By Carol Anne Szel
Daryl Hall and John Oates’ illustrious career started in the early 1970s, and over the course of the next couple of decades, the duo gave to the world songs that embedded themselves into the fiber of our lives — "Rich Girl," "Sara Smile," "Kiss On My List," "She's Gone," "Private Eyes," and their hugest hit to date, "Maneater." Hall & Oates took over radio and commandeered MTV in an age where video ruled the music world and pop music was its king.
As half of Hall & Oates, Daryl Hall has eight No. 1 Billboard hit singles, seven RIAA-certified Platinum and six RIAA-certified Gold albums and has an almost untouchable 34 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. He has sold more 60 million records — so far. The dynamic duo is ready to embark on a summer tour, which runs through September in a select number of cities nationwide.
Yet with all that musical success, Hall is a soft-spoken man who seems to have nestled into an era of his life where he is fulfilling his dreams. “Live From Daryl's House" is a free Web cast that Hall puts out monthly, which features a wide variety of guests, ranging from Smokey Robinson and Todd Rundgren to Nick Lowe, Ray . Set in his restored home in a lovely rural town the Northeast, "Live From Daryl's House" is more like the backyard pass to his musical life. Past episodes have included legendary guests like Smokey Robinson, Todd Rundgren, Nick Lowe, and Ray Manzarek, plus newcomers like Gym Class Hero, Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump and Diane Birch.
Hall opened up to Goldmine about Hall & Oates, his childhood, the early years of his musical journey, his avocation for restoring old homes and more.
I have to say that I am a huge Hall & Oates fan, and watching "Live From Daryl's House" has made me feel like I'm pulling my car up to the doorstep and entering your life for a day. In the Diane Birch episode, she got out of her car and looked up to comment on the sky and the clouds. I looked up at the screen and agreed, as if I was there with you all!
Daryl Hall: Thank you. Well that's the idea. I'm trying to make people feel like they're a fly on the wall.
How long has the Web cast been running so far?
Hall: I'll let you figure it out. Well it was 29 months ago. The 29th episode is on right now. It's surprising how long its been running. I had the idea before this, but... I really just wanted to bring the world to me for a change. To not do my act onstage and instead have no act. Not have an audience, have the audience be a part of the experience. The intimacy of not having an audience with us — just the musicians and crew. the room, or in the yard, or as you say, looking up at the clouds. Where the viewer can feel like they're an actual part of the show.
You bring the viewer into your home. What would you call it, your band/jam/studio room?
Hall: Well, it's kind of the middle room. I have the two colonial houses, and when i reconstructed them, I needed something to hold them together. So I built this, sort of a barn room.
Speaking of that, I've heard that one of your passions is reconstructing old homes. You joined two houses together?
Hall: When I got the houses they were both in the same area. And I was waiting and waiting for the second house. When I went into the attic of the first house, not only did I get the house itself, but I got clothes and furniture and all these things. It was only five generations, and then I got it. And one of the things that was in the attic was a chest of drawers. And it said Hatchet on the back of it. The name Hatchet. And Hatchet was the other house. So I said why is Hatchet in this house? So I went to the town and searched the records and found out that Oliver Hatchet's daughter married the son of the other one.
You were born in Pennsylvania. Did you have your home base there starting out?
Hall: In the early days when John (Oates) and I decided we were going to break out on our own and kind of have our own vision, we moved to New York. So I spent years living in New York City.
In your wildest dreams back then, did you ever imagine how hugely successful you and John would become?
Hall: I never really imagined that. We met in college. And I knew we had something special. Commercial success — I don't think you ever really know that. But I knew we were going to make it one day.
You sold more songs than anyone in the 1980s. Was that mind-blowing for you?
Hall: Well, yes, it was. It was like being in the eye of a hurricane. And if I ever stepped away from the eye, I would be sucked into it. So it had its good times, its moments.
What was your mindset during those huge Hall & Oates years?
Hall: I don't know if artists talk about this a lot. But one thing is to accept and enjoy. People tend to objectify. And I'm not really big on being in the spotlight. I wasn't really comfortable being a star. So being a pop star, I certainly enjoyed the attention, but because it brought the attention to my work. These days, the music industry treats (them) like horses. They have a stable of artists. It's very much like a thoroughbred horse when you see how fast he can run before you invest in him. As for the public, people treat you sort of like 'the other.' You're 'the other.' And over the years I've sort of managed to strip myself of that.
Looking at the Internet, I noticed the huge Hall & Oates fan base there is out there. Fan sites, Hall & Oates memorabilia trading sites, blogs, everything! Worldwide dedicated fans that have followed you all these years. How does that make you feel?
Hall: We have great fans. People, wherever I am in the world, people come up to me and say nice things. They treat me more like a person.
What was the process like for you and John Oates writing back in the day?
Hall: Well the truth is, we never really wrote together. We would write together. Occasionally. But not that often. It was more separately. And I write a lot more.
What was the musical dynamic between the two of you?
Hall: We were friends first. He was the guitarist in the band and I was the singer. We were just getting out of school, and we said 'Why don't we try sharing the stage together?' As two individuals. And it's really all about that. So that's how it went.
Did that progress over the years?
Hall: The balance began to shift, and it became more and more my songs. And John began to be more in the background. And that's what we're all about. And we're very comfortable. We both feel comfortable in it as far as the Hall & Oates thing goes. It's a comfortable situation. It just worked out that way.
I won't ask you about every song, but your biggest Hall & Oates hit is "Maneater" What is that song about? What is the true meaning to that song?
Hall: That song was written... well, we all lived in The Village together. And we all used to go to these places and John's girlfriend-slash-wife at the time was a model. We used to see this kind of thing all the time. So it was kind of a common thing. It wasn't about anyone in particular. And actually it could be a woman or man. A maneater, is it a man or a woman? Just get what you can and move on.
Now you are going out on a dozen or more Hall & Oates shows this summer on the Do What You Want, Be What You Are 2010 Tour. Do you and John get together and rehearse ahead of time?
Hall: No. We tour all the time, but we don't go out for long periods of time. We're so involved in our solo projects.
I know you are working on a solo album also, writing and recording it. How is that going to work out? And, what's going to happen to the webcast during the time you're out on the road?
Hall: I'm literally trying to work on the album, do the Hall & Oates tour, and do “Live At Daryl's House” all at once!
An artist and workaholic!
Hall: Well I don't know. I try to get away from that “-aholic” thing! But, yes, I'm a very hard worker. I'm looking to keep it all running, and hope to get my album finished in the fall and hopefully out the beginning of next year.
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