I’d interviewed John years ago, and had a chance to catch up with him and his new solo venture and tour supporting the release of Mississippi Mile. Half of the most potent rock/soul duo to hit the airwaves, John has always piled his passion into his solo projects.
Note: Bassist Michael Jude wanted me to relate that he was playing a custom bass made by former Lakland Bass partner, Hugh McFarland. Sounded great, I might add!
RE: Robert Engleman
JO: John Oates
RE- How’s the tour going? JO- Great so far. This is only our fourth show, but these are great musicians, and a great bunch of fun guys who are like a family. They make it easy! We are going to lean a lot on the new album, and will do some early H&O from Abandoned Luncheonette. I want people to enjoy the show, and we will continue to arrange our set list and review what works, and what we should change.
RE- You’re known for having an extensive R&B background. What made you choose to concentrate on blues for this solo album? JO- A lot of people don’t know my background before H&O. I actually played a lot of blues early on. I met Daryl when I was 19, and had already been playing guitar for five years. I had been playing in blues, R&B, and folk bands. It just seemed like the right time to revisit the genre. It’s like baby food. I have more maturity now, and am fortunate to be an independent artist. RE- Sort of like John Mellancamp doing No Better Than This, where he took a few musicians and visited various haunts plugging in a few amps and a microphone and recorded some blues. JO- Exactly. We pretty much did the same thing. That’s how this type of music is meant to be played. We basically sat around in a circle and did everything in one-two takes, with live vocals. We pretty much captured everything the first time, with few re-dubs, and no postproduction. RE- I like this album, and really liked the last one. JO- Thanks. My last album (1,000 Miles Of Life) was serious in both the tone and approach. This album is a reaction to the last one.
RE- I know you and the rest of the guys miss the presence of T-Bone (Tom T-Bone Wolk, longtime H&O bassist and collaborator that recently passed away). I met him years ago, and he was just a great guy. JO- He was an unbelievable talent, and a great friend. He was the best musician I’ve ever been around. He just had that sensibility and ability to play. Every part I play, I stop and think, how would T-Bone play it? He left a legacy, and I just try to reach that level! RE- If you could be onstage with one person living or dead, who would you pick? JO- That’s a tough question. Probably, Curtis Mayfield, or Mississippi John Hurt. I actually played with him in my friend’s living room. I have his guitar, and actually played it on the first two Hall & Oates albums! RE- Favorite song? JO- It’s hard to pick just one. RE- What comes to mind? JO- Well, if you’re going to make me pick just one, Doc Watson’s Deep River Blues. RE- How about your favorite H&O song? JO- That’s very difficult to answer. I would probably say, She’s Gone. It was the song that made us, but it also defines Daryl and me as being separate entities.
RE- What are you listening to now? JO- Things like Mumford & Sons, and Elizabeth Cook, people that are playing what I feel is authentic American music. Like with most good music; you have to keep an open mind. It’s like the old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I love jazz, and even bluegrass. Jerry Douglas is great. RE- What’s your next project? JO- (Laughs) Give me a chance, this is only our fourth show doing this material! RE- (Laughs) I understand that, but one thing makes you think of something else, and then all of a sudden it’s an idea! JO- Well, I’m going to enjoy this for now. Actually, my wife and I have a house in Nashville. RE- Okay. JO- We’ll be spending more time down there, and I’ll be doing some writing. It won’t necessarily be Country though! RE- Thank you!
RE- At this point, what’s your advice to young musicians? JO- I’d tell them, do what I do. Learn from the masters. Try and sound like artists you admire, and then get your own identity from there!