Little Feat has always been known as a “musician’s band.” And the seminal live album, Waiting For Columbus, which came out in the late ‘70s, is still considered one of the great live albums in the history of rock.
Surviving the passing of founding member and visionary Lowell George, the group has gone through a few line-up changes, but the core remains intact. As does the musical integrity of the band, and the desire to go where the music takes them, encompassing a wide variety of genres yet still retaining that signature Little Feat sound.
They will be coming to New York for three shows at the City Winery Jan. 2, 3 and 4. I spoke with long-time guitarist Paul Barrere about the upcoming shows, the history of the band, and what’s in store for the future.
Are you looking forward to coming to New York to play?
The last time we were in New York we got snowed in. Nothing like being in New York City for a snowstorm! We always do a New York show; we seem to do better on the East Coast than the West Coast. We’ll do D.C., Baltimore. We get a nice, big, fat New Year’s Eve gig, and then try and book around it, and do 10 shows or something like that. The City Winery offered three nights. It’s very unusual. We don’t have to pack a bag, so we jumped on that. Then we’ll jump on a bus for a few days, and then go to Jamaica.
How did you first come to join Little Feat back in the early ‘70s?
I’d known Lowell from when he was in high school with my older brothers. He’d seen me play with my garage band. I saw him play with the Mothers Of Invention. In the crazy days of the mid ‘60s, he found this band I was in called Led Enema. We wanted to have a record called Hot Shit From The Led Enema. He thought it was amusing. We had this hard driving music with Captain Beefheart-type lyrics. He asked me to start the band with him as bass player, at which I failed miserably. But I said, if you ever needed a guitar player, give me a call. He treated me like a kid brother for the first five years.
How do you feel the band has progressed over the years?
When I joined, Lowell said there’s only one rule in this band, and that’s there’s no rules. We can attack any genre, at any time. The band was kind of known for that, for going from a country song like “Willin’” to “Tripe Face Boogie.” I think the band has evolved over these 40-some years. The craftsmanship has always been so good; it’s amazing how we’ve managed to grow together. Having played together for so many years there’s a feeling of comfort. You can take it anywhere you want and the band will be right there supporting you.
Are there any particular highlights that stand out over the years?
Oh god, there’s a zillion of them! There’s playing with the Stones, doing the tour with The Who, the Warner Bros. Music shows with six acts that traveled through Europe, shows with the Grateful Dead, especially the one at Giants Stadium. At this many years there’s so many it would be hard to isolate just a few.
Any songs that are particular favorites of yours to play?
I have a standard answer for that. If you say one’s your favorite, the others are going to attack you, so you can’t say! I’ve been playing “Willin’” and “Dixie Chicken” for all these years, “Fat Man In The Bathtub,” “All That You Dream.” The songs that we’ve recorded that we don’t play live are more or less not our favorites. All the favorites get put into the rotation, and the rotation is pretty large.
What songs do you find get the best audience reaction?
Out of the three or four that I mentioned, they always seem to get the best response. They love hearing “Let It Roll.” The fortunate thing about it is we keep creating new songs and new music. We’ve been in the studio recording another record, and they’ll probably be a few new songs we’ll do in New York. Our fans come to multiple shows when we tour, so they might get a little tired of hearing “Dixie Chicken,” but then the people who don’t follow us around want to hear it.
Do you have any more solo projects in the works?
I do have one. I’ve actually been working on one for the last three or four years. I’ve got seven songs completed and in the works. I’ve got three more I’m gonna do. I’m gonna try and get that out. I last released a solo record in 1982, so it’s 30 yrs. It will be kind of different than Little Feat. It’s all guitar oriented. A little crazier, louder. It has a little more of an edgier quality. And I’ll vibe some acoustic stuff.
Are there any new bands out today that you like?
Well, I’m a big fan of my friend Pete Griffin’s band. They do acoustic fusion stuff. They’re called Gryphon Labs. Michael Mcgoldrick, an English Celtic band. There’s a band called Show Of Hands, a three-piece acoustic band—mandolin, violin and a female upright bass. As far as younger bands, I love the fact that there’s a lot of original music going on in the jam band genre.
And then I’ve got a son who’s big into that drum and bass thing. He’s turned me onto the hip-hop bands. Unfortunately one of them doesn’t play together any more, the Pharcyde. I like the humorous side rather than the gangsta rap. A little edgier stuff than you hear in pop music. But it’s funny how rappers became pop music.
Little Feat will perform at City Winery Jan. 2, 3 and 4, and at Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, PA, on Jan. 6. For further information about Little Feat, go to littlefeat.net.