The summer of 2013 finds John Oates happy and busily working on multiple musical projects: the Darryl Hall & John Oates tour, SuperJam (the jubilant ever-evolving, over-the-top jam party) and ‘Good Road to Follow’, his current solo studio recorded work which is ongoing. John is releasing the tracks on GRTF one at a time as digital singles, and all of them feature collaborations with different artists. The most recent song to have been released, ‘Don’t Cross Me Wrong’, was written and recorded with Vince Gill at Vince’s house in Nashville. Other tracks include alliances with Teddy Morgan, Hot Chelle Rae, Ryan Tedder, Jim James and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band among others. A compilation CD will become available this autumn in Japan and somewhat later in America. Says Oates of ‘Good Road to Follow’, “it’s a euphemism for a musical journey that really doesn’t have an end.”
You and Darryl have one of the most successful open musical relationships in the industry. Looking at what you both are doing right now – obviously with SuperJam and ‘Good Road to Follow’ you’re working with a lot of different artists, as is Darryl with ‘Live from Darryl’s House’. I’m wondering how having all that freedom and diversity has affected and enhanced your partnership in Hall & Oates.
I think enhanced is the right word; it’s made us come together in a good way. Darryl and I are tighter right now than we’ve been in a number of years. We both appreciate the freedom that our legacy of music has provided for us – we’re very conscious of it so we don’t take it for granted. As you said earlier we give each other enough space to do all these really cool things on the solo front but at the same time we know that when we come back together as Hall & Oates and we play, there’s millions of people around the world who love the music that we created. It’s a really good balance. I don’t think many artists can honestly say that they have that ability to be part of a legacy group and at the same time have the type of freedom that we have on our solo projects. It’s been a lot of fun. I kind of pinch myself; I can’t believe that after 40 years I’m actually having more fun than I’ve ever had in my life when it comes to music.
Going back to SuperJam in regard to the artists involved – there always seems to be a real enthusiasm for getting together and playing in that circumstance. Over the years, whether it’s been with Live From Darryl’s House or with the Experience Hendrix Tour or with the ARMS Concerts in ’83 for example – everybody just loves it. How has is been for you to be able to invite fellow artists into SuperJam and also what has it been like in terms of how you view your own musical community?
My solo career – I think it’s finally clarifying itself. It took me four albums to really find my voice and my personality in a place that I feel really comfortable about and it had a lot to do with me going back to my roots – my pre-Hall & Oates roots and rediscovering the things that made me want to be a musician when I was a kid. I was very much a folky and a blues guitar player. I went back to that and from that has evolved an original sound, but with that as the base. It carries right over to jamming – like the SuperJams and things like that, because it gives me an opportunity to work with people from all different genres of music and it broadens me, makes me a better player, keeps me on my toes. I get to see how other musicians deal with not only the creative process but the personal side, the business side and it’s very interesting to me to step into other people’s worlds. When you get used to doing one thing over and over again, for instance being part of Hall & Oates for 40 years, you tend to think that the whole world operates like that but it doesn’t, and that’s really cool.
It is great to have the balance as you said, of your solo work and the stability of Hall & Oates. Your band, aside from Darryl, has gone through some changes over the 40 years. Could you tell me about the band that you’ll be playing with at Outside Lands – the musicians that you play with in Hall & Oates, and a bit about the evolution of the band?
The only original member – and even he’s not original original – is Charlie DeChant, our sax player who goes back to 1974. We had maybe two or three years of the band before that. Charlie’s the senior member – he’s the guy; he’s amazing – a great musician and a great person. We’ve grown up with his kids and his grandkids. There [are] a lot of guys in the band who are fairly new, although we’ve known them – a lot of guys have played in Average White Band. There’s three players in our band who are former members of Average White Band. A couple of the guys have substituted for us over the years when people were unavailable and eventually became part of the band. It’s a family really and you have new members of the family and you have old members of the family. We try to keep our players and our band together as much as possible; it’s a pretty solid unit. I think this unit that we have right now has really come together. Without getting too deep into this – when our great bass player and producer “T- Bone” Wolk passed away a few year back, Darryl and I were a little bit floundering. He was a very important part of our relationship and part of our band; he was really the band leader. When he passed away there was a period of time when we were trying to play as if he was still there even though he wasn’t. I think we’ve kind of accepted the fact that he’s gone now and the band has taken on a different personality and this new personality is pretty amazing. It’s very dynamic and it infuses the old hits with a lot of new energy and I think that’s what people are picking up on. I would venture to say that this band that we have, this current band may be one of the best bands we’ve ever had.
Darryl Hall and John Oates play an afternoon set on Sunday, August 11th. Later that night John will join in a SuperJam (an Outside Lands Night Show) at The Independent which features Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk with Jon Cleary, DJ Harry Duncan and surprise guests.
For more information please visit: