Martin Barre Interview,
Celebrating 50 Years Of Jethro Tull With
Two Shows At
The Kent Stage
Long-time Jethro Tull guitarist, Martin Barre is celebrating 50 years of Tull music this year. He will be bringing that celebration to The Kent Stage for two show on May 14th and 15th. He will also be bringing original Tull drummer Clive Bunker and long time arranger and keyboardist Dee Palmer along with him.
We recently chatted with Martin to discuss his career and his upcoming appearance in Kent.
Martin Barre: Hello Greg!
Greg Drugan: Hi Martin. How has the tour been going so far?
MB: The reaction is absolutely amazing. We’ve gotten comments on Facebook saying that this is the best Jethro Tull show they’ve ever seen. Let alone in the last few years, so that is a fabulous comment. It makes me very happy because there was a huge risk and a huge experiment. The show feels great to play and the audience reaction has been absolutely incredible!
GD: That’s great! We are looking forward to your shows in Kent. So you are out celebrating 50 years of Jethro Tull, does it seem like it’s been that long?
MB: I guess it does. I never dwell on the longevity because I’m living in the moment. I'm playing better than I’ve ever played, I’m enjoying it more. I’ve got a lot more control over what we play and the arranging. I love all of those aspects of music. I quite like being the person being in charge of the music and choosing the program and arrangements. If I’m qualified at doing anything, that’s the job I’m most qualified at doing.
GD: You have some special guests on this tour, Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer. How did you get these former Tull members to join you?
MB: There’s not really been a Jethro Tull for at least ten years because me and Ian (Anderson) went our separate ways. If we are going to go out and do something that’s really encompassing Jethro Tull’s career, it's got to be authentic. It’s got to be something special for the fans. It can’t be just another rehashed tour doing the best hits.
Clive was the first person to come to mind because he came to America in ‘69 with the original band. He did the most important albums of their career. Then Dee Palmer because he had written so many of the string parts and played keyboard on Heavy Horses and Songs From The Wood which were very, very important to Jethro Tull’s career. Excuse me for being big-headed, but I believe we’ve got the three main ingredients in Jethro Tull. Ian’s not there. I was going to play flute on the tour but then I thought, you’ve got to make it a big deal or you don’t to it at all. It worked so much better not doing it. Me and Dan and Dee cover all of the flute parts and the flute lines work great on guitar and in some cases, more powerful.
GD: I read that the flute was one of your first instruments that you learned to play, do you still play it today?
MB: Yeah, I’ve played since I was sixteen. I haven’t played it consistently to be a very good player, but I can pick it up and play reasonably well. When I was playing it in rehearsals, I thought it was coming too close to becoming a tribute band. I needed to be removed from that completely. I still play but I tend to avoid it when I’m playing Jethro Tull.
GD: Why did you switch to the guitar?
MB: I already played guitar and my dad gave me all of these jazz records because he was a big jazz fan. I never really liked the guitar players but I really liked the flute players. I thought the flute sounded beautiful so that’s why I took up flute. I played saxophone for a few years just to make a living in music but the guitar has always been mainstream for me. But I always loved the flute. Then I met Ian because we played a similar style and we had a lot in common. That’s how we met up because we were the two U.K. flute players who played blues flute.
GD: That’s awesome. Who were some of the first artists that you’ve played with?
MB: Blood Sweat and Tears when we played at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East. It was our first show in America. They were awesome, I was in awe of them. Such a big sound. We played with Zappa, we played with Jeff Beck, Chicago, Paul Butterfield, Hendrix. Every band I saw was fabulous. I just loved being exposed to the music and the musicians and the theater of rock music.
GD: Tull really started to have success with the album Aqualung, did you know that it was going to be a hit when you recorded it?
MB: No, actually it was the opposite. We had a lot of difficulty recording it. We had problems in the studio technically. We had problems recording it. It wasn’t a particularly good vibe in the studio. Out of all that tension and stress, the songs were great and we played our hearts out. We were so intensely involved with trying to make that record work that a lot more came out than if it had been a really easy album to make.
GD: Your solo on “Aqualung” has been named one of the best solos of all time, do you have a favorite solo that you’ve done and do you particularly like that one?
MB: No, not really. It’s probably not one of my favorites to play. I’ve got no reason. I’ve got great respect for it and I’m very proud to be recognized for that guitar solo. It’s more of a segment of the piece of pie and there’s a lot more to me than that. It’s not a big deal for me and I don’t shove it down people’s throats. It’s just part of the show and we do it chronological so “Aqualung” comes quite early in the set and I quite like it being there. It’s not like we’re saying this is our big finally and look at me, I’m amazing, look at my big famous solo. I want people to enjoy every little bit of what we do and the girls do.
GD: You have toured all over the world throughout your career, do you have a favorite country to perform?
MB: I guess it’s America because I love America. I just feel comfortable here. My wife’s American and my son is here. I’ve just spent so much of my life here. I love being in Europe, I love being in Australia, I love living in the U.K. I am a nomadic person and I adapt to wherever I am. Jethro Tull owes everything to what we are, and what we have been to America. America made us. This is where I come to play. This is my first call to a region to come to play in. I have great, great respect for it. If you want to work hard, you are more than likely to see the rewards of your labor here than if you do in the U.K. or wherever. It’s a place to work hard and enjoy your work and see the benefit.
GD: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have finally been inducting some British bands with the inclusion of Yes, The Moody Blues and The Zombies. Jethro Tull is long overdue, would you attend the ceremony if you got the call?
MB: I’m not sure. I don’t know how they would see Jethro Tull as an entity. Would it be the original band, or would it be the original band that came to America which would include me? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be a guest, let’s put it that way. I would be very honored if they recognized me as a part of that accolade, if there ever was one. I know the people at the museum and they are very, very nice. It’s a wonderful place. They took me on a tour a couple of years ago and we didn’t talk about anything but music. Which is the way it should be. When they’re ready, I’m ready. We’ll see what happens.
GD: If Jethro Tull gets in, you have to be included. I think you’ve played on every album but one. You are very influential for sure.
MB: Well, we’ll see.
GD: You will be performing two nights at the Kent Stage in May. What can fans expect from the show?
MB: It’s exciting. It’s almost three hours long with a lot of music. We play the best songs that Tull ever did. There’s a huge range of music from the acoustic section that we do. The audience loves it and the girls sing “Life’s A Long Song” and “Cheap Day Return” and they sing them beautifully. We’ve got a lot of light and shade. People are saying this is the best Jethro Tull show they’ve ever seen and that’s going back to 1969. That makes me feel really, really good.
GD: Martin, it really does sound like a great show. Best wishes to you on this tour, safe travels and I look forward to seeing you in Kent!
MB: Thank you so much, Greg! Cheers, take care.
Be sure to catch Martin Barre as he celebrates 50 years of Jethro Tull at The Kent Stage on May 14th and 15th. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased here.