Universal Mayer Hawthorne's most recent release, How Do You Do, is hard to…
- Posted on Dec 29th 2010 11:35AM by Ronnie Koenig
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But Hall has also continued to develop artistically as an individual, including hosting a free monthly web show, 'Live From Daryl's House,' where he invites veteran artists like Smokey Robinson, soul sensations like Sharon Jones and starry-eyed newcomers like Neon Trees to his sprawling 18th century home in upstate New York to eat a meal, drink some wine and participate in a spontaneous jam session.
Hall took the time to sit down with Spinner to talk about why girls go crazy for his music, how he cuts short any arguments with John Oates, and his WGN New Year's Eve special. Oh, and also why he's glad to no longer be MTV's jumping monkey.
I saw your recent show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
Oh yeah. That was a special show. You know, I do a lot of shows and it doesn't happen all the time when everything works exactly right. And what was right was everything from the audience to the room to the band was on, [and] the monitors were good for me, so I was singing my brains out. I mean, all these things were like clicking together, man. It was a really, really good night.
And is there a moment during the show or before ...
When you know it's happening? Yeah. It's like surfing, man. You know you're hitting that wave and it's just like, "Oh man, what a great night."
The show felt very intimate, almost like an episode of 'Live From Daryl's House.'
'Daryl's House' has influenced me so much. It's changed my demeanor. It makes me feel like the stage is my house at this point. I've developed a really informal way of dealing with the whole thing.
Since there's no audience at 'Daryl's House,' how do you get that charge without the instant feedback?
I get the charge from everything happening for the first time. We don't rehearse. It's all happening as you do it. If we screw up, we just do it again -- which we hardly ever do.
You meet some of the guests for the first time when they arrive at your house.
Yeah! It really causes you to have to be able to deal with spontaneity and improvisation like that [snaps]. It separates the men from the boys, as they say. And luckily, I'd say in 99 percent of the situations the artists -- as young as they might be -- have risen to the occasion. The band and me, we thrive in that world. But it's a lot, man. I would be freaked if I had to walk into somebody else's house and do what they do [laughs].
Well, you have good food and wine.
Food and wine always helps.
I actually think the food prep and dinner are an integral part of the show because it just makes it so laidback.
Yeah, I figure if you're going to have people at your house, it's basically a party. And you've got to have food and you have to have wine.
Any moments during the show when you were just totally surprised at what happened?
Yes. I'm always pleasantly surprised. I go, "Wow, this is even better than I thought it was going to be!" I hate to be so superlative about it, but it's really the truth. Every show energizes me so much that the next day, I'm a basketcase because the adrenaline is so strong.
Did any of your guests have a new take on a song you hadn't thought of?
That happens a lot. Rob came on the show, Rob Thomas. And beforehand we always say, "What songs are we going to do?" And he said, "Let's do 'Kiss on My List.'" And you know, I've done 'Kiss on My List' in what I thought was every way I can do it, and he said, "No, let's try it this way, and let's change the key and let's slow it down and let's do this stuff." And I went, "Wow, this is a brand new way to sing the song." So yeah, s--- like that happens.
The difference between me and other people in my generation is instead of saying the Internet's killing the record business, I say, "Who cares about the record business, the Internet is enhancing music." And the record business is something that died with the 20th century. I'm part of the Baby Boomer generation but I've never felt comfortable in that skin. I was just like a 21st century person waiting to be born, and this is the medium that I thrive in. And I feel stronger now than I did any time since I've been a teenager -- I mean, musically, creatively.
I grew up watching you on MTV. Do you think the Internet is going to be for young people what MTV was for us?
Yeah. No question. That's what it is. That's why I'm doing this show. I was a pioneer in MTV and I was there from the very beginning. So I saw how that developed and how loose it was and how much fun it was in its looseness. And I was influenced a lot by that. And when I went to this show, I said, "Let's take that early vibe, that pioneer vibe, and bring it to the Internet and be the first and do something that nobody's done yet."
Any fond or not-so-fond memories of making those videos for MTV? There are so many that are just iconic.
I have to say I have never been comfortable with somebody else telling me what to do -- in any way. And a video is a perfect example of somebody else telling me what to do. I look at those '80s videos and think, "That had nothing to do with me!" That was somebody else's perception of a song and, "Jump around, Daryl. Jump, monkey, jump!" It was really not an experience that I consider to be creatively stimulating.
Are you conscious of having such a strong female fanbase and is it something you cater to?
I don't cater to it, but I'm certainly aware of it, of course. Damn right I'm aware of it! It's sort of always been that way. I think my music appeals to people's hearts and souls and emotions -- and I think that women obviously are people who deal in the world of emotions and heart and soul. What I find funny is that I've always been popular with girls, musically. But now [with] the new generation, I find that the guys are discovering me in a way that I felt the girls were doing in the '80s. It's a weird thing. I don't know, maybe boys are becoming more sensitive or something?
Tell me about the 'Live from Daryl's House, A New Year's Eve Special.'
Well, I was really reticent about taking this Internet show to television. I took some meetings with various networks and they invariably said, "Oh yeah, we love your show but ... maybe you could have a contest at the end of the show or have auditions." And I'm like, "No man, this is not 'American Idol.' C'mon." And I walked out, laughing.
Then I hooked up with a guy named Scott Sternberg who is a very experienced producer. I met him years ago at '[The] Midnight Special.' And he said, "The thing to do with this is go to syndication. Let's kick this off by doing something with WGN America, and let the world see what you're doing."
So I basically compiled highlights from the shows. Out of 38 artists, I picked 12 and put it together, re-edited it, did some voiceovers so that people who have never seen it that don't watch the Internet for their entertainment can say, "Oh, this is going strong on the Internet and here it is."
More people need to find out that you're doing this.
You know who knows? Kids know. Because kids watch the Internet. My kids -- I have teenagers -- and they don't watch television, they watch that.
What do you usually do on New Year's Eve?
If I'm not working onstage, I do nothing. I always look at New Year's Eve as [something] for amateurs, a party for amateurs.
John and I are playing a show this New Year's which we normally do, but when we don't, I just disregard -- no big deal.
Talk to me about working with John Oates. It seems like with so many bands there's infighting. What's kept you together?
We look at each other as being very separate entities. We always have. Even when we were kids. I remember one of the first conversations when we decided to go from college roommates to "Why don't we try doing this together?" we said, "If we're going to share the stage, we are not a two-headed monster." And that was the premise that we created Hall & Oates on.
And it's never changed. John has his path, I have my path, and when we come together these days it's more for live work. Because we have all these great songs that we've created as Hall & Oates. And as far as right now, as far as our creations, we're very separate. I'm just finishing a solo record, John has already finished his solo record that he's going to put out. Mine's going to come out sometime next year.
Were there times when you would butt heads over how a song should go?
We have arguments, and then we'd do it my way.
I'm sure he'd give me a different answer.
No, he'd give the exact same answer [laughs].
So tell me about the new album. Is it finished?
I'm finished with the album except for the vocals. People say, "Oh, that's the easy part." No, that's the hard part. But yeah, I'm going to finish it next month, in January. And I'm loving it. That's all I can say. It's hard to predict how people are going to react to it, but I am really, really excited about this record. It's very aggressive.
What's the process for writing a song? Is it always the same for you?
It's never the same; I don't have a process. Sometimes it can be a chorus, sometimes it can be a groove that I write a melody around. Sometimes it'll be a lyric that will create a chorus that will create a verse. Every way works for me. There's no pattern.
Did you ever consider doing anything besides music?
No. Never. Other than build houses -- which is my alter-ego. I'm a very historically absorbed person. I love history and I love historic architecture. When I'm not doing music, I'm drawing plans.
Your home in Dutchess County looks absolutely amazing. How did you get into restoration?
It comes from childhood. I had a dual childhood experience of music in my family and people who were house builders. So it's not a surprise that I become a house-building musician. I was always around building sites and things like that. I learned things from the hammer up.
Did the work on your house go smoothly?
No. It never goes smoothly. Never, ever [laughs].
The end result looks pretty awesome, though.
You have to keep your eye on the prize.