In addition to being one half of rock-and-soul duo Hall & Oates, guitarist and singer John Oates also has a growing body of solo work – the most recent being the critically acclaimed album “Arkansas,” which Rolling Stone hailed as one of the “Most Anticipated Country Albums of 2018.”
Oates will be at the Heights Theatre to promote the album on Saturday, Feb. 23 for the John Oates and The Good Road Band’s tour. He visited with The Leader both about the album, the tour, and his musical influences.
What brings you to Houston?
“For 40 years I’ve been playing in Houston with Daryl (Hall). I don’t think I’ve been there solo. I understand that the Heights Theatre is owned by the same people who own The Kessler in Dallas and I’ve played there before. I’m looking forward to it.”
How did Arkansas come about?
“It started with my appreciation for the bluesman Mississippi John Hurt. I saw him play at a 1960s folk revival in Philadelphia when I was in high school. He was befriended by my guitar teacher, and I actually played (Hurt’s) guitar on the first couple Hall & Oates albums.
“Arkansas started out as a very simple EP of his songs. The songs themselves were so cool but I had never heard them with a band. They came to life in a new way. Then we started working on some songs of his contemporaries in the late 1920s and early ’30s. Like Jimmie Rodgers (“Miss the Mississippi and You”) and Emmett Miller (“Anytime”). You could argue that that was the first million-selling record. The finished album is a bit of a musical time machine. It’s rural for sure, but I wouldn’t call it country. My earliest influences were pretty wide.”
What can people expect from the show?
“It’s very loose in terms of the performance. We can tell some of the stories of the songs and the reasons we chose the songs we did. They are reimagined versions of the originals. The blues is a living, breathing thing and the songs evolve over time. It’s a picture of the earliest era of popular American music.”
You’re in Nashville now?
“I’m pretty much full-time there at this point. It’s got a great musical history and is a wonderful city to be a musician in.”
What’s coming up for you?
“I’m going on tour with Daryl this spring. We’ve been playing a lot in America for the past couple of years, so now we’re doing South America, Europe and Asia. We are playing some March dates in (Las) Vegas. I’ve been producing an album for David Starr. He’s a gifted songwriter and a great singer. I always like to keep busy.”