“It was a development; I know what you’re asking but there’s no answer,” says legendary guitarist Martin Barre as he discussed 50 years of Jethro Tull, his time spent with group and their success. “I never had a eureka moment, the band never had something happen that changed our lives overnight. We just worked really, really hard every week of every month of every year for a long, long time and it developed a career. We had good albums, we had albums that weren’t so strong but it was always the touring that was really good, we were always known to be a live act, a live band and it just grew. It was a really slow development like being on the back burner of a cooker, the flavor is rich and intense but it’s well seasoned. It wasn’t a flash in the pan and I quite like that, so there were no gigs where I could say wow that really changed my life and I enjoyed everything. I loved the tiny clubs, the huge festivals; live music can be really varied and it brings the same sort of joy in whatever format it is but I just like the history because it was never crazy. We never had a year where we were flying around in private jets and staying in five star penthouse hotel suites; we never did it. We were comfortable, we were successful but it was always the music came first and the work came first. We worked hard and I think that brings a different reward.”
“A different reward” is proof positive in the success of Barre alone as well as the current “Barre-less” version of his old group; also out on the road celebrating five decades of some of the most memorable rock music ever created and still led by front man Ian Anderson.
The hard work seems to come as pleasure to him and the always gracious Barre often reflects on the band which helped him rise to prominence and the current tribute to such a large portion of his career; even years after a well-publicized split.
“In retrospect it wasn’t an un-amicable split; is that a word? he said with a laugh. “It was just badly handled and sort of left a scar. Everybody is different and how I handle my band, how you handle your job, how some CEO handles his company; everybody’s different. Even though you know the person well; it was a PR exercise if you’d like that was just badly managed when it could’ve been a lot easier and a lot softer. I have no problem with the history of me and Ian or any of the guys who have been in Tull; I endorse the product and have been for the last seven years. I’m keeping Tull’s music alive and as a self- promotion I tell people they have a choice but if you want to see the most “Tull” band that you can in 2019 it’s going to be my band because we’ve got three members of Tull. We do a really strong cross section of music, all in the original keys, very strong, very dynamic and it’s a really strong showing. We’ve picked out the best pieces of music and we’re going to play them really, really well. That’s what I do, what other people do I don’t know and I guess it doesn’t really matter because we’re all out there playing music and making a living and trying to make the best music we can and give the audiences the best show that we can give them; there’s room for everybody. I have no issue with anyone, I have to be very careful with the wording and that suits me. I do say it’s, “Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre” and it’s not Martin Barre’s Jethro Tull and the difference is, in the latter version I’m saying I’m Jethro Tull and I’m not and never will be. I just tell people that really there isn’t a Jethro Tull because certainly in my mind and maybe in Ian’s mind the only true version of Jethro Tull would have the two of us in it. If that will ever happen I don’t know but I’ve got a great band who play the music really, really well and I would never turn my back on what I’ve built up over the last seven years. I’ve got a great bunch of guy and my job is to feed them (laughs) musically and financially and I enjoy doing it and I don’t want anything to change for me at all.”
The “Martin Barre Celebrates 50 Years of Jethro Tull Tour” kicks off in the U.S on April 12 in Hudson, NY and has scheduled stops in NYC at the famed Iridium, two stops in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania and Barre promises each one will be different.
“The first show is the twelfth of April; we will have literally four days of rehearsal and then we go to New York. It’s completely different from the Martin Barre Band shows as there will be none of my music involved in it at all. It’s more like a theatrical production in that it adheres to a very strict format of the music right through Tull’s career. There’s video backdrops, voice overs and an eight piece band that includes Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer, I’ve got two girl singers; it’s a big production, very different and completely different from normal. We’ve got two drummers, keyboards, my band and the girl singers and the girls will do some of the acoustic songs from Tull; I’ve recorded a double CD which is only available at the gigs and one of the CDs is them singing some re-recorded acoustic songs from Tull and it brings something extra and something different to the table and they’ve got amazing voices.”
When asked why he chose to go this route with his current tour instead of doing perhaps one dedicated set of Tull to pay homage to his past; he responded with a hearty laugh, “I don’t remember;” he then elaborated on the thought process behind this tour.
“It’s a progression because we’re getting into the theaters and I want to get a step up from the bigger clubs and some of the gigs that I’ve been doing. I just want to up my game and I think this will be a nice way of doing it. It’s a bigger show, a bigger audience and then we’ll come back next year and sort of re-think what we’ll do. I’ll probably do this Tull show on the west coast and then do a version of it ongoing but it’s just another project. We’ve played a lot in The States, I believe the last tour was number seven and we’ve been to the east coast a lot but without the same show at all, with very different music from the solo albums, “Roads Less Travelled” and “Back to Steel” so we’ve changed the music. I just felt that to come back to the east side of America again that we needed something really off the wall, something that people would make a really special effort to come and see.”
Now that the decision was made to go the extra mile to draw fan’s attention to the tour; with a catalog as vast as Tull’s how does one choose the material to perform?
“I’m just picking the hits. I could play a three or four hour set but most promoters don’t want more than two and one half hours. So it’s difficult; we’re doing a segment from “Thick As A Brick” a segment from“Passion Play” most of “Heavy Horses” half of, “Songs From The Wood” but nothing suffers because of it. It’s concise and I hope slick, very musical and I hope people will enjoy it. I don’t want to be tied down by constraints like that, I just want a show that works really well and I think I’ve got it; as I said earlier I don’t want to come back with the same format and I won’t. I always change the music as much as I possibly can; it’s almost side project of what we do and I hope it grows and it might sit side by side with the Martin Barre Band tours.”
Most bands these days have issues getting to a tenth anniversary let alone a fiftieth, Barre’s celebration of his past will no doubt be a top notch presentation of his and Tull’s storied career; so what does he do in year number 51 and beyond?
“I’ve got it in mind to come back and do just an acoustic tour; occasionally we do an acoustic show and they work really, really well. They’re a lot of work because it’s a whole set of music; one night we’re electric with a set we know and then the next night we’re acoustic with a completely new set and it really is hard work to do both but it’s rewarding and the people love it. I’d like to do a dedicated tour of acoustic shows; maybe next year because I think all of those things work musically and they’re fun and really worth doing. I don’t like the idea that it’s a normal show played on acoustic guitar because that’s a different beast, it’s not “Unplugged,” it’s different music, completely different and that’s where we’re maybe different from other bands because certainly I’m not interested in playing the same set with no drums or a cajon and everybody strumming on guitar. I’m not taking anything away from bands that do that because I’m sure that they do it really well, it’s just not my cup of tea. Again, this would be a new project and essentially if I had three nights in one theater I could do all three shows and they’d be completely different.”
April 15 and 25 the tour stops at New York’s famed Iridium along with April 16 at the Levoy Theater in Millville, NJ, then off to some dates in New England before returning to Sellersville Theater on April 21 along with an appearance at The Newton Theater on April 27. Fret not as Martin returns to Parkers Press Park in Woodbridge, NJ on June 19, the New Hope Winery in New Hope, PA on June 20 and a final area appearance at William Morrow Beach in Somers Point, NJ with the Martin Barre Band doing their usual selection of his solo material and just enough Jethro Tull in the mix to keep it flowing along nicely. To purchase tickets or discover more about Martin Barre’s multiple projects, please visit www.martinbarre.com.