Walking around the outdoor venue at the 19th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival in beautiful Telluride, Colorado is like stepping through an outdoor oasis. With picturesque mountains hugging you from all sides and crisp mountain air filling your lungs, it’s a perfect setting for concert. Especially one sponsored by Sierra Nevada and featuring some of the greatest blues/funk/rock acts.
Headliners included the B-52′s, Gov’t Mule, and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. Also taking stage during the 3-Day festival were acts like, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, The Lee Boys, Little Hurricane, Pickwick and Tab Benoit.
With a new album entitled, Rooster Rag, legendary rockers, Little Feat, performed on Day 1. I had the chance to sit down with guitarist, singer and songwriter of that band, Paul Barrere.
Scott Grady: How many times have you played the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival?
Paul Barrere: I wanna say it’s our 3rd time. I know we played the Bluegrass Festival once.
SG: Is that a bigger scene (Telluride Bluegrass Festival)?
PB: That was back in 1988…
SG: How do define the music of Little Feat?
PB: I call it American music. Because we do incorporate jazz and blues and rock & roll and country. All of the music forms that started in America.
SG: Describe the writing process and how the songs came together for the new album, Rooster Rag.
PB: It started out as a blues record, so there were some covers involved. Only 2 of those made it to the record, “Candyman Blues” and “Mellow Down Easy.” During the course of performing some of the songs that we recorded in the first go around which was February 2011, some of the other songs started to take more shape and become less bluesy and more Little Feat like. We decided to start bringing in other songs. Billy got hooked up with Robert Hunter and he wrote 4 songs with him. I had written a couple songs with Stephen Bruton, we used one of those. Then Fred had 3 songs that he had done on a solo project. And, so, the next thing I knew, it was a full blown album.
SG: So you bring in your own songs?
PB: Sometimes we’ll sit and write songs together, like the last album (Join the Band, 2008).
SG: Do you ever write on the road?
PB: I write lyrics. Or, sometimes I’ll record a riff on my iPhone.
SG: For a group entering its 5th decade, is it challenging to keep progressing as a band without losing some of your audience?
PB: It hasn’t been for us, because we’ve never been au c0urant. We’ve never been the music of the day. We’ve always been Little Feat. When we put the band back together in ’87 to do, Let It Roll, it was with the premise that we wouldn’t lose the feel of Little Feat. Once we recorded that record, I took, “Hate to Lose Your Love” and “Dixie Chicken” and played them back to back. You can’t tell which time period either one of those is from. So, it’s been relatively easy, it’s just the way we are. We’re kinda timeless. Our own little time warp.
SG: What do you think of younger fans coming to shows and listening to your music?
PB: I love it. I think alot of it had to do with Phish covering, “Waiting for Columbus” a couple years back on Halloween. We were gradually getting younger and younger audiences. It’s funny because when we would do autograph signings, here comes this young person saying, “You were my daddy’s favorite band, and now you’re my favorite band.” It’s like, hey, great! How is it being raised by hippies.
SG: I wanna hear about the gear and guitars you use.
PB: I’m a Stratocaster man. I have an old ’56 Vibralux that I use for recording, also have a Deluxe that I use alot. On stage I use a Rivera. Tonight I’m actually going to try out this new amp called a Cat 5. And an assortment of pedals that are always changing and morphing. Everything from harmonizers to delays and compressors. I use a lot of compressors with the slide. I gotta couple pieces of gear that were made especially for me. It’s a called a slide rig. Which is a dual compressor, based on the old Urei 1176′s. It’s kinda cool, cause that’s how we used to get that real sustained kinda crystalline sound was using 2 two Urei 1176′s, one pushing and one pulling.
SG: Who are some of your early influences?
PB: Well, Mississippi John Hurt was one of the first slide players I heard. I gotta give kudos to him. I was glad I got to cover Candyman Blues finally. It went from there to listening to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson of course. Then I got more into the electric stuff with B.B. King and Albert King, Albert in particular. Then Jimi Hendrix came along and blew the top of my head off. There was some jazz cats to. There was Grant Green, there was Gabor Szabo, Herb Ellis even. I’m a fean for a good guitar player.
It’s funny, because alot of people go, your better than him, or he’s better than them. I go, guys, it ain’t a competition. It’s all about getting yourself off and getting the people off.
SG: Great point. As a young guitar player, you sometimes get in a competitive mode.
PB: Yeah. I think a lot of it went to the whole thing, how fast can you play. How many notes can you squeeze into a phrase. I’ve heard B.B. King get more emotion out of one note for 8 bars.
SG: I can personally attest to that. The first time I heard B.B. King play, when he walked out on stage and played that first note. It was like…
PB: It’s Magic! The hair stands on the back of your neck.
SG: Are the any new artists that you listen to or are influenced by?
PB: I like Anders (Osborne) alot, we’ve become pretty good friends. I wrote a couple songs with him on his new record. John Mooney is a great slide player. Sonny Landreth never ceases to amaze me. You know, there’s so many. I love Warren (Haynes). Derek is phenomenal. They just keep coming. Everytime you think you heard something, somebody else comes along and just blows your mind.
The thing is, just keep your ears open.
SG: I like it.
So that’s what I did. I kept my ears open throughout the rest of the festival and heard some of the greatest sounds echoing off of the majestic Rocky Mountains. If you have never experienced the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, may I suggest booking your trip for next year.
Don’t forget to have a beer for me.