Since first making it big as one half of Hall & Oates in the mid-1970s, John Oates has proven his worth as one of the best songwriters and musicians in pop music time and time again. Many of the duo's biggest hits remain pop standards, but now, decades into his career, the artist is looking to expand his horizons and return to styles that started it all for him. After reaching the top and cementing a position in the history books, it's perfectly understandable that someone like Oates wants to do something different, and he's showing respect for those who came before him on his new album Arkansas, which sees him shifting from pop-rock to something with a bit more twang.
I recently spoke with John Oates about this new era of his career, which sees him going in a musical direction many people might not expect. The musician is gearing up to perform many of his just-released songs this weekend at the at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds in Lake Oconee, GA, where he will be the latest artist to take part in the Live at the Lake Concert Series.
Hugh McIntyre: You’ve been going in an Americana direction recently, right?
John Oates: Yeah, it's basically the direction I've been heading in with all my solo work. I have six solo albums that I've done over the years. I've been heading in that direction for quite some time.
McIntyre: I was surprised that your solo albums go in a southern country/rock direction. What makes you want to make that type of music?
Oates: Well, you know, I grew up...before I met Daryl Hall and we started working together, I was a folk and blues acoustic guitar player. That’s what I did, and that's very much part of my musical DNA. I think my move to Nashville about 10 years ago has rekindled that part of me that kind of lost its way during the Hall and Oates heyday. It's a very comfortable place for me to be and I've surrounded myself with a musical community here. The Americana musical community has embraced me and helped me get back to that place.
McIntyre: Nashville is obviously known for country and Americana. What specifically has reignited that flame you mentioned?
Oates: Well, you know, being a part of this amazing music community in Nashville, where the bar is set very high by songwriters and musicians and producers and everyone. When I started coming here in the late 90s and early 2000s, I realized that it was going to be a place where I could rediscover my personal roots of my music. Also, it gave me a little bit of musical kick in the butt to up my game in terms of my playing and my songwriting and everything else. It's really been an inspiration and a great experience for me.