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Small and Oates
JOHN Oates is no stranger to playing sold out arenas across the world, but as he arrives in the UK this week, to play three small up close and personal solo shows, including a gig at The Brook in Southampton tonight, he admits to feeling more at home in the smaller venues.
“With the big shows and the size of production we do with Hall & Oates, there is a certain element of being a bit distant from the fans, but on this tour, me and my band are playing smaller venues which is great because you are right up close to the fans, I really like that, it allows me to chat and interact with the people and it’s much more fun, they will shout out songs they want to hear, and the whole thing helps to build a good relationship early on” says Oates down the phone from his hotel room in Germany.
Born in New York, and raised in Philadelphia, Oates was teaching himself to play guitar at the age of six, copying the styles of Don Gibson and The Everly Brothers.
When the brother of a friend returned from college armed with a large collection of folk records, the musical movement of the time, Oates’s musical direction moved and he immersed himself in the songs of Joan Baez and other traditional folk players.
“At the time I was listening to the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, which when you strip it down is basically the blues, but when I heard Baez and other American folk players, the music really spoke to me, I loved the finger picking guitar style, and I started to search out the other older players. There were all these influences around me, and I was playing in all different types of groups, one night I would be in jeans and a T-Shirt playing folk in a coffee shop and the next night I would be wearing a shark skin suit playing doowop covers at a local dance.”
It was this musical foundation that Oates has returned to with his solo band, a mixture of several musical genres; his solo work is a return to the rural Americana music of the Midwest. A style that he admits is like “coming home for me”.
“Americana is drawn from so many different styles, and it’s all around, even today.
I really like Mumford & Sons; they have a rural folk sound to them, which is what Americana music is all about. People are looking for real music, they are more discerning today and they want the ability to choose the music they like, as opposed to being force fed by the music labels and TV shows what music they should be into. Folk and Americana music is a place where I can do a lot of things musical, it really communicates to all kinds of people.”
It is the love of the music he grew up with that Oates has returned to with his solo work, last year’s Mississippi Mile album, was as he freely admits “a homage to the musicians I was brought up on, the ones who got me into music in the first place”.
To hear the John Oates band live is where the magic really happens, as he explains: “This band played more than 65 shows last year, and we will be doing more than that this year, they are all very good musicians at the top of their game, and we have really worked out well together and it has just clicked, as a band we are really tight and in the pocket musically right now.”
Tickets for the gig are still available.