John Oates Interview: New Album “Arkansas” & The Connection To His Memoir “Change Of Seasons”

John Oates Interview: "Arkansas" & His Memoir "Change Of Seasons"

We all know the super duo Hall and Oates. John Oates is also forging his own, singular path in the musical landscape with his folk, blues and Americana inspired, “Arkansas.” He is currently playing shows with The Good Road Band in support of this album and will once again join forces with Daryl Hall to hit the road with Train, later this year. Get the lowdown on what he has in the works in our John Oates interview.

John Oates Interview: New Album “Arkansas” & The Connection To His Memoir “Change Of Seasons”

EPR: Tell me about your new album, “Arkansas.”

John Oates: It’s been a real amazing experience to have done this. It was a record that I didn’t know I was going to make. I wanted to cut a couple tracks of Mississippi John Hurt stuff, that is some of the stuff that I used to play when I was a kid. I started out as a folk musician and a blues musician years years ago. And I went in the studio, cut a couple tracks and it was pretty cool and then I said, “You know, I wonder what would happen if I played this same music with a band?” Because I was just doing it with an acoustic guitar and voice. And I assembled this incredible band with these amazing players from Nashville.

I’ve got people like Sam Bush, Russ Pahl, Guthrie Trapp. It’s just these amazing players, guys who I have been friends with and played with. And from the moment we played the first track in the studio this magic started happening. My engineer said to me, “Man, I don’t know what this is but you just keep doing it.” And that’s what happened. It was this thing that just took on a life of it’s own. I didn’t overthink it. We just recorded. And I just had fun with it.

If you strip away all the instrumentation on the record, you’ll hear me playing kind of the traditional stuff that I was going to do in the first place except now it’s surrounded by all of this incredible musicianship. That’s how the record started and we just did it in very old school style, analog, using only vintage instruments and vintage equipment. We did it as pure as possible. In fact, we actually designed the record to be put on vinyl, because we knew it would sound great on vinyl. We engineered it and produced it that way.

EPR: I definitely love the sound of vinyl.

John Oates: If you like vinyl, you will love this record.

EPR: How long are you touring by yourself before you get back with Daryl Hall and tour with Train?

John Oates: Well, I have been doing this since the end of January, doing shows for the Arkansas project, and I will continue to do that for the next 2 weeks. Then I will take a break through April and then Daryl and I will start with the Train tour May 1st.

EPR: How did you team up with Train? How did you guys decide to tour together?

John Oates: We’ve known those guys for a while. We are pretty good friends with Pat. I’ve done the Train cruise in the Caribbean. Pat’s been on Daryl’s TV show. I’ve jammed with those guys at rock festivals, so we kind of have a relationship and we just thought it would be a great combination.

John Oates Interview: "Arkansas" & His Memoir "Change Of Seasons"

EPR: Do you have plans to be on Daryl’s show anymore soon?

John Oates: No, that’s his show. If I was on it, it would be the Hall and Oates show. That’s his thing and he liked to collaborate with other people and that gives him the opportunity to do something different and that’s just exactly like the way I do. I’m doing this Arkansas project. I like to play with other people and do things like that, too. So, that’s how we keep it fresh and that’s how we keep things kind of seperate.

EPR: It’s good to do your own thing. One of my readers, Jill, wanted me to ask you how you enjoyed playing the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Bristol. She said that she saw you there and it was a really good show.

John Oates: That was a great show! I love that festival. In fact, I did that festival quite a while ago. It must have been 6 or 7 years ago. And when I did it, part of what I did there was a tribute to Jimmy Rodgers. I was asked to pick a Jimmy Rodgers song to play, to sing, and I chose this song, “Miss The Mississippi And You,” which has now become one of my most favorite songs and most requested songs to play. In fact, it’s on the new album and it’s one of the highlights of the new album. So, by doing that festival, I got a chance to discover a song that I didn’t know and it’s become a real favorite of mine.

EPR: Is there anything else that you especially enjoy playing a little more than anything else? Or is there a song that you might not want to play so much anymore?

John Oates: Well, I’m in a good position. If I don’t want to play it, I don’t play it. [laughs] It’s not that big of a deal, really. No, I mean, I like doing what I am doing right now. I love this roots and kind of raw folk and blues that I’m doing and ragtime and stuff. It’s music from the beginning of when American popular music really started, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when radio was starting out and people were buying records for the first time. So, it’s really an interesting period of time and I’ve been fascinated with it. The music I made on this album is really kind of a snapshot of this unique period of time in American music.

EPR: Can you tell me a little about your memoir, “Changes of Seasons” as well?

John Oates: That’s a book that came out April 2017, it’s been out about a year now. It took me about 2 years to write it and, in fact, this music I am making now is almost really a kind of sequel to the book, a musical sequel. In the book I talk about the early days, what I was like as a kid and as a young musician, and all the things that I did leading up to before I met Daryl Hall and before we started working together. So this is really a return to the music that I made as a kid and that’s why it’s so honest and so real to me. It’s part of my musical DNA.

John Oates Interview: "Arkansas" & His Memoir "Change Of Seasons"

EPR: Where did you meet Daryl Hall?

John Oates: In Philadelphia.

EPR: Do you have a favorite memory of T-Bone Wolk that you would like to share?

John Oates: Well, I have so many, many memories of him. He was one of my best friends and one of the greatest musicians I have ever been around and I have been around some great musicians in my life. But he was a very special, unique person, kind and nice to everyone and an incredible musician on every level. I had the utmost respect for him and when he passed away it was very traumatic for everyone around him because we all loved him so much.

John Oates Interview: "Arkansas" & His Memoir "Change Of Seasons"

EPR: I’m so very sorry. Who were your biggest influences?

John Oates: Well, a lot of the roots musicians, a lot of the folk musicians. People like Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, but then moving on up into the early rock era, you know, people like Elvis, Chuck Berry, stuff like that. And then Curtis Mayfield. It just goes on and on. I mean, throughout my whole life, there’s always been people that I’ve admired and I’ve always looked up to. But it’s really been the roots guitar players who have affected me the most because, as a guitar player, I kind of modeled myself after some of these guys. That’s kind of like my style.

EPR: Of current artists, is there anybody that you particularly like or would want to work with?

John Oates: Oh there are lots of them. I like a lot of the newer, younger Americana groups. I like Mumford and Sons, people like that, Sam Bush, who played on my album. I’m a big fan of his and Jim Lauderdale. But also people in the pop world. I like Bruno Mars, there’s lots of good people out there.

You can see John Oates locally tomorrow night at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, NC. Check out the rest of his tour schedule here.

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.


  1. How awesome is that! What a legend. I love his voice and those pics in the cotton field take me back home!

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