If it weren't for Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson might never have picked up the flute.
Anderson, who performs with a different band at the Gallo Center for the Arts next weekend (Sunday, Nov.8), said he stopped playing guitar when he realized he would never be as good as Clapton.
"Rather than be a small fish in a big pool, I decided to find another instrument to play that wasn't commonplace," he said in a phone interview.
Anderson, 62, has come a long way since his wild antics playing with British band Jethro Tull and recording the classic rock albums "Aqualung" (1971) and "Thick as a Brick" (1972). He has traded Jethro Tull's heavily amplified metal sounds for softer acoustic music in his most recent records "The Secret Language of Birds" (2000) and "Rupi's Dance" (2003).
He's proud of his unconventional use of the flute.
"To this day, there are very few internationally known flautists outside the world of classical music," he said. "I'm the one who's carried it the furthest and the longest."
Opinionated with wide-ranging beliefs, Anderson found it hard to stay on the topic of music during the interview.
In a freewheeling conversation, he talked about his worries about the Ethiopian famine, his concerns about overpopulation and his firm belief that families should limit themselves to two children.
He is alarmed about the growing chasm between the poorest starving people and "obscenely rich bankers."
"We have a mutual responsibility to have a planet where we can support more people at a higher standard of living," he said.
He also shared his regrets that he never read much poetry and talked about how strange it is to be a grandparent when he feels so vital.
"It's weird when you're looking at people, you realize you're looking into adoring eyes of an 18-year-old creature who is far younger than your daughter," he said.
For the Gallo show, Anderson is performing with a mix of jazz, classical, rock and world music artists. Among the music he plans to play are two flute instrumentals -- a jazz piece and his own composition based on a work by 18th century classical composer J.S. Bach.
He'll also sing some original songs.
"My music is observational writing," he said. "I'm not a person who wears heart on sleeve and comes out with a string of songs in an Alanis Morissette way -- everything is I and me, moaning about one's personal position. I don't feel I need to write about me."
He'll also perform some songs from Jethro Tull's back catalogue.
"They're actually a couple of songs from the early Jethro Tull days which were outtakes from the recording sessions of 'Aqualung,' " he said.
Anderson said he works hard to make the shows entertaining to a broad audience.
"We don't want to make it so obscure and esoteric that it puts people off that like things more simple and direct," he said. "We try to cover most of the bases so that there is something for everyone."