The Former Tull guitarist tours his new album – but don't expect Ian Anderson to make a guest appearance.
For more than 40 years Martin Barre was Jethro Tull’s guitar player. Leader Ian Anderson called time on the band in
2012, and when he re-formed it last year Barre was no longer in the line-up.
The guitarist, now 71, immersed himself in the Martin Barre Band, releasing four records in this decade alone. Whereas previously he’s drawn on the Tull catalogue and instrumental music, his new album, Roads Less Travelled, spans rock, blues and prog, with a dash of jazz.
You’ve kept the albums coming lately, the new one’s strong, and your and your band are about to embark on a big US tour. You clearly have fresh wind in your sails. Yes. I’m learning how to be a songwriter and it’s really exciting. As a guitarist I suppose I’m old and set in my ways, but when it comes to songwriting I feel like I’m a beginner discovering the joys of it.
You must have picked up a few songwriting tips from Ian?
But he wouldn’t let you into the world of lyrics or melody. It’s been a learning curve, and it’s taken nine months, but this is now a hundred per cent my own material. I’ve got so much out of it.
Roads Less Travelled sounds like a band album, rather than a vehicle for a ‘star guitarist’.
Yeah, I’m not interested in that. I’d rather win an award for a song than for my guitar playing. It’ll never happen, but that’d be lovely.
Seattle is a stand-out track on the new album. Were you a grunge fan?
It’s really about my own experiences of Seattle, going back to Hendrix, but grunge is my son’s music, we’re very close and we connected listening to Seattle bands. For me it was the first ‘modern’ music that had any substance.
Next year you’re doing a Tull fiftiethAnniversary tour with former members Clive Bunker and Jonathan Noyce, while Ian is doing his own tour to mark the occasion. Most Tull fans will find that such a shame.
It’s stupid, but Ian’s decided that’s what he wants to do. It’s sad because there was an opportunity to take the music into a whole different era and it’s lost now, it’ll never happen. Musically there was a lot to be done and we could be doing these fantastic tours. But Ian never really wanted to experiment. I’d suggest that we take some girl singers or a brass section on the road, something to make it special – and we were in a position to do it – but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to change or evolve. When you stop evolving you stop being a true musician.
“I’d rather win an award for a song than for my
The flip-side is that it’s given you time to commit to your own band.
That’s the great thing. I started from zero, I had no contacts with promoters or record labels…
But your name carries a lot of weight in these circles, surely?
It opens the door in from the street, but you’ve got a lot more doors to go through. And it can be detrimental, being a name from a long time ago, perhaps perceived as past his sell-by date. You have a lot to prove even though you’ve got a lot of history. But I’m very stubborn and determined and have a lot of energy to get back out there, and that’s what I’m doing. GM