The day I met Paul Barrere, I arrived at the Phoenix bus station around 1AM. After a brief delay, I squeezed myself into my seat next to a very uncleanly gentleman and got as comfortable as possible for the long ride to L.A. The bus to Los Angeles should not take as long as it did. We stopped at little podunk towns along the way – until the cactus turn to palm trees.
Arriving in L.A. for the first time, I had very little money on me. I was trying to stay afloat which was why I had taken the bus and not a plane to go see my guy play a gig at the Teragram Ballroom.
L.A. is a foreign place to me. I grew up in New York – we frequented New York City but L.A. has even more of a cultural hodgepodge vibe. I hopped in a cab and “Jimmy” drove me from the station to the venue – we passed the big hotel I had seen in a haunted hotel special the night before.
I arrived at the Teragram about thirty minutes before I was supposed to meet Paul. I walked out side and smoked a 50/50 cigarette and waved good-bye as I meandered down to Langer’s Deli. I had interviewed Paul before but walking down to the sandwich place to meet him, I was feeling pretty cool.
A lunch with a musician! A real moment for a wannabee music journalist trying to learn more about a time in music she had not been a part of. I had followed Little Feat for years and our initial conversation had lead to some even bigger questions so I was truly honored he agreed to meet me.
We both ordered #19’s and I was sweating a little thinking about whether or not I would have to cover both plates – I had barely enough money to get to this pivotal moment in my life. We talked about Little Feat, about the music industry in general, and about Pastrami sandwiches.
Paul is an “old soul.” I refer to people who feel instantly familiar as “old souls” – it was as if I had grown up listening to him talk about the pitfalls of the Internet and the times out on the road.
Paul picked up the check. He gave me some music he had been working on. I invited him to come to the show at the Teragram but he had a decent drive back home and couldn’t stay.
We stayed in touch and he has since humored me with a few more conversations.
An Interview With Paul Barrere
Tour Stories: So Paul, Fifty years – with a few breaks. How does that make you feel?
Paul: I feel tired. (Laughs) It’s been great, ya know. And we are doing an extended tour so that’s awesome. We are not just doing our six/seven gigs, go to Jamaica and that’s it. Less time for Fred and Paul and the Funky Feat and more time for Little Feat – so there you go.
Tour Stories: I was reading an interview that Bill did with JamBase and he mentioned an album? Do you think that’s possible?
Paul: Not unless somebody’s got some money. We actually approached a couple of labels and the offers are so… I mean we couldn’t even get everybody to stay out here for what they offered- let alone rent a studio.
Tour Stories: That pains us.
Paul: Unless, you’re Lady Gaga I guess you’re not going to get a budget to create a grand scale record anymore. We had a offer to go record at Paul Allen’s studio before he passed away but I am not sure where that stands at this point. As far as making a new album goes you really have to be committed to going on the road to sell it from the back of your van. Physical sales of music is laughable at this point- the industry is completely digital. My newest quote on the matter – “the internet is the new ocean – just filled with different pirates.”
Tour Stories: The newer Jam Bands are making money off the recorded live shows and streams but the fans are hungry for them every morning – you have to keep feeding the beast!
Paul: (Laughs) A few years ago, I think it was The Allman Brotherswho used to have a truck and they’d print the recordings right outside their show for people to buy. I can’t wait to see the album art on a thumb drive. (Laughs)
Tour Stories: I know it’s a sad state of affairs. Talk to us about Little Feat – something you remember from when you were in the thick of it that you want to share with us.
Paul: The Warner Brothers Music Show, which was six bands that were traveling through Europe, was an amazing trip to say the least. That is where we played with The Doobie Brothers in London and opened for them and just slayed it. It was great. From there we met some of The Stones and they asked us to play on a couple of shows back then. We did a short tour with The Who back when Keith Moon was alive which was amazing to watch he and Richie watch each other… I mean which drummer is crazier, I don’t know.
Tour Stories: Lowell George, tell us something about Lowell.
Paul: I have plenty I can’t talk about… (laughing) No but when Lowell took me under his wing when I joined the band he really broadened my senses of song writing. I came in as basically a blues player, three chords, a lot of jamming and so forth. We had a thing going on with the Laurel Canyon garage band that he really enjoyed because we were a cross between Captain Beefheart and Led Zeppelin. He was just out of The Mothers and just forming Little Feat. So when I got with the band he just helped me with song writing, vocal style, playing… just having to cover his parts for the first couple years was a education. There are lots of times with Lowell that was just a great time. A lot of great, great shows,
a lot of bad shows too. (laughs)
Tour Stories: What made him a great songwriter?
Paul: His chord structures. His minimalistic approach to playing slide, making every note count, the spaces between the notes were as important as the notes themselves. Mainly the chord structures, to be a little bit more expansive then just playing E minor and A minor.
Tour Stories: What’s significant about this year being Little Feat’s 50th year?
Paul: The neat thing about being around for so long is the partnership’ you have made with people and the sharing of music. The fact that our music is resonating again with the younger people -I mean it’s quite a blessing. It really is a testimonial to the songs themselves. That’s what kept the band alive all these years.
Tour Stories: What do you think is the biggest difference between your growing younger audience and
the audience from back in the day?
Paul: The younger audience is more in tune with the whole jamband situation. That thing we did with moe. for instance – that was phenomenal. It was funny because when they said we want to do Waiting for Columbus, we said okay but remember we aren’t gonna be playing them the same way, everybody be on your toes, cause we are going to be jamming.
Tour Stories: Are you guys doing any festivals this summer?
Paul: So far no festivals in the works. Actually that’s wrong we are playing a blue festival in California during our West Coast run.
Tour Stories: One last story for us, Paul?
Paul: When we did that show with The Doobie brothers in London. It was like we could do no wrong. At some points Lowell would look at me to get a cue for a verse, like in Dixie Chicken. Instead of feeding him the third verse I kept feeding him the second. He would get about half way through and he’d look over at me like “you son of a“….(laughs) I did it twice!
Tour Stories: Did you and Lowell mess with each other a lot?
Paul: Yeah, well back in those days we had packs of cigarettes, lighters, a bottle of Courvoiser, on stage. It was basically a living room jam. Lowell and I used to steal each others lighters. So, one year for Christmas I gave him a wrapped up box filled with empty lighters and he thought it was the best Christmas gift he had ever gotten.
Tour Stories: What’s Little Feat’s motto?
Paul: Well it was explained to me when I joined the band. Rule number one: there are no rules. And that’s the truth. That’s the way it is with people who play music as opposed to just perform songs. There’s nothing wrong with those people who perform the songs but the thing I like about Little Feat is we attract music aficionados, people who like music. That to me is the great honor of the whole situation.
Tour Stories: Alright, after fifty years of Little Feat and a whole lotta life lived what’s your greatest accomplishment? What are you most proud of?
Paul: I’d have to say my family. To actually have had the opportunity to make a decent living and to have raised three good kids, a loving wife, who stuck with me even though I spent most of the first twenty three years away. That to me is a real sense of pride. There’s really no accomplishment like having a family that is functioning and not dis-functioning shall we say.
Tour Stories: Where did you meet your wife?
Paul: At a club out here. (laughs) I was playing with the Blues Busters and she would come to shows and dance by herself and I saw her sitting at the bar and I went up to talk to her. We became friends first actually. She became my best friend. It was one of those things where I knew here is someone I can tell anything to. I think that’s the real secret to it all. I mean there’s the infatuation part of love, which is the initial part, which is lovely. I mean you’re on cloud nine and everything but to continue into longevity there’s a whole thing with honor and trust and communication and that to me is what real love is.
Tour Stories: On that wise note – Thank you Paul – we will see you up the road!
(Now everyone go listen to Spanish Moon!) Check out the next tour dateshere.