Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are proud to present this exclusive interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer JOHN OATES
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Oates is one half of one of the most successful and best-selling music duos of all time. John Oates and Daryl Hall burst onto the evolving music scene in the ’60s and ’70s. Their commercial success exploded in the ’80s and five decades later they still play to sold-out crowds. In addition to performing both as a duo and solo act, John is a musician and songwriter who has charted countless hits. He also is an ardent advocate for numerous causes. And now, here is John–
John, thank you for granting us this interview. We know you have been interviewed countless times, but we hope we can cover both new and old territory.
PT: When did you know you had an interest in music and when did you decide that you were going to pursue music as a career?
JO: I feel like I was born to be a musician…I began to sing as soon as I could talk and took guitar lessons when I was six years old. I’ve never had another job.
PT : Who and what were your early musical influences?
JO: I started playing and singing early rock & roll and country songs like “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers and “Oh, Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson; but in the early 60s I was listening to traditional American music of all kinds…Delta blues, Appalachian, bluegrass, doo-wop, and early R&B.
PT: Were your parents and family supportive of your decision to be a musician?
JO: Yes, they always helped me buy gear and guitars when I was young and never questioned what I was doing.
PT: What was it like being a music star in the 1980s (and so widely recognized by your hair and mustache?) What was it like being inducted into the Mustache Hall of Fame?
JO: I can’t describe the ’80s other than it just seemed to be like life in fast forward…accelerated to the point of not being able to appreciate everything that was going on. Although we were very commercially successful I don’t look back on that time as my favorite era. I enjoyed the freedom of the ’70s much more when everything was new and we could be much more experimental.
And facial hair is just that…facial hair.
PT: Is music and/or the industry very different today and if so, how?
JO: You don’t have enough space for this answer – it could fill a book.
PT: So here is something of a curve ball. What are your five favorite films of all time?
JO: Patton, Being There, Senna, Memphis Belle, and Manhattan.
JO: We have been touring since 1972…so I would say pretty good! We tour in short bursts then take time off in between to do our solo projects.
PT: We were fortunate to attend one of your concerts recently. The venue was standing room only and audience members ranged from teenagers through senior citizens. How do you account for your longevity in the business?
JO: It has to do with the timeless quality of our songwriting. For some reason these compositions have resonated with people regardless of fad and age. In addition, we are a real band who have a commitment to live performance without artifice. I think audiences understand and appreciate that.
PT: This may be part of the same question, but to what do you attribute your continued popularity with younger generations? What about your music do you think appeals to them?
JO: The newer generations make their own decision regarding their personal tastes. They are not spoon fed what is hip or what they should like or not like.
PT: What some people may not realize is that in addition to being one half of one of the most successful duos of all time, you also are a bestselling songwriter and have written countless hits over your career. Can you tell us a little bit about what the song writing process is like for you?
JO: I think of it as the art and craft of songwriting. The art is all about inspiration and emotion and the craft is about the process and the wedding of lyrics and music and the rewriting process to complete the idea.
PT: It is common knowledge that you were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the duo Hall & Oates in 2014. But you also were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. Can you tell us about both experiences?
JO: For me the induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame was much more important because without the songs that we wrote we would have never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
PT: Okay, time for your second curve. What books are on your nightstand?
JO: Currently reading Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding and just finished Shibumi by Trevanian
PT: Out of all the songs you have written, which one do you think is your best work to date? (We know this may be unfair question, but we’d still like to hear your answer.)
JO: “She’s Gone.”
PT: You are listed on IMDb as a writer and actor in the movie Pixels. Can you tell us about that experience?
JO: They used a clip from an old MTV interview and digitally superimposed our lips reading the script, so we were only involved in a recording studio with a camera on our mouths; we never interacted with the film crew or Hollywood.
PT: Is it true at one point you wanted to be a journalist?
JO: I graduated with a journalism degree from Temple University because writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed whether its prose or verse.
PT: You are an advocate for several important causes. You were involved in “Live Aid” and “We Are the World.” We [Wayne and John] even did a documentary together way back when called Evolution’s End? about deforestation in the Pacific Northwest. We documented you doing a 150-mile bike ride through clear-cut areas. Do you remain active as an advocate today?
JO: I’m of the notion that if you can affect things on a personal and local level you can start in motion energy that can transfers to broader and larger issues.
PT: Tell us about the actors and/or entertainers with whom you most enjoyed working with over the years.
JO: I really love working with many of the roots and country artists that I’ve gotten to know in Nashville: Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Mike Henderson, Pete Huttlinger, and too many more to mention.
PT: Do you have any regrets about which you can tell us?
JO: Yes — not paying more attention to our visual image during the ’80s MTV days…and the stupid clothes.
PT: What was the best advice you have ever received?
JO: Know thyself.
PT: What was the worst criticism you have ever received?
JO: When we played a coffee house in Philly back in the early ’70s and we made a radical shift from an acoustic style to a heavy experimental rock style someone wrote on a napkin, “These guys suck” and my parents were sitting at that table.
PT: How do you think the advent of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) has affected the music industry? Has it made it tougher to be who you are, furthering your own musical agenda since everyone now has the ability to comment on anything they wish or do you think it opens more doors?
JO: It is both positive and negative. It’s given a forum for anyone to express themselves which is both good and bad and has created a glut of information which often makes it hard to cut through the clutter.
PT: What advice would you give young singers and songwriters just starting out?
JO: Listen to the folks you like and admire and try to break down what it is that they do that resonates with you…then try to use that as a starting point for your own unique self-expression.
PT: What is on your future agenda, both personally and professionally?
JO: To stay healthy enough to enjoy the hard work and years of experience that have led me to this place. Keep my family safe and secure and keep creating.
PT: Any items still on your bucket list?
JO: Yes, don’t kick the bucket.
PT: Now a really tough one for the last question: If you could use only one word to sum up your life and career, what would it be?
John Oates was destined to be a musician. He began singing from the time he could talk and playing the guitar at age five. Growing up in the early days of rock left a lasting impression on John. He began to collect 45 rpm singles including treasures by Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Conway Twitty, Gary U.S. Bonds, and of course, Elvis.
John’s early influences included folk music as well as primitive Appalachian Scotch Irish ballads, bluegrass, Delta blues, and ragtime guitar; he developed something of a musical split personality. Later, through the first-hand influence of several seminal musicians he honed his craft as a guitar player, learning finger picking and flat picking styles.
Then in 1966, he wrote and recorded his first single “I Need Your Love” recorded at the legendary Virtue Sound Studio.
In the late ’60s John attended Temple University to be closer to the city’s music scene where he met Daryl Hall; their historic partnership had begun. It was their mutual love for urban rhythm and blues blended with the more rural roots of Americana music that shaped their unique sound. Daryl Hall and John Oates have gone on to record 21 albums which have sold over 80 million units making them the most successful duo in rock history. They have scored 10 number one records, over 20 Top 40 hits and have toured the world for decades. They were further established as legendary artists through their involvement in the original “Live Aid” concert as well as the groundbreaking “We Are The World” charity recording. Their continued influences upon modern pop music has been cited by numerous contemporary bands such as Gym Class Heroes, The Killers, and Hot Chelle Rae.
In addition to their numerous American Music, MTV awards, and multiple Grammy nominations, in 2005 Daryl Hall and John Oates were inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2008 they were presented with the prestigious BMI Icon Award for their outstanding career achievement in songwriting. In April 2014 Daryl Hall and John Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
John also is the creator and executive producer for the 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival which brings together the finest songwriters from around the world to perform at the historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado.
Since 1999, John has recorded five solo albums: “Phunk Shui,” “1000 Miles of Life,” “Mississippi Mile,” and a live album “The Bluesville Sessions.” In 2013 he released “Good Road to Follow” which began as a series of digital singles featuring collaborations both with legendary and rising stars such as Vince Gill and Ryan Tedder. In March, 2014 the songs were compiled into a critically acclaimed fifteen-song, three-disc album. The wide range of songs and productions showcases the unique musical diversity that has become the trademark of John’s artistic talent.
In January, 2015 John released his latest project on Warner/Elektra, a DVD titled “Another Good Road” which was recorded live in a Nashville studio in one session and features some of Music City’s finest musicians and singers. It contains rare, seldom seen footage of his family ranch in Colorado and a glimpse into John’s world behind the music.
When not touring with his solo show or with Daryl Hall, John, his wife, Aimee, and their son, Tanner, divide their time between Nashville, Tennessee and their rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, along with dogs, emus, peacocks, llamas, and alpacas.