Little Feat

An Interview With Guitarist/Vocalist Paul Barrere

If the term "jam band" became a genre, Little Feat would be one of its defining groups.

Over the years, the band has played almost everywhere, with just about everybody and developed into one of the world's most dangerous jam bands.

"I think as musicians we've improved ten times over," said guitarist/vocalist Paul Barrere. "It's a fact of life that if you work at something you get better and if not you are doing the wrong thing."

The band now reacts like a family, he said, knowing its member's idiosyncrasies and has learned to live together. The band has grown personally and professionally, he said. Barrere's family members currently include Sam Clayton (percussion, vocals), Kenny Gradney (bass guitar), Richie Hayward (drums, vocals), Shaun Murphy (vocals, percussion), Bill Payne (keyboards, vocals) and Fred Tackett (guitars, trumpet).

Little Feat's latest release, "Kickin it at the Barn" (Hot Tomato Records, 2003), is a clear example of homegrown music from the hearts of its artists, rather than a formulated attempt to please record execs. Piloted by first class musicians on their own label, the CD travels through vast areas musically - displaying styles of music heard around the world.

The Southern California-based band has stayed true to itself since its early days in the 1970s. Since then, its members have continued to appear on a number of recordings from other artists: Rod Stewart, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy and the Doobie Brothers.

"We were kind of in this hub in the '70s, when Warner Brothers was pumping out great records," Barrere said. "We kind of played on everyone's record - it was cool."

Those side projects have paid dividends to the band's chops and fan base.

"It just broadens your horizons more," Barrere said. "When you play with your own band your doors of perception are wider."

Little Feat's live show - where it plays for all age groups beginning at 18 - is its main source of promotion, he said. The band has been known to conjure a magical moment or two on stage and is known for its ability to improvise.

Though it's tough to explain where those musical peaks come from, it sure is easy to tell when they are there.

"It's one of those things," Barrere said. "I don't know, it's almost spiritual - a gift from the gods."

When it comes to live music, fans want to be entertained musically, rather than hearing what they've already heard recorded, he said. The band draws its chops from a wide catalog of influences, both common and uncommon to the rest of the band, he said. Artists which Little Feat draws from collectively include Miles Davis, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Richard and Fats Domino. However, individual tastes also include classical music and obscure jazz.

"It's a big, broad palette to choose from," Barrere said.

Having an eclectic mix of tastes in turn has resulted in Little Feat's tendency to play many styles of music. But, it also has made it tough for record labels to figure out how to categorize them, he said.

The band takes all types of American music and adds the music in its members' worlds such as reggae and Latin, he said. Barrere is impressed by the band's ability to emulate a style of music after hearing it.

Little Feat also stands out for the band's ability to let its fans become involved. In January, Little Feat will head to Jamaica, where each year the band takes over a resort. Fans are given the chance to stay overnight to enjoy multiple shows.

"We have a couple of full-blown parties on the beach on Friday and Saturday night - it's nice," Barrere said.

The band has always been a crowd favorite on the East Coast. Fans in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have started a grass roots movement, creating posters to make others aware of Little Feat, Barrere said.

"They spread the word for us and it's a good thing," he said.

[ Website: ]

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.