By: Steam Magazine
John Oates was born at the perfect time, paralleling the birth of rock and roll. Singing from the time he could talk and playing the guitar since the age of five, John Oates was destined to be a musician. Born in New York City, his family moved to a small town outside of Philadelphia, PA in the early 1950's, a move that would change the course of his life.
John Oates is one half of the bestselling duo of all time, Hall & Oates, as well as an accomplished solo artist. After he met and teamed up with Daryl Hall in the late 1960’s, they developed a style of music that was uniquely their own and 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. Their involvement in the original "Live Aid" concert and the groundbreaking "We Are The World" charity recording have further established them as legendary artists who have personally and through their music, stood the test of time.
In addition to their numerous American Music Awards, MTV awards, and multiple Grammy nominations, in 2005 they were inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2008 were presented the prestigious BMI Icon Award for their outstanding career achievement in songwriting. In April 2014 Hall & Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Since embarking on a long awaited solo career in 1999 John has recorded five solo albums including Phunk Shui, 100 Miles of Life, Mississippi Mile, a live album called The Bluesville Sessions, and Good Road To Follow, which features collaborations with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Vince Gill, Nathan Chapman, Jim Lauderdale, and more.
John is a diverse musician and songwriter active in the Nashville community and beyond. Founded in 2010, he was the creator and executive producer for the “7908 the Aspen Songwriters Festival” at the historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, CO. In 2013, John teamed up with Jim James (My Morning Jacket) to curate the Bonnaroo Super Jam with special guests Britney Howard, Billy Idol, R. Kelly, Larry Graham and the Preservation Hall Jazz band.
In 2015 John released Another Good Road (Warner/Elektra), a DVD docu-concert that premiered on Palladia Music Channel. Recorded live in a Nashville studio in one session, the video features some of Music City’s finest musicians and singers as well as rare, seldom seen footage of John’s family ranch in Colorado, a glimpse into his world behind the music.
And yet John’s story has never been told, until now. Relying on his many handwritten journals, he brings to light many fascinating stories, ranging over his entire life, with a journalist’s eye and a poet’s heart. In Change of Seasons, John shares his highs, lows, triumphs, and failures. He takes the reader on a wild ride through all the eras, personalities, and music that have shaped him into who he is.
How did you decide to write a book?
It came about through a series of interviews that I did with Chris Epting, who seemed to really understand where I was coming from, and I told him about these handwritten journals I had kept through the entire decade of the 70s. He asked if he could see them, so I sent him a few copies and he kind of freaked out saying that these were amazing and could be the beginning of a book. I knew he had written a number of books and he offered to guide me through the process. So, it was a great collaboration and that's how we came up with this book.
That's really interesting. Do you journal every day?
Well, I did. I kept a journal throughout the entire decade of the 70s and I kind of stopped in the early 80s because we got just so busy. That time was just so intense and so crazy. So, I don't journal as much anymore. However, I am always writing; whether it's a song or an article. Writing is just a thing that I love to do.
So, does this book only cover the seventies?
No, it actually starts from the time I was born and goes through about the year 2000, with a couple little chronological diversions. I didn't really get into my solo career, because I'd gotten to 400 pages and realized it was just too much. I think what I'm going to do is a second volume and it's going to chronicle my solo career, my move to Nashville, and all the crazy experiences I've had in the last few years.
When did you move to Nashville?
Well, I started coming in the early 2000s and slowly started making that transition. In 2010 my wife and I got a place and we started spending more and more time here. In the last couple of years we've just basically began living here.
Well, my book is on order, however I did look it up and read a couple of pages and of course the first page was explaining how you don't really like to be asked about how you and Daryl Hall have been able to maintain such a long-lasting relationship and it really seems like the go to question for interviewers.
Well, I will answer any question. My life is an open book, no pun intended. Really, we have a lot of things in common, like our love of music, and we have a lot that are different in our personalities and we fulfill different roles.
I wasn't really going to ask that. What I was going to say is that I am fortunate to have friends from elementary school, our personalities just clicked and we're still good friends, so I understand long relationships like that. I was thinking more along the lines of just friendships. I was wondering with a career like yours, if you would either have a few close friends or many friends at arms-length?
I don't have a lot of close friends; I have a few close friends, and of course friends from when I was growing up on the East Coast. Personally, I would rather have a few good friends that are close then a whole bunch of casual friendships. Here in Nashville, I've made a lot of really good friends over the past few years and really enjoy being part of this community; it's a really fun music community. I think I have probably made more friends here than I had in past years.
We saw you in Nashville at the American Eagle Awards 2016 when Jim Lauderdale was honored and you presented him the award.
Oh, yeah. He's one of my closest friends here in Nashville. We work together, hang out together, we write together. He's fantastic and he has a new album out called, London Southern. I co-wrote two songs on that album.
I didn't mean to get off subject so much, but I was curious about friendships in such an illustrious career. When Change of Seasons was released you did a book signing tour and now you’re in the middle a Hall & Oates tour. Are you making time for book signings?
When the book was first released I did a very intense book tour. During our tour I’ll stop and do a few book signings along the way.
Since you mentioned that you were thinking of a volume two, have you started collecting thoughts on that or doing research?
Not quite ready to do it yet as I've got to get past this current experience first and give myself a little more time. Right now the Hall & Oates Tour is going, then I've got a new album coming out in 2018 and so I’ve really got a lot on my plate and I want to see the music through first before I sit down and start working on a second book.
Can you tell me about the new album?
It's a really unique record, it's a roots record. I've taken a lot of music of my childhood, going back to the earliest days, even before I was born. The kind of Music that formed me and for some it’ll be a little bit of a music history lesson. Swing music, Ragtime, Delta blues; stuff that I really like and that I've blended. So, it's kind of an Americana -Dixieland Style; a very unique record with some incredible musicians.
One of my standard questions for an artist, especially a songwriter of your caliber, is advice for a person who just wants to break into the business or that has some experience, but needs some direction. What advice do you offer?
Well, develop a thick skin, work really hard, and don't give up. And that's really what you need to do.
Which part of the process gives you the most sense of accomplishment or gives you that “WOW” feeling? Writing a song, going to the studio and recording it, or performing the new song?
Well, you know all three are pretty cool!
First things first, you know. Writing a song is magical because you're creating something from nothing. Taking an idea or an emotion, you somehow bring it to life and make it something that other people can relate to. So, that's a real incredible feeling to experience that inspiration and ability to write that song. Then you go into the studio where you get excited about making it come alive with other musicians, which gives you that collaborative outlet to take the song to another level. And then you get the chance to play it in front of other people. Honestly I think it's like the Holy Trinity of creativity right there. Writing is the inspiration; recording is its birth, and performing it in front of people is its confirmation.
Wow, that’s the most passionate explanation for song writing I think I’ve ever heard; it’s no wonder you are one of the best. So, is that the type of feeling you had while you were writing this book?
Yes, but it was different because the book took a long time; it took two years. If a song takes two years to write it's probably not very good. Writing a book is a whole different discipline, it's a whole different way of thinking about things.
Well, I am really excited to read Change of Seasons. I really enjoy reading autobiographies. Fact is always more fun than Fiction and usually crazier too.
It's something about the truth that is hard to beat.