Daryl Hall, on tour with John Oates, discusses the ‘biggest landmark’ of his career and what ‘I never had’
It’s been 34 years since Daryl Hall and John Oates surpassed the Everly Brothers and the Righteous Brothers as the top-selling duo in pop-music history, thanks to their 29 Top 40 singles, 16 Top 10 singles — including six chart-toppers — and series of hit albums. More recently, this blue-eyed soul duo from Philadelphia was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
But Hall cites none of these when asked what he’s most proud of having achieved. Instead, he points to “Live From Daryl’s House,” which began as a web series in 2007 and was later picked up by MTV, where it aired until last year.
A combination of live performances, interviews and cooking segments, all hosted by Hall, it gave him the opportunity to trade songs, thoughts and recipes with a broad array of artists. Over the course of 82 episodes, he collaborated with Smokey Robinson, Sammy Hagar, Aloe Blacc, K.T. Tunstall, San Diego’s Jason Mraz and many more.
“My landmarks have had to do with my successful endeavors, but my biggest landmark was the creation and performance of ‘Live From Daryl’s House,’ ” said Hall, who performs here Saturday, Aug. 4, with Oates at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena.
“That matters more to me than anything, because it’s the real me. It’s what I really care about. It’s using my my music, things I’ve created, in a very interesting way. To me, that’s my landmark.”
In that case, his landmark is about to take on a new life.
‘Live from Daryl’s House’ will be live again
On July 16, Hall announced that he had signed a new partnership with BMG, which gives the company worldwide rights to all 82 episodes of “Live From Daryl’s House,” filmed between 2006 and 2016. And, he vowed, there’s more on the way.
“I’m going to start production again after this tour is over, so we’ll start doing the show again. It took a hiatus,” Hall said, speaking by phone from Charleston, S.C.
The show is filmed in Pawling, a small town in eastern New York, at Daryl’s House Club. Owned by Hall, it’s a restaurant and live music venue whose concert calendar currently lists shows booked there through next March.
The show as designed to capture the camaraderie between musicians hanging out together in an informal setting. It was originally filmed in Hall’s former home in Millerton, N.Y., a setting that ensured his comfort and enjoyment.
“I wouldn’t call it like being a kid in a candy store,” Hall stressed. “Because I created that show, I control it and it’s my concept. So it’s not exactly like eating a Hershey’s bar. There’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into it, in order to have it be as spontaneous and interesting as it can be.”
Hall and Oates teamed up in 1970. They met while performing in rival bands in Philadelphia, where both were students at Temple University.
At the time, Hall was singing in The Temptones while Oates was a member of The Masters. The future musical partners were both steeped in soul music, to the point that they once described The Temptations as “our Beatles.”
Their first three albums — 1972’s “Whole Oats,” 1973’s “Abandoned Luncheonette” and 1974’s “War Babies” — landed with a thud, as the duo labored to find a cohesive sound and style. It was only with their fourth album, 1975’s “Daryl Hall & John Oates,” that the two began to make commercial inroads, as Oates noted in a 2017 Union-Tribune interview.
“ ‘Whole Oats’ wasn’t a coherent album,” Oates said. “It was mostly songs we’d written separately and only a few together. It was really a ‘let’s get it out of our system’ move. Immediately upon making that record, we were in a different place. ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ was really more of the first album, because it was written during a compressed period of time with a point of view and more of a focus.
“If you look at our first three albums, each one was distinctly different. But if you synthesize the stylings of all three, you hear it coalesce into what became our fourth album — and what we would do in the rest of the 1970s and ’80s.”
Covered by Nina Simone, Lake Street Dive, more
The duo’s string of Top 40 hits began with “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” in 1976 and continued until 1990. “Rich Girl,” in 1976, gave them their first No. 1 song. It was subsequently recorded by such diverse acts as Everclear, Lake Street Dive, The Bird & The Bee, Lake (which in 2010 released the album “Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates”), and — especially memorably — Nina Simone in 1978.
“That was a long time ago, and wow, it took me by surprise when she did it,” Hall said. “I liked it. I always like it when people do things with our songs, especially somebody I respect as much as Nina Simone. It was an interesting rendition.”
Although the Hall & Oates hit machine dried up in the early 1990s, the popularity of their many hits has enabled them to tour steadily through the years as a major concert attraction. They have done so despite the fact that “Philly Forget Me Not,” a collaboration with the band Train that was released in March, is the first new Hall & Oates song to come out since 2002’s “Do It for Love.”
But anyone hoping “Philly Forget Me Not” — in essence, a promotional number for Hall & Oates’ ongoing tour with Train — signals that a new album is in the works is likely to be disappointed.
“I never say ‘never,’ but we don’t have any plans,” Hall said.
“We’re not really a creative team. We’re together for the songs we’ve already done. That’s what we do. We have the good problem of having too many songs to do (in a single concert). We’re both very individualistic. As we’ve matured and grown and got older, we’re individual artists and have our own agendas.
“So that would probably preclude any more recordings together. But one never knows.”
Together, probably not. But separately is another matter.
Earlier this year, Oates released his new album, a celebration of rootsy American music titled “Arkansas.” Hall, meanwhile, is at work on his new solo album.
“I’ve been working on it for a while now,” he said.
“I get to it when I can and it’s just about finished. I will release it, possibly sometime later this year. It’s a very personal album. I just wrote about things that were happening to me. It’s raw and has a lot of church feeling to it. It’s also got a little hint of the South, because I spend a lot of time in the south.”
Album sales have plummeted dramatically in this current era of streaming and fleeting attention spans. For many music fans, individual songs have far greater currency and albums appear to have less and less value, artistically and commercially.
“Well, it isn’t less and less to me,” Hall said. “If less people buy them, that’s just the way it is. As an artist, it is albums that are important to me. It’s a collection of songs that all come together, and I feel that’s the format that best expresses that. I’m not averse to occasionally doing a one-off single; that’s cool. But I like the album format.
“My creative impetus really hasn’t changed. I write from the heart. I’m basically a soul singer, and the music I care about is heart music. It doesn’t require lots of intellectual deconstruction. I write by myself. I don’t collaborate much anymore, very seldom. My songs are observations straight from my head. So, in that respect, it’s gotten more and more essential for me to write them.
“When you’re starting out, there’s all the normal frustrations. When I was young, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I tried doing everything, for experience, as well as money and to just pay bills, and it has never really changed. That’s still what I do — it’s for the experience. I don’t have a goal. I never did. I just took it as it came.”
Daryl Hall & John Oates, with Train and Kandace Springs
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4
Where: Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl, 5500 Canyon Crest Drive, San Diego State University
Tickets: $89.50-$154.50, plus service charges
Phone: (800) 745-3000
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