sure he would tell you that it was meant to be.

JM: If you don’t mind going back in time a bit, how did you come to join Little Feat?

PB: I had known Lowell George since I was 14. He was in school with my older brothers, Hollywood High School. I had seen him play with everyone from the Mothers to the Factory to even The Standells – he liked the garage band I had in Laurel Canyon and came and asked me to audition for the bass gig as he was starting Little Feat. That was 1969 and I failed as the bassist, but told him if he ever needed a second guitarist I was ready, willing, and able to join in. My break came when Roy Estrada left the band right after the release of Sailin’ Shoes. They added Kenny Gradney from Delaney and Bonnie on bass, and he brought Sam Clayton with him on percussion and they decided they needed a second guitarist. I was very lucky indeed.

JM: The first album that you were in Little Feat for, Dixie Chicken, is rightly viewed as a classic, and was a bit of a new direction for the band. What inspired the musical style for that album?

PB: Lowell had been to New Orleans, I think that had a lot to do with it. We recorded “On Your Way Down” by Allen Toussaint, and “Dixie Chicken” had a bit of a second line feel to it as well. Still, there was the eclectic side of the coin with “Kiss It Off”, but overall there was a new funk fused into the band and I blame Kenny, Sam, and myself for that.

JM: Can you describe the Lowell George that you knew?

PB: He was a mentor to me, also an enigma. He loved to play and record but hated the road, but could play and sing and write like no one else.

JM: What motivated you guys to revive Little Feat in the late 1980’s?

PB: It just seemed like the right thing to do. Sad to say, but the legacy of the band grew after Lowell died, and we took so much time off. It was kind of like how Jimi Hendrix has sold more records since he passed than when he was alive. People just loved the music, so we said if we could do it without being a Feat cover band, and continue to grow as writers and players, it would be worthwhile.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

PB: Tough these days really, but I do like that there are more and more real players again, folks that have a distinctive style to their music. But as for a venue to sell that product it’s getting harder and harder, fewer retail outlets, most sales are online now and that’s problematic for keeping control of the cash flow. My best advice is if you love doing it, do it and you’ll find a way to make it pay.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career and/or Little Feat?

PB: Hmmmm, whatever do you mean? Y’all will have to wait for the bio.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

PB: Well I am now almost 66, been doing this for many years so I plan on slowing down a lot. I love doing the weekend gigs with Fred, and the occasional gig in New Orleans with Anders Osborne and all the cats down there, but I have been doing treatment for Hepatitus C. That keeps me home a lot as the one side effect from the new drugs is mainly fatigue. I have been speaking a lot about the Hep C virus and my own fight because I have been dealing with it since 1994 when I was first diagnosed. The reason I became so vocal about it was I watched my brother die from liver disease, cancer really brought on by untreated Hep C, and watched my other friend/brother Richie Hayward die as well from the virus and related diseases. Everyone from our generation should be tested, that’s a fact. You can have this and not know it until its too late, and the treatment has become so much better, easier on the body. So I guess to wrap it up once I kick this virus, we’ll see what the cards hold for me.

JM: Where are you responding from?

PB: Home.


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