John Oates has just released a terrific solo album, Mississippi Mile, but he’s totally down to talk about Hall & Oates, too, which is such a relief. Because, you guys, there’s so much that needs to be addressed: The Philadelphia soul duo’s remarkable return to the pop-culture cool club, the status of Oates’ relationship with Daryl Hall, and whether or not his once-epic mustache will ever make a comeback.
Even within Mississippi Mile, which almost exclusively reinterprets bluesy Deep South deep cuts, Oates “covers” the Hall & Oates track “You Make My Dreams.” This time, he takes on the lead vocals, and a group of Nashville session musicians give the tune a bluegrass swagger.
Though Oates is all about acknowledging his synth-pop past, his new stuff sounds completely different. He’s just not that guy anymore, the one who “jumped around in those videos.” Oates shaved his bushy ’stache off 20 years ago and began in earnest on a solo career in 2002.
“I’m more busy now than I’ve been in the last 15 years,” says Oates, who plays about 35 solo shows a year as well as several dozen dates with Daryl Hall, with whom he remains close.
These days the Hall & Oates audience is larger than ever and populated with people of all ages. It’s a big change from a decade ago. The band never did formally break up, but their music was pigeon-holed for a time in soft-rock radio. Things started picking up, though, when Hall began collaborating with contemporary artists like Chromeo and Gym Class Heroes in an online TV show called Live from Daryl’s House. Then Hall & Oates’ material began to catch on in other high-profile ways. Here are just a few: In 2008, BMI was proud to name Hall & Oates BMI Icons, in 2009 “You Make My Dreams” was featured in a silly dance scene in the 2009 flick (500) Days of Summer, and in 2010, an L.A. indie pop group called The Bird and the Bee made a genius album of Hall & Oates covers.
This new shot of success has given Oates fresh energy for his craft. “I’ve had a renewed passion for songwriting,” he says. “I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m very happy that it’s happening.”