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Published: 2014/03/19
by Larson Sutton

Paul Barrere Talks Feat, Fred, Phil and Phish

Nearing a year since taking a leave of absence from Little Feat to treat his Hepatitis C, Paul Barrere has remained as busy as he is physically able. Sporadic two-date outings throughout the U.S. with longtime Feat cohort Fred Tackett, as well ongoing recordings with songwriter/producer Roger Cole, have kept the guitarist active in spite of his time away from the group. On the verge of its 45th anniversary, with a biography of the band, Warner Bros. box set, and annual trip to Jamaica putting Little Feat back under the microscope, we talked with Barrere about his current health, plans to perform in 2014, and his future with the acclaimed Southern California sextet.

How are you feeling?

I’ve just completed eighth week of the Hep C treatment. The two-pill treatment. I’m taking this new Sovaldi and Ribavirin. No Interferon. My eight-week blood work came back and my doctor was so excited he called me personally to tell me there was no sign of any virus at all in my blood. So, the Sovaldi is working. I’m pleased. He’s pleased. We’re going to continue through the 24 weeks, and then hopefully after I stop taking treatment, the results will remain the same and I’ll be back to having a little more energy, a more productive life nearing retirement age.

That’s great news, but is it still too early to tell?

That’s the big question; once you stop taking the drugs, does it come back? You just never know until time goes by.

You made the decision to share updates of your health on social media, keeping the fans informed of your progress. What made you decide to do that?

My whole theory was this is something I’ve known about since 1994, and I’ve had and had managed to survive all these years without having to go through treatment. For the past four years I’ve been seen by the Pflegler liver clinic at UCLA, monitoring it very closely because it started to progress as I got older. It seems to create more damage to the liver. I knew eventually I was going to get off the road and deal with this. Partially, it was to let people know the reason behind my choice to get off the road, and partially because I’ve never hidden the fact that in my youth I was pretty crazy. I made some bad choices, although they seemed like a lot of fun at the time. (Laughs)

It also raises awareness, I would imagine.

What I’ve learned over these 20-some years now about Hep C is that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people walking around from my generation with the virus in them that they didn’t even know about. My objective was to let people know that, if treated, you have a pretty good chance. What was the line that Col. Bruce Hampton had? ‘If I had a bazooka at the Battle of Hastings, I could’ve lived to full adulthood.’ It wasn’t in the public eye, and I thought maybe it is time it is. If I could help one person, great.

I’ve read with Hep C it’s difficult to pinpoint from where and what source a person contracts it?

I’m pretty sure I got mine from drug use.

We are in the midst of so many rock musicians, from Phil Lesh to Paul McCartney, still performing in their seventies. Or bands like the Allman Brothers and Little Feat celebrating 45th anniversaries this year. Did your role models growing up give you any sense that you’d be doing this into your sixties and seventies?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. The kind of music that I’ve made over my entire life, including Little Feat and not including Little Feat, has always been blues-oriented. It was easy for me to see someone like John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters, who were getting older. Mississippi John Hurt wasn’t even discovered until he was 64. I see no problem with doing the old folks boogie sitting down. I enjoy performing, that part of it I’ll continue to do until I keel over.

When you were joining Little Feat in 1972, fresh out of Hollywood High School, were you thinking about playing until you keeled over?

Back then I thought I’d keel over a lot sooner. (Laughs) Just because of my lifestyle. It was definitely live fast, live hard, rock out. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties and got clean that I realized this is something you can do forever. When you are in your twenties, you don’t think about getting into your forties, fifties, and sixties. It’s the furthest thing from your mind. You’ve seen Fred and me work. It’s like an old blues artist. You can just sit, play songs, tell stories. The stories keep growing, so it’s great.

So the Paul and Fred shows seem more appropriate for you at this time in your life?

Absolutely. It’s easier on my physical well-being, and on my psyche not having to travel for long periods of time. I spent the better part of the last 23 years away from home. My son is going to be 25 in June. I missed a lot of his life, my two daughters’ lives. I’ve never seen anyone graduate. To me it seemed like, ‘You are battling this virus. You have an opportunity to be home. Take advantage of it.’ Since last March, that’s pretty much what I’ve done, and it’s been wonderful. It’s crazy. Lord knows I have a new appreciation for my wife. It’s really nice reconnecting with the family.

You announced that you would not be joining the band in Jamaica for its annual week-long excursion. What led to that decision?

There are a number of things that can go wrong, and if they go wrong, it can go very badly. Between my doctors and myself, we thought it was better that I don’t go to a Third World country.

What about stateside? Any plans at the moment to perform with the band after Jamaica?

As I’ve told everybody in the band, I don’t see myself going out doing week-long road trips. I just don’t feel up for it. If they want to continue on as Little Feat without me, that’s fine and dandy. Hell, we replaced Lowell. We replaced Richie. I’m sure they could replace me. It’s not something where I feel like I’m the only piece of Little Feat that means anything, that’s for sure. It’s always been a band.

Has that reached a level of formal discussion, the notion of them performing without you after Jamaica?

Billy (Payne) mentioned since they are going down to do this thing with the Ramble band, that it might be something they are considering taking on the road. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know.

Have there been any talks about a Little Feat concert recognizing the 45th anniversary of the band? Maybe a Los Angeles show or special event that you could be a part of?

There’s been no discussion about it. I didn’t even know it was the 45th year. (Laughs) Oh, 45, wow. I never, ever close the door on anything. Quite frankly, when you are doing the road thing of one-nighters- you do the show, you get on the bus, maybe sleep a couple of hours, wake up, get a hotel room, if you’re lucky get a late check-out, if not you’re screwed- you never catch up. That’s why it is easy with Fred and me. We can do the show, go back to the hotel and sleep, the next show is a short drive, and then fly home. Everything has to balance because, you know, I’d like to see 75.

So, you will continue to perform Paul and Fred shows throughout 2014?

Yeah. They’re ongoing because it’s really simple and easy.

Just to clarify; you’re not saying you’re tired of Little Feat. You’re saying the physical toll Little Feat exacts is not something you can afford at the moment. Is that fair?

That’s a fair statement.

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Comments

There are 17 comments associated with this post

Scott Hays March 20, 2014, 09:31:01

This is a really good interview with one of rock’s least well-known innovators and incredibly good musicians (outside the actual world of actual working musicians, that is … or amongst the growing legions of Little Feat fans). It’s really good to hear that Paul feels the treatment is working and that this enables him to plan to keep working, within his limits, at least with Fred. I also hear, reading between the lines, that the door is still open to future work with Little Feat, even if the pathway to get there is still somewhere down the road. I selfishly hope that a resolution comes sooner, rather than later, because Little Feat has been my favorite band since 1974 and life seems more whole and full when I can see and/or hear them. Most Little Feat fans would say something similar. But this isn’t about us. Stay gold, Paul … your feet will steer you right!

KB March 20, 2014, 11:05:50

I have always liked Little Feat but never had a bunch of opportunities to see them. They plead one of the Christmas Jams in Asheville and they absolutely tore the roof off that place. They were so good and so much better than I even hoped they would be. I’d love to see them again.

Blooby March 20, 2014, 16:16:05

Thanks for the interview. Enjoyed it. I am going to break out the Fred and Paul DVD when I get home.

dk70 March 22, 2014, 10:44:40

DEAD FEAT at Oxford Plains, Maine ’88 was the greatest. Little Feat kicked major butt and definitely inspired the Dead to hold serve. I’ll never forget it, a high watermark in the jam scene was def the late 80s (esp w the Allmans getting Warren and coming back).

Steve Morris March 22, 2014, 12:42:25

Little Feat, for me, are one of the best bands in the world.
In a class of their own, I would say …

joseph ROCCO March 22, 2014, 20:15:33

Lived the past ten years with the band as truck driver/ tech , the guys are the best, both on and off the stage.

Tommy March 24, 2014, 22:23:00

Always see them when they come to Jersey…. You’re very lucky Joe and yes they’re the best and very approachable!

Goods April 7, 2014, 02:32:53

Help supoort Goods! They are definitely up and comin’ in the Boston area!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzZ99RtPcio

MIke April 7, 2014, 02:34:20

Can’t wait to see these guys again… Goods that is! I was at Eclectricity on friday!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzZ99RtPcio

Maryann April 28, 2014, 10:12:53

We got to get my favorite band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!

Kirk April 28, 2014, 11:24:40

For me, Paul is the focal point of the band, although I’ve never seen a more talented group of musicians, especially when they get into a groove. Just hard to imagine Feat without him.

Cole Matthews April 28, 2014, 12:25:16

I must echo Scott Hays’ thoughts. While I appreciate the individual and duet acts, I really do miss the live shows. I am going to see Bill and Leftover Salmon May 1 in Indy, but at the Feat’s peak road work, I would catch them 3-4 times a year and (at least) when Richie was alive- there was a chemistry that was undeniable. So No Paul- I disagree when you say you are replaceable. Get Well Paul, then get to the studio, and then do a handful of live dates with the band. Us Grass Roots folks have been faithful and we all miss that experience greatly.

Kristopher Doe May 10, 2014, 22:35:53

I had the great fortune to see the band 7 times during Lowell’s era. Got to see Paul several times during their 10-year hiatus and was overjoyed when the came back together. For me, Paul’s playing has always been an integral part of the Feat’s sound, from when he joined the band to today. I agree with the comment above in that Paul is irreplaceable. I admire his candor in sharing his health issue and wish him the very best in regaining his health and hope that I will have the chance to see the full band at some point in the future. Godspeed, Paul.

Bill Long May 14, 2014, 20:25:31

First, Paul, do what ever it takes and take all the time you need to get yourself back to good health! Caught the acoustic duo in Rochester, NY on April Fool’s day…but the show was no joke! I’ve been missing seeing my favorite band so seeing the duo helped. Wish I could see Billy in Marlboro, NY this friday but I can’t. Really looking forward to the time when the whole band takes the stage together again! I also wanted to say that I’ve seen the band once with Lowell and many times since. The group was different with Lowell, Craig and Shaun. Each brought their own unique blend of abilities and helped shape the sound of the Band during their tenures. Substitutions can be made that preserve the overall feel of the Band but one-of-a-kind individuals are never really “replaced”. Seen ‘em twice with Gabe at the drums and he did a great job! I have loved every iteration of this band that I’ve been preveledged to see, through all the changes since I first became aware of them in 1976. I can’t imagine the Band without Billy’s piano or Paul’s guitar…but there was a time when I couldn’t imagine it without Lowell’s vocals and slide guitar either. I had the opportunity to see Clark Terry in concert on his 80th birthday. He had to be helped to his chair but when he started playing his flugelhorn it was amazing! His tone and technique are as strong as ever. If we all take care of ourselves then maybe God’ll smile on us as we support our favorite bunch of old dudes…and when the time is right those beloved old guys will feel up to coming out to play with us! See you there!

David Mosea May 22, 2014, 18:05:14

ihad the pleasure to meet Paul at the cluny Newcastle upon Tyne. he was such a modest nice guy and such a under rated guitarist knophler and clapton could not tie his shoe laces. feat would not be the same without him enjoy your rest Paul

David Moses May 22, 2014, 18:15:58

How little feat are still not in the rock and roll hall fame is a absolute disgrace even rooster rag the last album is a excellent collection of songs listen to candy man tackett and barrere are on fire

Doug Keeder June 6, 2014, 18:53:46

A good buddy turned me on to the feat in ’70, my sophomore year in high school…....seen them live so many times, from the Lowell days to Craig, then Shaun and Fred – it’s been one hell of a good time to be a fan…kinda funny how often I sing “old folks boogie” these days!

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