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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Martin Barre

Grammy-winner Martin Barre  was the guitarist for Jethro Tull for 43 years. He has worked with artists including Paul McCartney and Phil Collins, and has shared stages with Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. Barre is currently touring the U.S. with his band, and recorded a double album this year.  

Where do you come up with your best ideas?  
First thing in the morning, after a cup of coffee. My body doesn’t wake up quickly, but my brain does. 

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received? 
I’ll have to be ever-so-syrupy here and say my children. As they’ve grown, we’ve become best friends. 

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given? 
Talking to people, being nice. Good manners, being friendly, should be normal. And in modern times it so much isn’t the case.  

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced? 
When Jethro Tull finished, I was literally given nothing, everything was taken away from me. Everything I had for 43 years. All I had was myself and a burning desire to keep playing music. I had to sit down and learn how to do it. I’m a determined person. I wouldn’t be beaten. 

All I had was myself and a burning desire to keep playing music. I had to sit down and learn how to do it.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do? 
I started out in architecture the ’60s — it was very, very, very boring. People weren’t building what they are now; it was square boxes. But I always loved building. So I think I’d be an architect. 

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?  
All mistakes are useful if you learn from them. Everybody makes mistakes — the worst are when you pretend they didn’t happen, when you’re in denial, or blame it on someone else.  

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had? 
I ran marathons, and I think what you put your body through — the mental and physical challenge, and at the end, you have the strangest feeling of accomplishment — it’s almost magical. It’s almost a drug, a high. You have something special at the end. 

What opportunity do you regret passing up? 
If someone asks me to do something, I almost always say yes. I don’t really pass things up. But there are things I wish I hadn’t done. 

How do you relax? 
I go running. It’s a very therapeutic thing to do, especially when you’re traveling crazy amounts as we do in a band. It’s a therapy, to have that freedom — no phones, no schedule. I love the outdoors. Wherever I am, I’ll find the nicest place —the river, the park, the beach, the hiking trail. 

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go? 
Australia. I was there 12 years ago; I love the food, the culture, the attitude. And a place I’ve never been: Patagonia. It looks unbelievable. 

What is your most indelible childhood memory? 
My mom and dad worked all the time, so when I was little, my aunt and uncle would take me out on their motorbike, which had a sidecar. Every weekend, they’d take me out to a park or somewhere. They treated me like their own. We had wonderful times.  

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school? 
Maybe rebellion. The fact that you didn’t have to toe the line, the mindless rules. Rules are there to be challenged.  

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck? 
If I get into a difficult situation, I kind of bury my head in the ground. I’m not very good at coming head-to-head with a problem. Eventually when I do, I think it through very, very carefully.  

What is your proudest moment? 
The last show we did in America. We worked incredibly hard to get that [tour] together, and we had a fantastic reaction. The audience was just incredible. And it wasn’t anything to do with ego—it was a feeling when all the hard work and tedium and what you put into what you do for a living gets recognized.  

What would you like to experience before you die?  
I’m not looking for anything. What I do is perfect for me. I want to be a better musician every day of my life; I’ll never be good enough for myself. But I’m in a very happy place. 

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