We had about 10 minutes with John Oates, co-frontman of legendary rock duo Hall & Oates, in March to talk (far) in advance of the band’s since-canceled July 26 Toyota Center concert. That show may be no more, but the 70-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is probably doing just fine. He debuted his first memoir, Change of Seasons, early this year and will be taking his latest soulful solo album, Arkansas, on a UK tour with The Good Road Band this fall.
We’re happy for him, yes, but not so much so to fill the void of a canceled “Private Eyes” viewing with our own sets. So, here’s a dose of Oates to help us start to regain that lovin’ feeling.
What’s it like being on tour again?
It’s like it has always been. I have been on tour since 1972. It is a little different now because traveling generally has gotten more challenging in terms of the world, and also you get a little older and you travel differently. We don’t do as many shows as we used to do back in the old days. The main thing is you get on stage and you get to play music. It’s what I love to do and that’s what Daryl loves to do.
How has touring changed since you first started?
Back in the ‘70s we would be on the road nine months at a time. Now we’re on the road three to four months at a time. But touring is touring. There are lights, hotels, busses, and restaurants, and that’s what it’s like. Then you get on a stage and play for two hours.
Do you still enjoy it?
I love to play. I go out with my solo band, and I do shows. I think it completes the picture. You make a record and you have these songs, but before you get out there and play them for people, I don't think it’s complete.
How do those solo shows compare to Hall & Oates shows?
When I play solo shows I play smaller venues. It’s much more of a singer-songwriter show. I tell stories. When you are in a smaller venue you are much more in contact with people in the audience. With Daryl, [the concerts] are arena shows and there are 10,000 to 15,000 people. It’s a completely different mindset. I couldn’t say I prefer one over the other. It’s kind of cool to have the variation.
Your new solo album, Arkansas, has such a different sound than what people traditionally associate with Hall & Oates. What was the inspiration for this album?
It really is a return to the music I made before I met Daryl. This was the kind of music I was making then. I was a blues and folks musician. Now, having lived in Nashville for the past seven or eight years, I have gotten involved with Americana and the people who make that kind of music have become my friends. My album is pretty much based on that.
And you recently published a memoir. What was that experience like?
I had never written a book before. It was definitely a different kind of thing. I had to be patient; it took almost two years to write. That was something I was not used to. It was a chance to go back in time to bring back memories from a long long time ago. It was a gift in a way. If I hadn't done the book, I might not have remembered those things for the rest of my life.
Can you tell us a little about it?
It’s a story of my life, and at the same time I can’t separate my personal life from my time collaborating and being in partnership with Daryl (his musical partner for more than four decades). All I can do is tell the story from my point of view. I had to balance the Hall & Oates story with the story of my own life… I’m also a pilot, a race car driver, I’ve been divorced and remarried, had a kid, built a house…
I just want people to hopefully appreciate the fact that I have spent my whole life dedicated to being a musician, but I have also had fun with it.
What’s next for you?
I can always write a better song. I can always play guitar a little better. I can always sing a little better. I look at it that way. I don’t really make long-term goals. It’s very important to live in the moment, and right now it’s to finish up my solo tour and rest up a little before going out on this big arena tour with Daryl.