ROAD STO­RIES

Prog - - Limelight - Words: David West Pho­tos: Elayne Barre

Step­ping ever fur­ther out from the shadow of Jethro Tull, Martin Barre talks to Prog about the chal­lenges and re­wards of start­ing over from scratch, avoid­ing com­plex­ity for the sake of it, and why his life is

more mu­si­cally sat­is­fy­ing than ever be­fore.

It de­vel­oped like slow cook­ing,” says Martin Barre about his solo ca­reer. Af­ter more than 40 years play­ing gui­tar in Jethro Tull, Barre has steadily es­tab­lished his own dis­tinct mu­si­cal iden­tity with the Martin Barre Band, who re­turn with Barre’s sev­enth al­bum as leader on Roads Less Trav­elled.

Since the dis­so­lu­tion of Jethro Tull six years ago, the solo side of Barre's ca­reer has taken on a new im­por­tance now that it’s his bread and but­ter.

“I had mu­sic in me that wasn’t com­ing out in Jethro Tull,” Barre says. “I needed an out­let, but they were purely for fun. There was no need for them to have a world­wide re­lease or tour be­hind them, al­though I was very much be­hind them.

“For me, the bench­mark was Jethro Tull, so when I was writ­ing mu­sic and the odd song, in my mind it had to match up to that high level.” The early solo records ar­rived in fits and starts – there was a seven-year gap be­tween The Meet­ing and Stage Left – but since Away With Words in 2013, Barre has stayed im­pres­sively pro­duc­tive, re­leas­ing Or­der Of Play in 2014 and Back To Steel the fol­low­ing year, all lead­ing up to the new record. How­ever, it’s been a bat­tle.

“Jethro Tull fin­ished and I had to drag my­self out of the mess that was left and to re­ally start from

“Jethro Tull fin­ished and I had to drag my­self out of the mess that was left and to re­ally start

from ab­so­lute zero.”

ab­so­lute zero,” ex­plains Barre. “That was where it was dif­fi­cult to stay fo­cused, to know what I wanted to do and to be strong-minded, but it slowly, slowly gath­ered im­pe­tus and strength and now it’s won­der­ful. We’ve got great gigs ev­ery­where, I’m re­ally happy with the new CD and Back To Steel gave me a good foothold in my song­writ­ing as well. We played a lot of that al­bum live and it worked re­ally well, so I am re­ally on a spring­board at the mo­ment.”

As a writer, Barre says he’s not some­one who can grab half an hour in a ho­tel room to whip up a tune while on tour. In­stead, he needs a sit­u­a­tion with­out in­ter­rup­tions or in­tru­sions, so he set­tles down to com­pose in his home stu­dio.

“Every morn­ing I go into my stu­dio and write,” he says. “It’s so much fun, but I need that en­vi­ron­ment. I want no dis­trac­tions, I want a pot of cof­fee within arm’s reach and I just want to be in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

“When I’m writ­ing, it’s a very con­cen­trated process,” he ex­plains. “Every day I’m get­ting ideas for­mu­lated, re­vis­it­ing them and hope­fully fine-tun­ing them. I love writ­ing, so in some ways I could make more al­bums than I do and would en­joy it. Back To Steel was al­most three years ago and I can’t be­lieve it’s that long. In my mind it feels like a year be­cause things hap­pen so quickly around the Martin Barre Band.”

Start­ing his ca­reer from scratch in a post-Tull world, Barre had to prove that he could be a draw with­out the brand be­hind him. “I think it’s the same for any­body in a big band who goes out on their own. Peo­ple are slightly scep­ti­cal and cyn­i­cal about what you’d be like away from the main event and prob­a­bly think, ‘Well, is he just go­ing to go out with a bunch of his mates and play twelve-bar blues and get drunk?’” he says. “They’re not go­ing to take it for granted that you’re go­ing to fill a theatre full of peo­ple.

“You’ve got to work for that au­di­ence and be­cause Jethro Tull had the logo, it had such a catch­ment within the name, I re­ally had to start from zero on every front.”

How­ever, he be­lieves that the chal­lenge re­vi­talised him as a song­writer and player. “I was lethar­gic, very frus­trated mu­si­cally,” he says. “Sud­denly the floor opened up un­der­neath me and I had to come up with some­thing. I had to say, ‘What are you go­ing to do? Are you go­ing to sink or are you go­ing to swim?’ And I wanted to swim very badly so it gave me that strength, and the end prod­uct has made me a much hap­pier and, I hope, a much more mu­si­cal per­son.”

The last thing he wants is to be a Tull clone or to rely on that cache of mu­sic to at­tract peo­ple to the Martin Barre Band. “I don’t play Aqualung on­stage be­cause it’s a cheap way of get­ting the au­di­ence on your side,” he ex­plains. “I want to win them over with mu­sic where they go, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t think he’d play that one.’ I just want it to be on my terms. I think I know what works re­ally well for an au­di­ence be­cause I’ve been do­ing it for

BARRE IS BACK WITH NEW AL­BUM ROADS LESS TRAV­ELLED.

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