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Martin Barre at Callahan's -- Five things to know about life after Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull is primarily known as frontman Ian Anderson's domain, but Martin Barre can lay claim to a share of the group's legacy.
As Tull's guitarist from 1969-2014, Barre's work on both electric and acoustic (ironically he started out playing flute, like Anderson) have been part of the band's sonic signature -- including his epic solo on the title track to "Aqualung." Younger players such as Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have all cited him as an influence.
Meanwhile, Barre, 69, has also been putting out his own albums since the early 90s, mostly focusing on acoustic playing. But with Tull's dissolution and last year's "Back To Steel" he's spending more time on electric guitar, and re-embracing the blues that he was playing at the beginning of his tenure with Tull. Here's a few things to know about where the Fez-wearing guitarist is laying his musical hat these days...
"Back To Steel" is indeed a return to form for Barre. "I think it was sort of realizing how far I'd strayed away from what I did for a living," he explains. "The fundamental nature of what I did got lost along the way, and I think after Jethro Tull finished came the rationalization that I just hadn't been playing enough guitar and working hard enough on my music and my arranging and my writing. I'd sort of just gotten into this lethargic state of nominally going through the motions of Jethro Tull in its last few years. So, yeah, I sort of saw (the album) as getting back to just picking up a guitar and playing -- a pretty basic requirement."
Besides guitar, Barre has also become more interested in writing music again. "Every time I pick up a guitar it's half practicing, half searching for something a bit new," he says. "I need to write more, and I really do love writing music. Any one day I go into the studio and just play; If something sounds like it could be the germ of an idea I put it on a little sort of tape recorder and carry on working on ideas. The next day I play them all back, and I work a bit more on the ones I think have something about them. If I don't write anything on a given day I'm still happy, 'cause I'm here playing, and if something comes out of it that's good."
Barre was disappointed in the way Jethro Tull limped to a finish in its waning years but took the end of the band as a challenge. "Ian got me and then Terry (Ellis, of Chrysalis Records) in a room on the last American tour and said, 'I'm finishing with Jethro Tull,' and we jsut looked at him and thought, 'Oh really? That's interesting'" Barre recalls. "I just thought, 'I'm going to get off my butt. I'm going to rise tot he challenge. I'm not finished with music by a long, long way,' and I was very determined to start again and start better. I realized how my guitar playing had become sort of stifled within Jethro Tull. So (breaking up) needed doing. But the way it was done was very, very wrong."
Barre is confident fans understand how valuable he was to Jethro Tull during his time in the band. "I'm very proud and very positive of what I've done," he says. "That's my heritage. That's a lot of me -- my playing, my ideas, my writing and arranging over all those years. I'm very respectful of it. those are great albums and great songs and great tours, and I won't ever turn my back on it. But also I'm not going to live off nostalgia. I'm always looking forward to what I want to do next."
He did, however, cover and refresh Jethro Tull's "Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day)" for "Back To Steel." "I'm always thinking about Tull songs that will work for my band on stage," Barre says. "I've done a very rocky version of 'Fat Man,' and I was talking to somebody and he said, 'You should have a look at 'Skating Away.' I said, 'Really?' and then I started humming it in my head, thinking of how you could look at it from a completely new angle. Then I picked up a guitar and thought of a few ideas, and it ended up on the album. It's not the same as the original; It's different, but it works really well and people seem to enjoy it."
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 21.
Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills.
Tickets are $45 and $50.
Call 248-858-9508 or visit atcallahans.com.
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