Martin Barre’s fingers created the unmistakable guitar work in the iconic Jethro Tull anthem “Aqualung,” and on Sunday he will be playing with his own band as the Strand Theater’s biggest name since its rebirth in Hudson Falls. He chatted Thursday about five decades on the stage and life as a rock guitarist.
Q. You’ve played stadiums and arenas all over the world and will now be playing a 350-seat 1920s-era theater being brought back to life by local music-loving volunteers. Tell me why that’s cool to you?
A. If you had just described a venue like you did and asked, ‘Would I like to play there?’ I would immediately say yes because that all sounds really nice to me. Everybody likes to play to big crowds and we do festivals and they’re exciting, but they’re less personable. A really nice place where everyone is comfortable and happy to be there and in the right mood to be entertained and have an amazing evening, that’s my sort of a venue.
Q. Describe for me why, after 50 years, jamming on your guitar on stage still excites you.
A. It’s in my blood. I love playing, I love guitars, I love writing music and I love performing. It’s hard work, but there’s an adrenaline thing no matter how exhausted or how long the day is. The second you walk on stage it lifts. It disappears in a second, and you’re back in a world where you enjoy what you do. I just love playing so much. I don’t think it will ever leave me. I love listening to live music and love playing it.
Q. I interviewed Charlie Daniels earlier this summer, and he surprised me when he said he doesn’t really listen to much music because he’s always thinking of new songs for himself. What do you listen to a lot these days?
A. Classic rock is my sort of go-to era and I’m obviously biased. I look back at the Peter Green Fleetwood Mac years, The Eagles, Don Henley, Stevie Winwood. I like all the great songwriters, Neil Young. I listen to a lot of new stuff, but there’s very little out there that really grabs me and has any substance. You hear a good song on a CD and then be very, very, very disappointed by the rest. I think it’s all about disposable music. Easy come, easy go. I like the guys in it for the long run, the guys investing their lives in what they do, and you can tell by the music they write and perform.
Q. If you could play onstage and trade guitar riffs with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
A. I’m a big fan of Robben Ford and would to love meet him and play guitar with him. I guess somebody like Joe Bonamassa I know would be enormous fun. He’s a fabulous player. I just like the way he’s melodic, tasteful and controlled and pushes the envelope a little bit. But I will play with anybody and the least comfortable I am and the more challenging it is, I quite enjoy it.
Q. So my daughter is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter-pub musician who wants her original songs out for the world to hear. What would you tell her?
A. Wow, well she’s in a better position than I was at her age. She’s got social media, YouTube. I have a couple girls who sing with my band in the UK and Europe and they’re that age and singer-songwriters and very, very good and they literally record themselves singing a song in the living room and put it on YouTube and keep their fingers crossed that a lot of people are going to see it and spread the word. They’ve got more chance of getting in front of an audience than I would have in the ‘70s or ‘80s.
Q. I read that you and Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson don’t talk these days. Does that bother you?
A. It’s a long time now and there’s no animosity. We’re both doing what we want, I guess, though I’m not sure what Ian’s doing. I’m in a very happy place. I’ve got a fantastic band. I can pick and choose the set list. I’m writing and recording my own albums and I have complete freedom.
Q. I know you’ve been around and worked with other rock legends like Hendrix and McCartney and God knows who else. Which were you most in awe of?
A. Have to be Paul McCartney. He was my hero and obviously a huge iconic figure. To meet him would have been intimidating but to work with him was just incredible. He’s a very generous and likable person and just a fabulous musician. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m so glad I was able to do it.
Q. Favorite guilty pleasure food on the road?
A. I’m gluten-free and vegetarian. I’m a bit of a health freak. I go running whenever I can. I’m sort of fit by default. The running keeps my brain fresh. The gluten-free keeps me away from all those lovely chocolate chip cookies and pies I love. I don’t do it by choice, I’m one of those gluten-free people that has to be gluten-free. I eat a lot of salads. But I eat well and I like California chardonnay and I’m happy.
Q. You’ve been married for over 40 years. That’s insane for a rocker. What’s the secret?
A. (Laughs) I don’t know. She’s sitting in the restaurant as we speak. She comes on the road, works with me, and is an incredible supporter of what I do. She’s dedicated her life to what I do. I have massive respect for her. She, like any other woman, needs things and her comforts and her shopping, and that all comes into it. We make sure we have proper lunches and she gets to do the things she wants. It’s about sharing and listening, I guess. I’m no expert.
Q. What’s your favorite track on your yet-to-be-released album, “Roads Less Traveled” (set to be released in October)?
A. I don’t have one. I really like them all. If you’re looking for heavy riff, “This is My Driving Song.” If you want a song with the girls on it, “And the Band Played Only for Me,” but I’d stand by all of them as really good tracks.
Q. I read somewhere you’re a huge Neil Young fan. Me, too. I love “Powderfinger” for a rocking tune and “See the Sky About to Rain” for a mellow one. How about your two favorites?
A. Well, “After the Gold Rush,” any track off that album. “Southern Man,” the chords. But I love them all.
Q. What should Tull fans and Martin Barre fans expect from your Strand show?
A. I think they’re both going to be happy because there’s a lot of every element of what I do, a lot of solo work and lot of Tull work. I promise them a nice surprise. We change them constantly. We just have a night of fun music. It’s all about entertainment.