Interview: Little Feat's Bill Payne

DD-apr23-LittleFeat.jpgThey are one of music's biggest best-kept secrets and they are heading to the Indigo2 next month.

Little Feat, purveyors of accomplished blues/funk/country rock, play the venue on May 8 as part of their 40th anniversary tour.

The American band has never enjoyed the success of contemporaries like The Eagles, and founder member, keyboard player Bill Payne, has a theory on why that is.

"I guess our sound could be described as elastic," he said."We're like seven or eight bands because we like to explore different styles and maybe that's why Little Feat have been overlooked.

"But it doesn't really bother us. As long as the fanbase grows and we enjoy what we do.

"I was talking to Jimmy Buffet about it and he asked me if it ever bothered us but it doesn't really. The flipside is we get to do what we want to do. So many bands come along as the latest fad or fashion and then disappear.

"We've never disappeared, we just don't get our music played on the TV or radio that much. We just slip under the radar occasionally."

There are still plenty of Feat fans out there and they can enjoy classics like Fat Man In The Bathtub and Rock'n'Roll Doctor at the May 8 gig. And in true 1960s spirit they will be allowed to record the show.

Payne said: "We like to let people tape the shows. It makes them feel part of it, like guests on the stage.

"And we'll be playing music from every stage of our journey. We've had quite a few shifts since 1969 so there's lots to cover."

DD-apr23-LittleFeatBIG.jpgLittle Feat have had plenty of support from some very influential figures in the music world over the past 40 years.

They have been championed by the likes of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, while Elton John described Payne as one the best keyboard players he has ever heard. Even Eric Clapton even joined them on stage.

"Eric came to see us play and ended up getting on stage," recalled Payne.

"He just joined in and afterwards he said he'd never played guitar like that before because we like to keep it fun on stage. You have to make it fun."

Little Feat are on the road again without singer Shaun Murphy, who left at the end of last year after 15 years with the band. Payne and Paul Barrere will be sharing vocal duties. It's not as if Little Feat are unused to members moving on.

In 1979 guitarist and lead singer Lowell George died of a heart attack, aged just 34. Payne admitted he still misses his fellow founder member.

He said: "I think about him a lot, about the type of person he was. He was pretty enigmatic and exceedingly bright. The first time I met him we ended up talking for hours about pretty much everything.

"Sadly he got into the drink and drugs after we started the band and sometimes if you go too far out on the ledge you can't get back."

The band split for several years but reformed in 1988, going through several shifts in personnel. Payne admitted he is amazed that, at 60, he is still doing what he loves.

He said: "I remember talking with some other musicians when we were in our late twenties discussing what we might be doing when we were 38 years old and we certainly didn't think we'd still be in bands.

"Thankfully music is something you can do for a long time - and I'm still younger than Mick Jagger."

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Coowallsky said:

Little Feat is far more eclectic and covers more musical ground than the Grateful Dead ever did.