Paul Barrere
" Interview "

Paul Barrere Interview
Paul Barrere is a guitarist and singer-songwriter who joined the celebrated cult band Little Feat for the recording of its fourth album, Feats Don't Fail Me Now, in 1974. Barrere stayed with the group and increased his role in singing, playing, and writing, as bandleader Lowell George slowly withdrew and put focus on his short-lived solo career. Little Feat fragmented following George's death in 1979. Barrere then did sessions and recorded solo in the 1980s until the reformation of Little Feat in 1988.  

Just recently Little Feat released Join the Band, which features special guest artists like Sonny Landreth, Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, Vince Gill, Bob Seger, Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, and Mac McAnally (available from 429 Records), which is precisely the time I caught up with Mr. Barrere.   

Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Paul Barrere, how are you doing out there in California?   

Paul Barrere: Yeah, I am out here in sunny So Cal.  

  BW: I have not seen Little Feat perform live recently and I intend to see your New York City show next week. The last time I did see the band was at the Crawfish Fest here in New Jersey, which was at least five years ago, where I recall John Mooney jammed with the band and it was a hot set.  

  PB: I remember that show, Mooney was great too, and it was a hot set.  

  BW: One of the things I always liked about Little Feat is that you guys are like session players who can be counted on to jam on all styles of music and you are never pigeonholed.  

  PB: It's been a great career, being able to play with Little Feat is like playing with the 1927 Yankees.  

  BW: How did this new Little Feat CD project, Join the Band, come about?

PB: It's something Billy Payne and I have been talking about for years and years, where we would bring in friends to the studio and record. Not like a tribute album but more like a record that celebrates our music and other people's music. Let's face it, we've been around a long, long time, but we could never get the ball rolling to record an album like this, basically due to financing. Then, out of the blue Billy starts working with Jimmy Buffett and Buffett suggested that we make an album like Join the Band. So Jimmy invites us down to his studio to record the basic tracks. That was around November of 2004 and we did not know who we were going to get to join-in and play on the record. Then Billy and Mac McAnally (who is Buffett's guitar player) put their heads together and got all of these wonderful people to come on board to Join the Band if you would, it was really great. BW: Plus you dragged up all the good old chestnuts like "Fat Man In the Bathtub," "Dixie Chicken," "The Weight," "Time Loves A Hero," "Willin'," "Oh Atlanta," "Sailin' Shoes," "Spanish Moon," and others, its all here.

PB: What we tried to do with the Feat songs was to pretty much change the arrangements so that basically we can flash our wares showing what kind of musicians we are and to try to display that we can put anything into any genre. For example, on the "Fat Man In the Bathtub" it was really neat to put that Caribbean vibe on it and then getting people like Sonny Landreth to join in. Man, you cannot beat that! The funny thing is when Billy Payne and I were talking eight or ten years ago, we actually contacted Dave Matthews to see if he was interested in singing "Fat Man" and he said absolutely! Plus we knew he used to throw in verses of "Dixie Chicken" on some of his songs that he performed live, so we figured he was a Feats fan. So when we re-contacted Matthews years later, he said, "Man, I said I would do 'Fat Man' years ago and I still want to do it now!" Matthews wanted to do "Willin'," but Billy Payne told him, actually we have this nice version of "Fat Man" we'd like you to do, so we sent it to him and he loved it so much he put nineteen vocals on it.  

  BW: Nineteen vocals?  

  PB: Yeah, he blended them all together and I think it has a great and eerie quality.  

  BW: That's wild! How long did this entire project take to put together end to end?  

  PB: About two and a half years and then a year and three months to get all the legal work done.

BW: To get all the signoffs from all the artists that are on here; I can see why that took a bit of time?  

  PB: It's pretty amazing. When I look at all the names of the artists who joined the band it blows my mind because it goes across the spectrum of our career as well. Some of our newer friends, like Sonny Landreth, Sam Bush, and Bela Fleck, with some of our older friends like Emmylou Harris, Bob Seger, and so forth. It's just really cool!  

  BW: It is really cool, especially when you look back at the history of Rock 'n' Roll you guys were a major part of Seventies and Eighties Rock history. Some of the monumental recordings you made were as important as same era Rock groups like The Band.  

  PB: Yeah, but we never had that Johnny Commercial success. We were always well known in the musical community, we also had a lot of fans amongst musicians, the record business people liked us, too, and we always managed to make a living, which is great, as that's all you can ask for!  

  BW: And you guys toured a lot.  

  PB: Yeah we did, not so much when Lowell was alive, he really hated going on the road, he couldn't stand going on tour.  

  BW: No kidding? Yet the first thing Lowell did when he made his only solo record was to hit the road.  

  PB: He had to. It was Warner Brothers.  

  BW: I remember that record, Thanks I'll Eat It Here, was delayed a lot and Warner must have spent a lot of money making that record.  

  PB: Oh yeah, it took him a couple years to make that album and quite a few dollars. Actually while we were in the middle of doing Down On the Farm he had to go on the road and promote Thanks I'll Eat It Here. Unfortunately he never came back to us.  

  BW: I remember that it wasn't that long of a solo tour for him. I saw him and his band here in New York City at the Bottom Line, which was near the beginning of the tour and Lowell passed less than a week afterwards. Tough stuff. He was brilliant though and I've always felt that he never got enough recognition. I loved his guitar playing, especially his slide work, he sang really well and he wrote outstanding tunes!  

  PB: Lowell definitely covered all the bases. He was like one of those five-tool players.   

BW: Speaking of that era, do you remember that record you and Little Feat did on Stax Records, with Chico Hamilton as the main player, titled The Master?  

  PB: Oh absolutely! Yeah, The Master, I just bumped into a guy who worked for Stax Records back then who told me that was something that he couldn't believe that came together. There was two of his favorite people from different genres joining forces. He just found Chico's The Master on CD and was just overjoyed!  

  BW: I know it's not very easy to come by a copy, but it's out there, a little pricey as it's only available as an import. Tell me though, who's idea was it to put Little Feat and Chico together?  

  PB: That was the Seventies, so it's a little hard to remember, as you can understand. [Laughs] But, oh yeah, the son of the gentlemen who ran Stax Records at the time, Forrest Hamilton, was a friend of Kenny Gradney and he was the guy who came up with the idea to record us with Chico. I was so jazzed because one of the first records that I used to sit and play guitar to was Chico's record with Charles Lloyd and Gabor Szabo where they did "Forest Flower." There's the Forrest-Forest connection to the guy from Stax. [Laughs]  

  BW: See it does all come together in the universe; we're just having flashbacks together all over again. So that's the way that The Master came about, that's pretty neat.  

  PB: Yeah, for me it was totally exciting to be able to play with Chico. When I was growing up in Hollywood, one of my best friends was Leroy Vinegar's son, his dad played most famously with Les McCann on Swiss Movement where that great "Compared to What" came from. So I used to play with his son in a garage band, so I've had a few brushes with Jazz and to get to play with Chico in my twenties was like, man, I've made it!  

  BW: Little Feat and Chico never hit the road, did they?  

  PB: No, not as far as I can remember.  

  BW: I don't think so either. I was old enough in '73, '74 that I would have been all over that had you guys toured together and made it to New York City.  

  PB: I do know that Charles Lloyd did a lot of touring at that time and remember seeing posters of him opening up for people like the Dead at the Fillmore.   

BW: That was Bill Graham, who was so cool to attempt to turn on larger audiences to so many Jazz, Blues, and Rock musicians to reach wider audiences. Graham must have really loved to do stuff like that.  

  PB: For sure!  

  BW: I sure miss those days where promoters would try to mix things up with their bills with various styles of music.   

PB: Yeah, like Muddy Waters with the Charlatans. Maybe Live Nation should take a hint?   

BW: Unfortunately I doubt that's going to happen. I just don't see that happening, as I don't think Live Nation will connect those dots. Speaking of concerts, Little Feat is coming to New York City here in a few weeks.   

PB: Yes, at a venue we've never played at called the Society for Ethical Culture that I hear is really cool. I'm not so sure Ethical Culture applies to us. I wonder what they'll think when we do "Don't Bogart That Joint"?  

  BW: You joined Little Feat after the original formation.  

  PB: That's correct. I joined the band in '72 right after Dixie Chicken came out. In '69 I actually was asked to audition with the band as a bassist. I'd known Lowell for years from our Hollywood High School days, but I failed miserably as a bassist, but I told Lowell if you ever need a second guitarist let me know. So right after they released Sailin' Shoes in '72 the bassist left the band, that's when Kenny and Sam came in from Delaney & Bonnie. So Lowell told me that if you can learn the intro to "Cold, Cold, Cold" you can be in the band. It was like one of those older brother kind-of I'll give you nuggies till you get that intro right!  

  BW: Those must have been great times.  

  PB: They sure were! It was fantastic. It was like footloose and fancy-free in Hollywood, playing good Rock 'n' Roll!  

BW: I remember seeing Little Feat on that tour with Tower of Power as your horn section and that gig blew me away! Last year I had Tower of Power's Emilio Castillo on the air with me and he told me that tour with Little Feat was one of the highlights of his and the Tower of Power band's career!   

PB: Well having Emilio, Greg Adams, Lenny Pickett, Mic Gillette, and Stephen "Doc" Kupka in the band was amazing. When we were making Waiting For Columbus with those guys we just had so much fun! In fact we just did a gig with Tower of Power in Vienna and it was really great to see those guys.  

  BW: I always dig Tower of Power and I had George Duke in here last week, who told me he was producing tracks for their next recording. Well Paul, we can talk for days, but I will let you get back to your regular chores of the day, but before I let you go do you have any last thoughts for BluesWax readers?  

  PB: Well here's a tidbit, since our new album is called Join The Band you'll never know who might be sitting in with us at any of our upcoming gigs, so come out and check us out. You might be very pleasantly surprised. We always like to have some fun surprises for our fans.  

BW: It's been a real pleasure chatting with you, thanks for sharing so many good stories with me.  

  PB: I appreciate the support Bob, thanks for letting me call.

Bob Putignano: