“I love the subtlety of playing music that has a lot of light and shade in it,” says Martin Barre, describing the music he’s been writing and playing since the 2012 dissolution of Jethro Tull. That — as anyone knows who’s ever heard “Aqualung,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” or “Thick as a Brick” — is the iconic English prog-rock-metal band with which Barre has played since joining Ian Anderson and crew in 1968.
“It comes as a surprise to people, but I don’t always like playing loud,” Barre laughs, adding, “I do love rock music, and I do love the Blues, but sometimes I really enjoy mandolins and other acoustic instruments.”
As evidence, he describes the interior of the recording studio he is sitting in at the moment.
“I’ve got two racks of acoustic instruments, including bouzouki and mandolin and banjo, and just one rack of electric instruments,” he says. “It’s a pleasure to be able to play all sorts of things. I love contrast in music, playing softly then playing loudly, playing gentle and playing hard, back and forth. That said, on the West Coast, with my new band, I’ll only be playing the mandolin for about ten minutes. We do a jig, actually. But we are an electric band, and we do a powerful show, with lots of new stuff, but also a lot of interesting interpretations of Jethro Tull songs. Those songs are reinterpreted for whom I am today, as opposed to who I was when I first played them.”
Barre is speaking this morning from Devon, in the southwest of England, where the legendary guitarist describes the current weather conditions there as, “not great.”
“Other than two or three hot weeks in May, the weather here always becomes autumn-stroke-winter through August and September,” he reports. “It’s pretty rubbish, actually.”
For that reason, and others, Barre confirms he’s looking forward to visiting Petaluma in early September, when he plays the Mystic Theatre as part of his first-ever non-Tull tour of California.
“This is our fifth U.S.A. tour, and thank goodness we finally made it to the West Coast,” he says. “That’s been a priority of mine from the word go, but these things don’t always fall into place the way one plans. But I am really pleased we’re finally going to get out there, and I have to say, it sounds nice where you are. Petaluma’s a little river town is it? I rather like river towns. I may have to go for a bit of a run near the river when I’m there.”
Barre, 71, has been running nearly every day for more years than he can remember.
“It keeps my brain alive,” he explains. “It’s my time out when I’m touring. When we’ve been travelling in vans and on aeroplanes, running is my antidote to all that tedium. I can arrive anywhere in the world, and If I can go for a bit of a run before the show, a run in a forest, or in a park, or along a river, then I’m really, really happy.”
Asked if he’s ever gotten lost in a city he’s visiting, Barre laughs.
“I have, and more than once,” he says. “It happened in Dallas, on a day when it was 100 degrees. I was running out of town and got carried away, I was so focused. After a while I turned around to see how far away the skyscrapers were, and they were entirely gone. That wasn’t good, though at least I had an idea which direction to run back in.
Martin Barre in concert
When? Saturday, September 2. 8:30 p.m. show
Where? Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N.
How much? $25.
Tickets and information? MysticTheatre.com