John Oates Ready to Play His Dream Set at Bonnaroo
John Oates, Photo by Hayley Madden/Redferns via Getty Images
More than four decades after he and musical partner Daryl Hall released their debut album, John Oates is not only going strong – he is branching out musically in several ways. The singer has assembled an ambitious new project, A Good Road to Follow, which will see him release singles on a monthly basis, including collaborations with Hot Chelle Rae, Ryan Tedder, Vince Gill, Taylor Swift producer Nathan Chapman and many more. Eventually Oates will tour behind the singles, though he anticipates that happening in 2014, after people have heard more of them.
But Bonnaroo attendees will see him there this weekend: he's serving as musical director for the festival's annual SuperJam. While we don't want to give away too much, he gave us the full set list. Trust us – it will be something to see. Expect surprises. "R. Kelly might stop by," Oates told Rolling Stone.
Oates is basking in the opportunity to lead a group that includes Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Sly and the Family Stone's Larry Graham. "I've been waiting my whole life to play this set," which will include several Sly songs, Prince's "1999," the Temptations' "Standing on Shaky Ground" and many more surprises, he says.
In addition to coming full circle, as he says, releasing a series of singles and leading the Rock 'n' Soul Dance Party at Bonnaroo, Oates continues to tour with Hall. They are planning a full series of dates this year, including San Francisco's Outside Lands. Rolling Stone spoke with Oates about festivals, having two careers and his future dream collaborators on the ongoing A Good Road to Follow.
Will you be touring for the solo album?
Yes and no. It's not an album – it's a series of singles that are going to be released one at a time over a period of this year. I'm not going to gear up and do a tour, but, yes, I'm gonna start to play. I'm actually thinking of playing more after people get a chance to hear a whole variety and the unusual nature of this project, but that'll probably be next year.
The way music is disseminated now is so different than it used to be. What made you go this route?
I began to write some really cool songs, I got excited about the writing, because everything starts with the writing of the songs. It just seems like people's mentality and frame of mind is they really don't have the energy or attention span for an album's worth of music. But I thought, "These songs are so good I don't want to just have them languish on a CD somewhere." I started thinking about individual playlists and the way people listen to music in a more modern world today and I said, "Why not just release a series of singles?" I realized this is just full-circle from where I came from when I was a kid, when my whole world revolved around singles. All of a sudden the world kind of opened up creatively – I could work with all sorts of different people. I have a lot of friends who are involved in everything from Americana to blues to R&B to pop to country. I came up with the idea of A Good Road to Follow, which is a musical journey.
Can you give us a preview of some of the tracks?
Each song has its own story. When I first went to Nashville to write in the early Nineties, one of the first people I met and became friends with was a guy named Keith Follese. Keith and his wife, Adrienne, had written Number One songs for Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, all sorts of people. I got to know them and their family. They have these two young boys who were probably four and six or seven years old. Those boys have gone on to become Ryan and Jamie Follese in the group Hot Chelle Rae – the lead singer and drummer. They're great guys, really talented, a lot of energy, and they're really making some fantastic pop records, which I relate to.