A lot of times when I talk to people younger than me about musicians I loved when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I’m met with quizzical looks and them asking, “Who is that?”
However, that was not at all the reaction I got when I told people I was going to be interviewing John Oates. No one younger than me, the same age as me, or older than me asked, “Who is that?”
Everyone knows who John Oates is.
As half of the legendary duo of Daryl Hall & John Oates, John’s music has been known worldwide since the first H&O album, Whole Oats, was released in 1972. The duo’s hit songs are legendary and almost too numerous to list here, but here are some of them: “She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” “Rich Girl,” “Kiss On My List,” “You Make My Dreams,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), “Maneater,” “Out Of Touch,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Possession Obsession,” “So Close,” and “Do It For Love.”
Daryl Hall and John Oates still frequently tour together, but John Oates has also been very busy over the last several years as a solo artist. He’s released five studio albums, starting with the fantastic Phunk Shui album in 2002. His most recent studio album is the equally fantastic Arkansas from 2018.
John has also done several solo tours — and he’s doing it again in March 2022 with Guthrie Trapp. In addition to making his own music, Guthrie is an acclaimed session guitarist who has worked with famous musicians such as Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and Dolly Parton.
The upcoming acoustic style shows that John Oates and Guthrie Trapp will be doing will include an eclectic blend of multiple genres of music — and some entertaining stories to go along with the songs.
I recently had the chance to chat with John Oates about his upcoming shows and a few other things:
John, thank you very much for chatting with me today. The first Daryl Hall and John Oates album I owned was Voices. I bought it after falling in love with your great song “How Does It Feel To Be Back.” To paraphrase the title of that classic, how does it feel for you to be heading back on the road after having to take so much time off due to the pandemic?
After not touring in 2020, Daryl and I managed to do 20 shows from August through September in 2021. We had Squeeze as special guests and it was a great tour with a very warm and welcoming reception from the audience, many of whom had not been to a live show in almost 2 years! Now Guthrie Trapp and I will do a few selected dates in smaller venues. The first 3 shows have been amazing! We really love playing in small halls that are acoustically pristine and it suits the acoustic style show that we are doing.
I know you’ll be telling stories about some of the songs you’ll be doing during the upcoming shows, so I’d like to selfishly ask you about some of my favorite songs that you wrote. Anything you can tell me about the writing of them would be fantastic and very appreciated:
“Lilly (Are You Happy)” from Whole Oats
This song was inspired by a girl I was seeing at the time in the late 60s. She had a quiet, melancholy attraction.
“Africa” from Voices
I wrote this about my girlfriend in the 80s who was traveling the world.
“Possession Obsession” from Big Bam Boom
I wrote this about the zeitgeist of NYC in the 1980s where more was never enough.
“All Good People” from Phunk Shui.
Just wanted to make a positive statement about awareness.
“Sara Smile” from Daryl Hall and John Oates
This was really Daryl’s song. I co-wrote the lyrics with him.
Speaking of stories, I read and loved your autobiography, Change of Seasons. Did you enjoy writing it? Also, since I loved reading it so much, can you write a sequel to it, please?
Thank you! It was a labor of love and a challenge to tell my personal story while acknowledging the fact that most of my adult life has been involved in the career of H&O. I don’t think there could be a sequel, but I have some ideas …we shall see.
I’m excited that you’re doing your upcoming shows with Guthrie Trapp. He’s an incredibly talented guitarist! I recently saw a video on your Instagram page of you two performing together. Not only do you sound great together musically, but you have fantastic chemistry while talking and joking around. How and when did you two first get together?
We have known each other for over 15 years and met at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. He was playing there with Jerry Douglas and I was sitting in with the Sam Bush Band. We bonded as friends and I was immediately impressed by his intuitive talent, and of course, phenomenal playing. We both wanted to do a show that felt like we were bringing our own “living room” to the audience.
I don’t want to spoil any surprises for those who will be going to your shows, but can you give us any hints as to what songs and types of music you and Guthrie will be performing?
The basic theme of the show is a retrospective of the music of my early days as a musician long before meeting Daryl Hall. Songs that I learned as a kid and some of the roots Americana and blues styles that inform who I am as a musician, and of course, we play a number of the big Hall & Oates hits in a re-imagined style.
It sounds fantastic and I’m looking forward to it. Thank you, John!
Tour Information for John Oates & Guthrie Trapp:
Sunday, March 13, 2022 — Livestream — Powered by Mandolin
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 — The Colonial Theatre — Phoenixville, PA
Friday, March 18,2022 — Colonial Theatre — Laconia, NH
Saturday, March 19, 2022 — The Norwood Theatre — Norwood, MA
Sunday, March 20, 2022 — The Ridgefield Playhouse — Ridgefield, CT
Tuesday, March 22, 2022 — Sony Hall — New York, New York
Thursday, March 24, 2022 — Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club — Bethesda, MD
Saturday, March 26, 2022 — Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center — Newport, RI
If you’d like to learn more about Guthrie Trapp, here’s a recent interview I did with him about his tour with John Oates, his own music, the work he’s done with others, and several other fun things.