When it comes to pop music, no duo has had more of an effect on the genre than Daryl Hall and John Oates.
During the 1970s and 1980s, they released timeless hits, including “Rich Girl," “Private Eyes," “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)," “Maneater," “You Make My Dreams” and “Out Of Touch." Turn on one of the local music stations and you’re bound to hear at least one of these songs within the hour.
On Saturday night at the Jane Pickens Theater Film & Event Center, 49 Touro St. in Newport, Oates will be joined on stage by Nashville guitarist Guthrie Trapp for a show that’s being billed as “An Evening Of Songs and Stories."
The concert is being presented by the Audrain Automobile Museum, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting the museum. You can purchase tickets at audrainautomuseum.org/john-oates-concert.
Stripping down from the big production Hall & Oates shows bring
Oates and Trapp met each other at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado over a decade ago while playing with different musicians — Trapp with dobro and lap steel player Jerry Douglas and Oates with progressive bluegrass mandolinist & pioneer Sam Bush.
After doing a run of shows with Hall last year, Oates wanted to do something different and an idea sparked when he and Trapp were playing their guitars together in his living room.
“I was blown away by his guitar playing,” Oates said about when he first met Trapp. “We kind of hung out that weekend at the festival and we played a little bit together. I think he was surprised that I had these Americana roots with folk and blues influences. Even though he’s considerably younger than me, we share a lot of the same influences and he grew up in a very musical family.
"We started hanging out, recording together, doing recording sessions and playing around Nashville. Eventually, he was part of my Arkansas project in 2018, in which we recorded an album and toured with my Nashville band called The Good Road Band.”
“Daryl Hall and I managed to get in 20 shows last year and the Hall & Oates show is a big production with a lot of moving parts, a big band, video screens and all that stuff,” Oates said. “After that was over, I wanted to try something completely different and Guthrie and I were sitting around the living room playing acoustic guitars like we like to do. It sounded really good, it was really natural and we thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we just go on stage and do this?'
"We laughed and then we said, ‘Let's bring the living room to the stage’ and that was our concept, I guess you could call it, and that’s what happened. We put together a few shows, we tested it out and people seemed to really like it so we expanded it into a little tour.”
Connecting with his creative side and like-minded musicians
While being affiliated with Philadelphia soul and R&B, Oates’ roots are in folk, blues and Americana, and it’s the kind of music he was playing before he met Hall during the late 1960s. As it sometimes goes with creative partnerships, he had to put that artistic side of himself on the shelf for a bit while pursuing the project that would make him a legend alongside Hall.
It wasn’t until he moved to Nashville during the mid-2000s that he rediscovered the music and influences he grew up with.
“People don’t realize I had an entire musical life before I met Daryl Hall,” he said. “I’ve been performing on stage since I was 4 years old and I’ve been playing guitar since 6 or 7, so I was playing for around 10 to 12 years before I even met Daryl. That was the kind of music I was doing, roots music, early rock & roll, swing, ragtime, folk, blues, that kind of stuff.
"That part of my musical personality was put on the shelf during the Hall & Oates experience, basically. I think Daryl put part of his individuality on the shelf, too, because when you collaborate it becomes more than the sum of its parts. So I never really featured it or explored it again until I moved to Nashville around 15 years ago.”
“When I got to Nashville, I realized there was a whole community of people who had the same exact influences as me,” he added. “I began making friends in the Americana community and I began to rediscover a part of myself that I had sort of put in the background. Some people have this preconceived image of me, and I understand why of course, as the guy jumping around in funny clothes in the MTV music videos.
"We have these massive hits that overshadow everything else that Daryl and I have done, either individually or collectively. The hits even overshadow a lot of the great music that we made over the years on all the albums, the deep cuts.”
Oates is utilizing this current tour with Trapp as a way to express another side of himself while showing he’s more than just the pop hits people know him and Hall by. He also wants to show the younger generation pop did exist before rock and roll came into the equation.
“What I do in the show is that I try to go back in time,” he said. “I play songs that were influential to me while talking about the fact that a lot of the younger generation might mistakenly think that pop music began with rock and roll, but it didn’t. American popular music, if you really want to trace it back, started with the invention of the radio, the record player and the phonograph machine way back in the teens and 1920s. There were million selling records during that time that could legitimately be described as pop records.
"I’m a bit of an historian," he said. "I like the history of music and I feel like I’m part of the pop music legacy over the years, so I went back and started rediscovering a lot of this stuff. I think it’s interesting for people to get this different, wider perspective of it.”
Newport audience will hear the stories behind the songs
As for what people can expect when he and Trapp come to Newport on Saturday night, Oates said the storytelling and the backstories are going to be the foundation of the performance. Being an avid car collector himself, he’s also excited to be raising money for the Audrian Automobile Museum.
“I’ve had seven solo albums so I have a wealth of material that I’ve done that’s obviously not as well-known as Hall & Oates, but they’re interesting songs," he said. "What I’ve learned from doing this show is that even songs that are unfamiliar to people really resonate when they understand the backstory and they get a little glimpse into the psyche and motivation of a songwriter and where those ideas come from.
"It’s really an interesting thing that people would be glad I played those Hall & Oates hits at the end of the show, but to be honest, I like the beginning of the show better. It really opened my eyes to a whole different part of who you are as an artist, so that’s what I’m trying to do with this show.”
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: John Oates of Hall & Oates to play Newport RI Jane Pickens Theater