By Franklin Abbott
Martin Barre came to music relatively late in life. He was 14, shy, gangly and a poor student when his sister took him to hear a rock band. He says it opened his imagination and in a magical moment inspired him to learn guitar. At university, he played in a band almost every night of the week. He was studying architecture and found the people around him and his subject matter uninspiring. Barre moved to London and took up the saxophone, playing in a blues band from 1967 to 1968 when the blues was all the rage in England. He said he had a lot of fun but little success and was at the point of giving up on music when he joined a new band called Jethro Tull. Barre would perform with Jethro Tull for the next 43 years.
Jethro Tull, initially only had a dedicated, cult following. That changed when the band came to America in 1969. They sold 60 million albums and toured with an ever-changing ensemble of musicians. Band leader Ian Anderson and Barre were the mainstays as the band reformed and the music became more progressive. When Anderson decided to disband Jethro Tull and record only under his own name, Barre was disappointed. “It wasn’t of my choosing,” he said. But it launched his solo career, one that he is both proud of and excited about.
He works with a tight band of younger musicians, records and tours. His songwriting brings together blues, melody and dynamic subtlety. “I learn a lot from everybody,” he says adding, “everybody can learn from everything.” His show at Smith’s Olde Bar on Dec. 2 will include music from the Jethro Tull songbook, blues standards and music from Barre’s new album, “Back To Steel.”
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and consultant, writer and poet. Visit franklinabbott.com.