Bill Payne - Interview
Little Feat steps to Asheville for show at The Orange Peel
ASHEVILLE — From California country to New Orleans-style funk to Southern jam rock, Little Feat has always drawn on a vast range of styles to create the group's distinctive sound.
“You'd have to be in 10 different bands to play the genres of music we perform,” says keyboard player Bill Payne. “We cover a very wide spectrum of American music.”
Four decades after the release of its self-titled debut, the group rocks on, playing about 80-100 shows a year and recording new material. The band hits Asheville on Tuesday, playing The Orange Peel.
Talking to take5 from his home in Montana, Payne, 62, says Feat's set list will mix classics with songs being recorded for the band's next CD, its first studio release featuring new material in several years.
“It's a blues-flavored album, and Americana as well,” says Payne, who's been writing several tunes. “We're off to a good start. I haven't written songs in a long time.”
A co-founder of the band in 1969 with singer Lowell George, bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward, Payne's writing credits include well-known tracks “Oh, Atlanta,” “Time Loves a Hero,” and “Tripe Face Boogie.” Payne knows that newer material will be compared to those songs and other fan favorites like “Dixie Chicken,” “Sailin' Shoes” and “Willin.'”
“I don't look at it as a weight but as a yardstick,” he says. After George's death in 1979, the group disbanded for a stretch.
“When we re-formed in 1988,” Payne notes, “I said, ‘We're not only in competition with what's out there, we're in competition with ourselves.'”
With Hayward's death last summer, Payne is the sole member from the original foursome, but is quick to note that singer and guitarist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney and percussionist Sam Clayton have been with the band since the early '70s.
“The new guys in the band have only been with us 39 years,” he says wryly.
They're joined by longtime guitarist and trumpet player Fred Tackett and new drummer Gabe Ford.
Little Feat has influenced countless musicians through the decades, including Asheville blues rocker Warren Haynes, who led the crowd in the “F-E-A-T” chant before the band's set at the 2004 Christmas Jam. Payne notes that Haynes recently joined Little Feat onstage in Australia when he crossed paths with the band in Sydney.
The band is secure in its legacy, Payne says, whether or not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls.
“It would be an honor, but to be honest, we're still a working band,” he says. “Our legacy is intact. We've been around this long because of our family within the Feat community. It's been an amazing ride.”
Flynn writes about entertainment for take5. Email