Decades ago, Paul Barrere wrote a song called “Old Folks’ Boogie.” It wasn’t, at the time, autobiographical, but it was prescient, perhaps. The musician will tell you he’s old, several times in a conversation, but not yet, at 68, too old to boogie. Barrere’s teamed up with Roger Cole once again, releasing a five-song EP: Lost in the Sound, Vol. 1. He’s also still playing somewhere in this country a few times a month as part of Paul and Fred, with his Little Feat bandmate, Fred Tackett. And, yes, still making his way to Jamaica every winter for fun in the sun with the Feat and their fans. All of this, despite the daily challenge of his self-disclosed health issues, and, well, getting older. Barrere took time out on a recent Tuesday morning in Southern California to talk about his health, his partnerships with Cole, Tackett, and Feat, and his life on and off the road.
You have been generously candid with the public regarding your health issues. Can you give us an update?
I seem to be doing pretty well. The reason that I did come forward and bring it to the public’s eye is because the whole thing started with the Hepatitis C virus. It’s something that people, especially in my age group, should all be checked for. It’s a horrible virus that can cause cancer, which is what happened to me. I was cured of the Hep C and then they found a tumor. They treated the tumor with this new treatment called Y90, where they inject it right into the tumor, into the liver. So far, it seems to have arrested it. It’s been a year-and-a-half with no growth, no mastication, and no signs of the cancer moving anywhere else. My only drawback is fatigue. But then again, I’m old.
Tell me why when you work on your solo material, you do so with Roger Cole, and not, say, Fred Tackett, for instance?
First and foremost, they are not solo records. They are Paul Barrere and Roger Cole records. When we started doing this, when Riding the Nova Train came out, it was a collaboration. I said to Roger, it shouldn’t be a Paul Barrere solo thing. It should be the two of us. For me, it was an opportunity to do something completely different from Little Feat. When you talk about Paul and Fred, everyone relates it to Little Feat. I wanted another avenue to express myself. That’s why I like doing this stuff with Roger. We come at it from a whole different perspective. I also get to be a little freer in my guitar playing. I don’t have the constrictions of fitting in with a whole band. We’re much more finite in our arrangements.
Can you elaborate on that whole different perspective?
I don’t want to say pop, because we’re still very eclectic. If you listen to the EP, there is a song like “You’re Annoying,” which is a country send-up, to “Political Freak Show,” to “Lost in the Sound,” which is very epic. Or, something more simple, like “Grain of Sand.” It enables us to have more control over the situation than what Little Feat would produce. I really enjoy it. I like the recording process. I like the time we spend fine-tuning lyrics, arrangements. There’s no real pressing need to have things done. It’s an easy and comfortable way to create music.
The EP seems to be divided almost exactly evenly between songs that you take the lead vocal and songs when Roger does, including splitting one. Is this balance intentional or just the way things shook out?
It’s more intentional than anything else. With the two styles so diverse, the nice thing about being involved with Roger’s music is that it taught me a lot. I’m hoping that is reciprocal when we do something that is more in my vein. The hardest thing is getting people to pick up on it and not just want to have a Little Feat record from me. So many fans expect it to be a Little Feat record, and it’s never going to be a Little Feat record. If I wanted to do a Little Feat record, I’d record with Little Feat.
When Roger brings a song to you, do you try and meet in the middle between your respective styles, join him on his side, or stay on your side and add that flavor?
What I try and do is start from his point of view and then bring in some of my style points, and see if it works. We’re from two different generations. To combine them into one form of music is not only interesting, but thought-provoking. So far, I think we’ve done a really good job.
This is a digital release. How can people get the EP?
If they go to betterdaze.com, under the music heading, in the store, you can download the record and all its artwork in two different formats: mp3 or 44.1, which is CD-quality. That’s how we’re going to see this one, as opposed to pressing CDs and having the cost of shipping. We tried that with the first two records, and business-wise, it’s kind of a downward spiral, unless you’re Adele. I watch my kids, and they barely ever buy a new record. They’ll buy old music (on vinyl or CD). Any new music, they just download. [It’s also available on Amazon and iTunes.]
Has work started on Volume Two?
We’ve just started knocking around a few songs.