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Published: 2016/12/23
by Larson Sutton

Paul Barrere: Still Lost in the Sound

Have you given thought to forming a band with Roger to perform this music live, or are you content with it being a studio endeavor?

I’m satisfied in that aspect. The thought of actually putting together a band, rehearsing, and trying to crack into live performing to where you are going to be financially comfortable is kind of overwhelming for me. The last thing I want to do is get in a van which is probably what would happen. Clubs, and so forth, to me would be a step backwards from a performing angle. We did one performance together, but both of us have health issues that don’t enable us to really get out there and do it; me, with my liver, and he’s got a broken back. We also have different approaches. He likes to do music as it is recorded, where I like to improvise a lot. I’ve never been one to copy myself from night to night.

Just an aside of astonishment: Roger is playing drums with a broken back?

Yes. I am amazed at the things he can do.

Was it always the plan to do a five-song EP, or were you anxious to put these five out collectively rather than as singles or a full album?

We’ve always had it planned that we would do a Volume One and a Volume Two EP, basically based around the hope that Roger would be granted another surgical procedure. So, that’s why we got the first five tunes together and put them out as an EP. Marketing music these days is just an overwhelming task. You have to be constantly on social media pushing the stuff. And, it just doesn’t translate to sales a whole lot. We get lots and lots of streams, but it doesn’t pay a whole lot. It’s a crazy business to say the least. Frustrating. But, the joy really is in the creation of the music. If I wasn’t having a good time doing it, I wouldn’t, at this point. Like, I said, I’m old. (Laughs)

Music, especially in a digital format, seems, unfortunately, to be devalued now more than ever. Why is that?

It’s not just music. It’s the progression of humanity at this point. We’ve become a throwaway-based economy: You get something. You use it. You toss it. I think movies is another similar industry. Books, definitely.

Is it reversible?

That’s an interesting concept. It’s a sad state of affairs to think about. I’m not Debbie Downer. It’s just how things have grown, or their lack of growth. We live in a strange, pre-dystopian situation, where if change doesn’t happen, it will keep getting worse and worse. I would love to see giant changes all around the planet.

Is the role of an artist to reflect and offer alternatives or to distract?

It’s a little bit of both. There should be things that are distracting so that a person can have a good time. I think there is still a way to combine that with a good message. The message doesn’t have to be dogma, but just points something out for people to think about, to have a conversation. There are fewer and fewer real conversations these days. People yell at each other; they seem to be really good at that.

It seems like art used to direct the medium; longer songs encouraging the advent of the LP, for instance. Now the medium is directing the art; a positive with social media and digital independence is that it allows artists to connect more directly with their fans.

Absolutely. That’s another part of Better Daze; to have that freedom. We’re not telling anybody how to think. We’re just pointing things out. I think that’s something artists should do.

And, like the ethos of the ‘60s generation in which you grew up, not just with music, but as influential citizens, too.

I was talking with Jackson Browne the other day, talking songs and stuff, since we’re going down to Jamaica (for Little Feat shows). He said he’s been playing a lot, but that he has all these side projects for all these wonderful charities. He said it takes up a lot of his time, and I said, I applaud you for your devotion. If I was healthier, I’d get more involved.

Is performing becoming more difficult or does it provide some relief?

Being onstage is always fun. I thoroughly enjoy the interaction between musicians. Fred and I have a sort of sixth sense between us when we perform. We can basically almost read each other’s minds, and take songs that we do into different places from night to night. I’ve been trying to keep those (shows) down to working a weekend a month. So, you’re not on that constant jag of being on the road. That’s the thing that beats me up more than performing; the travel, the lack of sleep, getting on and off buses, in and out of hotel rooms. That kind of got old. But, I still like performing.

When you’re off the road for a long period of time, do you start to miss it more, or less?

I think I missed it less. But, there are certain situations that I really enjoy doing. The Dead Feat shows with Anders Osborne in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. It’s a jam fest. Who wouldn’t want to be involved with that? Things like that are exciting and great to do, and in a fun town.

How much longer do you want to do this?

I keep cutting back on my schedule. Mainly because, at 68, I’m comfortable financially, shall we say. I like relaxing. These past couple years being home so much has been wonderful. My kids say, “It’s unbelievable having you around so much. When are you leaving? “ (Laughs) I’ll continue doing it as long as I feel up to it. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Every day is a blessing.

Speaking of Anders, Little Feat now seems to be embraced by not one, but two, maybe even three generations of musicians. You joke of being old, but that admiration is a positive that comes with age. How does it make you feel?

I think it’s a testament to the music we made. To me, it’s total flattery.

Can you give me a state-of-the-band Little Feat update?

It’s like, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Little Feat, for years and years, kept beating the same bushes. We noticed our guarantees were going down. It just wasn’t a solid business plan. Nowadays, when we go to Jamaica and doing four dates in the Northeast in the fall- people actually want to come see you, and in bigger venues. It works out as a better situation. There’s talk of doing more than just the one fall run but, so far, nothing has come of it. Little Feat is always on the back burner. If it happens, it happens.

The back burner is still lit?

Oh, yeah. I try never to burn bridges or put flames out.

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