Press Here Publicity Daryl Hall certainly took his time recording a follow-up…
John Oates Finds Inspiration in Flood-Ravaged South, Reveals Secret to Continuing Success of Hall and Oates
- Posted on Jun 2nd 2011 1:00PM by Chris Epting
But perhaps nothing he's done is as personal as his latest full-length, 'Mississippi Mile.' Comprised mainly of Americana cover tunes that influenced Oates before his Hall and Oates days, it's an homage to classic roots rock and soul.
There are a few original songs as well, including a down-home remake of one of his old hits and a track inspired by a very real brush with some of the tragic flooding that has plagued the south over the last several years.
Essentially recorded "live" in a southern studio backed by some of the country's most seasoned session players, it was, as Oates tells Spinner, a chance to reconnect with the music that got him here in the first place.
In Hall and Oates, you and Daryl have covered many musical styles, but never really something like this brand of rootsy Americana.
It started out as a casual idea. I was going to get some musicians I really respected down in Nashville. We were just going to record some old songs but as I got into it more and more, what I realized I was doing was creating this sort of musical autobiography of everything that ever mattered to me and made me want to be a musician -- before Hall and Oates. People may not think I did anything before that, but I'd played in numerous bands, playing coffee houses doing folk-blues on my own, so 'Mississippi Mile' is really a record of where I was as kid before Hall and Oates even started.
It must have been interesting to "time travel" back across your own musical roadmap.
It could have been a triple album given the number of influences I have, but I wanted to focus on the real touchstones for me, guitar players, guys like Curtis Mayfield, Chuck Berry, Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson -- if you take those four guys and put them together, that's kind of how I play the guitar.
The album has a real Sun Studio feel. Have you been there?
I've been there, toured it but never recorded there. I made all the pilgrimages in Memphis: Elvis's house, every place. Over the years as we've toured America, I've tried to see and experience the great history of American music at a lot of historic landmarks.
The Mississippi River is all over the news right now. Does it feel strange to release an album called 'Mississippi Mile' at this time?
I feel so bad for that area, which has just been hammered, year after year. Last year, Daryl and I were playing the Memphis Blues Festival. We got two songs into our set and the tornado warnings started. So the park, which is on the edge of the river, gets evacuated. The next day, my family and I were driving to Nashville. I was starting pre-production on this very album. That's when the flood hit and we got caught on the highway, Interstate 40, for hours and hours, We couldn't get through, so we headed back to Memphis. That's where the song 'Deep River' came from, that tragic Nashville flood. It's a very ominous, vibey track. Originally, I was going to record Doc Watson's 'Deep River Blues' but it wasn't coming out right. It definitely influenced the song I wrote about the flood.
Do you and Daryl share each other's solo stuff with one another?
I gave him a copy of the CD a while back right after I finished it. He really liked it, overall. His comment was, "That's some of the most effortless plying I've ever heard," which I was happy to hear. And he was shocked to hear the new version of 'You Make My Dream Come True' because of how different it felt from our original. Conceptually, that sort of stands apart from the other songs, but hey, it's still part of my youth when you consider how old it is [laughs].
Do projects like this help Hall and Oates continue because they give you a chance to refresh?
It's exactly why Daryl and I are still together. We've always had the respect for each to allow for solo projects and Daryl and I have both done all kinds of things. He's now got his Internet show 'Live From Daryl's House,' which he is very passionate about. Solo projects keep our creative juices flowing so we can come back to Hall and Oates and feel really comfortable and good about our great legacy of music that we've created together over the years. People still love it, it's still vital, it moves people, but at the same time we're not so tied to it that we have nothing else in our lives. That's important after 40 years of working together, still being able to grow as individuals.