PHILADELPHIA – Daryl Hall and John Oates can still pack arenas with fans who can sing along to the entire set list.
“I’m very appreciative and surprised and thrilled that after all these years this is actually happening and that there’s an audience out there for what is predominantly older music we’ve created,” said Oates, who is on a summer tour with Hall across the United States.
They’re also still creating new music. They recently put out the single “Philly Forget Me Not” as a tribute to Philadelphia; Oates is from its suburbs (they will also play that city on Saturday). It’s the first new music they’ve made in 16 years.
But Oates has also carved a path as a solo artist, and his latest album, “Arkansas,” is a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt that includes a dash of Dixieland, bluegrass and ragtime tunes, as well as original songs. Oates says the music has marked a reawakening for him.
Oates recently went one on one with The Associated Press about what keeps Hall & Oates songs fresh; his recent solo album, “Arkansas”; and why you give the audiences what they want.
AP: You’ve lived in Nashville for a few years now. Why devote a solo album to blues and folk music?
Oates: I was a folk musician, I was a blues musician. I played a lot of the same music as a kid before I met Daryl and before we started on our career. … I felt like I needed to go back to that in some way. I had the support system in Nashville to do that. Great players who understood the music, knew the music and could play and really make it happen. I thought I had never heard some of these songs performed by a band. Most of them are associated with a solo guitar and voice. I put together this very eclectic band with friends and some amazing musicians and the songs just took on a life of their own.
AP: How do you define if an album is successful now compared with your 1980s heyday?
Oates: I think it’s defined by whether a core group of fans like it, at this point. Making an album at this point is almost like a musical business card. It just proves that you’re out there, you’re being creative, you’re real, you care about music and you’re making music. The people who buy it, it’s a very small group of people who buy it. The world of streaming has basically taken over and become the commercial norm for music. I don’t try to fight it, just try to work within it. I made this record specifically to be made on vinyl.
AP: Do you ever get tired of playing the same Hall & Oates songs?
Oates: It’s a professional technique. I have great respect for being a professional. When you’re a professional, you do your job. Luckily for us, and obviously for the fans, the music has stood the test of time. It’s not hard to play these songs. It’s not a groan, ‘Here we go again, here’s “Maneater” again.’ The songs sound good and they’re actually fun to play. They’re not too hard to do, and at the same time I’m fully aware of what it is we’re doing.
AP: Which is what?
Oates: Giving people what they want to hear. I think any artist has a professional responsibility for playing the music that has brought them to wherever it is that they are. You have to give the audience the experience that they are paying a lot of money for, and, in a sense, expecting.