‘Roads Less Travelled’ brings former Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre to the Bing
Guitarist Martin Barre can’t remember the last time he was bored.
Barre, who spent more than 40 years in Jethro Tull, likes to spend time with his wife and children and go for walks or runs.
He likes to sail and snowboard, though he also likes tennis and table tennis.
He also loves watching movies. He recently saw “The Favourite” and praised the costumes, locations and Olivia Colman’s performance.
“There’s a lot of things I like doing in life, which have nothing to do with music, but for me they’re very, very important,” Barre said from his home in England.
Even still, he’s unable to partake in these hobbies as often as he would like. As it turns out, being a legendary guitarist is quite time-consuming.
The latest addition to Barre’s extensive discography is “Roads Less Travelled,” which was released in November and brings the Martin Barre Band to the Bing Crosby Theater on Friday.
This time around, Barre wanted to pay special attention to his songwriting and arranging. Writing music comes naturally to Barre, but he still considers himself a beginning lyricist.
He doesn’t want to, in his words, throw out “I love you, you love me” lyrics and then repeat the chorus 20 times.
“I think the lyrics have to stand up to the same standards as the music, so I spend a lot of time,” he said. “It’s never going to be what I want, but I guess it’s as close as I can get.”
Barre recorded a majority of the album at his home with engineer James Bragg, though Barre said the days didn’t feel that long. When it was time to record drums, Barre and Bragg headed into a local studio.
“I don’t use expensive high-tech studios at all,” Barre said. “Just a computer, good quality mics and, hopefully, good playing are the main ingredients.”
“Roads Less Travelled” is Barre’s eighth solo album. Listening back to his previous releases, finding them to be “complex and bitty,” Barre realized that his music has to be accessible to listeners.
His goal is to write music that has a flow and a rhythm, an emotion that runs through it.
“It doesn’t have to be complex time-wise or really intricate music,” he said. “It’s got to be very harmonious, tuneful, and you can put work and musicality into it, but it can sound simple. I like to think that my music sounds simple but if you scratch the surface, you’ll find as much as you want to.”
Like he’s come into his own musically, Barre has also taken to his new role on stage – front and center, instead of stage left.
It was a difficult transition at first because Barre never really spoke while performing with Jethro Tull; lead singer Ian Anderson had that part covered. He didn’t know what to do or say, he just knew he wanted to say something.
“I think when you perform a concert, the music has to be top quality, the playing has to be top quality, but people are watching, so it has to be quite visual,” he said. “It’s an occasion.”
Over the years, he’s grown to enjoy the banter between himself and the audience, and he doesn’t shy away from awkward moments when the audience doesn’t laugh at something he says because those moments make each show different.
“I want people to know that every show is a special show,” he said. “There’s no nights when we’re going through the motions. Wherever we are, however many people we’re playing to, every show is a one-off and it’s very important to us.”
At this show, Barre promises audiences will hear a mix of his solo work and Jethro Tull tunes “they haven’t heard for a long time.”
“We don’t have an agenda, other than to play really good music and put on the best show we possibly can,” he said.
Loosely speaking, 2019, Barre said, is the 50th anniversary of the first time Jethro Tull came to the United States. To celebrate, he’ll perform a Jethro Tull show later in the year on the East Coast, though he’s sure he’ll eventually bring it to the West Coast as well.
In the beginning of his solo career, Barre said some people would expect to hear nothing but Jethro Tull music at his shows.
Over time though, they’ve grown to love the combination of Jethro Tull songs and Barre originals.
“It’s a very healthy balance,” he said. “I think people are really getting to know me. With YouTube and Facebook, they’re pretty sure of what they’re going to get.”