As half of the “blue-eyed soul” duo Hall & Oates, John Oates has toured the globe, created a slew of hit songs and sold well over 80 million records worldwide with songs like “Private Eyes,” “Kiss on My List,” “She’s Gone,” “Maneater,” “Sara Smile,” “I Can’t Go for That,” “Rich Girl” and dozens more.
Before his gig at Washington, D.C.’s Warner Theatre this Sunday, Mr. Oates discussed his musical partnership with Daryl Hall, rocking the White House, that legendary 1980s mustache and his latest solo release, “Another Good Road.”
Question: You just played the White House. What was that like?
Answer: It was great! Lots of protocol and security, but the end result was amazing. We got a private tour of the Capital. No one was there during the snowstorm, which was really cool.
We toured the White House, and, of course, we met the president and his wife. He was very cool, likeable and affable. We played our five songs, and he was sitting right in front of me. He looked at me and then made his hand go around in a circle and said, “one more.” Then he said, “do another one.”
When we got off stage, all the aides and the press corps said, “We’ve never seen him do that.”
Q: What is President Obama’s favorite Hall & Oates song?
A: I believe Michelle requested “Kiss on My List.” That was one of her favorites. The aides also told us they heard them playing Hall & Oates up in the residence before they came down.
Q: What was the inspiration for your latest solo release, the DVD “Another Good Road?”
A: I had recorded an album called “Good Road to Follow,” which started as a series of digital singles. I got such great critical and fan response from that record that I didn’t want it to just die on the vine. I came up with the idea of doing a video of some of that music and the new songs I had written in the interim.
“Another Good Road” is an extension of “Good Road to Follow” musically, with additional material. It is a showcase of some of the influences that made me want to be a musician before I met Daryl Hall: roots rock, Delta blues, folk music. Which are part of my musical DNA.
Q: Is it true you did it in one take with no overdubs?
A: We played totally live. All we did was record it, mix it and put it out. We had booked the following day in the recording studio thinking we would go in and fix things, add some overdubs. When we came in the next day nothing needed to be fixed. There were some minor flaws, but that was part of the charm.
Q: What is the one thing you always have to take with you on the road?
A: Myself. [Laughs.] Being on the road is like survival of the fittest. The hassle of traveling, of staying in hotels. I always say I play music for free. You have to pay me to leave my house, get on a plane and stay at a hotel.
Q: As a songwriter, how do you know when a song is a solo song and when it is a Hall & Oates tune?
A: Now that Daryl and I haven’t recorded in years, and we don’t have any plans to record, it is never a Hall & Oates song at this point. It is always a solo song or a song for someone else.
Q: So you and Daryl are never going to record new music?
A: I would never say never about anything. The reality is Daryl and I have such a body of work — we are talking about 400 songs — that we can’t even play all the songs we have written and recorded. We have this incredibly amazing problem: We have too many hits.
Everyone wants to hear the hits, quite rightly so. We have a professional responsibility to play those songs.
Q: What is the secret to the longevity of your musical partnership?
A: When we get together to play, which we do often, it feels like time stops. It just works. We know each other really well and have given each other the freedom to be individuals [and] not get caught up in this “duo” concept. We exist totally independent of each other, but we like playing together.
Q: “Hall & Oates: Live in Dublin” on DVD and CD is coming out in March. Why had you guys never played in Ireland before?
A: Daryl did a solo show there in the ‘90s. I played there solo two years ago in Dublin and Belfast. It is just one of those weird gaps in our career where we never got to Ireland.
We knew it was going to be great, knew there was an anticipation. Fans [begged] us to come there for years. The show sold out in an hour.
Q: Are there any other countries or places on your bucket list you’d like to play?
A: Yes and no. We’ve never played in South America, believe it or not. We can’t cover it all.
Q: Over the years you’ve been the butt of some jokes, especially about your mustache. Do you have a good sense of humor?
A: I see it as like looking back at your old family photo albums. You see the photos of your weird haircuts and clothing when you were in junior high, and you have to laugh. The difference for us is that our fashion and hair faux pas are there for the rest of the world to see forever, thanks to MTV and the Internet.
Having a big crazy mustache in the ‘70s was as hip as it got.
Q: You now split your time between Nashville and Colorado. Which place do you call “home”?
A: My home is a hotel room somewhere. But when I’m not in a hotel I love spending time in Colorado and Nashville. We have a ranch in Colorado. I live in the middle of nowhere. In Nashville we have a city pad in the middle of everything.
We get to escape and hide in Colorado. We get to recreate in the mountains and be outside. When we come to Nashville, it is pedal to the metal. We spend our time at live shows, in restaurants and recording studios. It’s just great. I really think we’ve found a good balance.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Hall & Oats
WHERE: The Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004
WHEN: Sunday March 1, 7:30 p.m.
INFO: WarnerTheatreDC.com, or call 202/783.4000
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