Daryl Hall, songwriter and lead singer of legendary soul rock band Hall & Oates, brings his House Band to Cincinnati Sunday August 7, supporting the new compilation “BeforeAfter” – a retrospective of songs from his five solo studio albums interspersed with cuts from the acclaimed online performance series, “Live From Daryl’s House”.
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I recently spoke with the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer about his songwriting process, his love-hate relationship with the entertainment industry, and how to avoid burnout while juggling touring, television production and a home catering hobby.
Question: You began to take a serious interest in music at Temple University as a member of the vocal group Temptones and became connected to artists like the Delfonics and the Temptations. What about Philadelphia which led you to soul and R&B?
Answer: I grew up just outside of Philadelphia and have been singing in front of people since I was about 4 or 5 years old. This whole region is steeped in a certain type of music. That’s what people call the sound of philadelphia. It’s very vocal and heavy in harmony and uses certain types of chords. I was drawn to it because that’s what I heard around me.
Q: You are best known for your voice, but you are also a multi-instrumentalist. What comes first when you write a song? Do you have a melody in your head or is it a keyboard or a guitar that leads you to a song?
A: It can come in different ways. More than not, it either comes with a drum groove from a drum machine or in my head, or some sort of chord pattern on a guitar or keyboard. It’s sort of evident in the music. I usually start my songs with the dominant riff in the song and then it goes from there. I can be inspired in different ways. A lyrical phrase can trigger it. Then I let it develop naturally.
Q: This is your first tour without John Oates, and it’s on the heels of the release of ‘BeforeAfter’, which just focuses on your work without him. You talked a lot about taking a break from the duo to establish your legacy as a solo artist. But you’ve always worked with other musicians, whether it’s Robert Fripp or your House Band or Todd Rundgren, etc. What do you think is the role of collaboration in your music?
A: It’s essential because my style is very collaborative. I write a lot alone, of course, but I like to put myself against and with others. Somehow it feels like it’s more than the sum of its parts. And you’re right, I’ve done that over the years. That’s part of what this compilation is about – showing all the different collaborations I’ve done outside of what everyone knows with John Oates. They are all slightly different because of that. What holds together are my sensibilities and my voice. That’s why I’m doing “Live From Daryl’s House.” It’s an extension of the same – working with other people to see what will happen.
Q: Speaking of “Live From Daryl’s House”, you get tons of artists to join you there. How do you choose who to invite to jam?
A: Often it’s about schedules. I have no problem getting people to say yes to the show. I never did, even from the very beginning. When I first had the idea, one of my first guests was Smokey Robinson. I called him and said, “Hey, Smokey, you wanna come over to my house in the middle of nowhere?” And he said yes. I’ve had no problem with people saying yes, but then they say, ‘Yes, but I’m on tour. This whole year is reserved and blah, blah, blah. So that’s the biggest challenge.
Q: You’ve talked a lot about your dissatisfaction with the music industry in general and your reluctance, for example, to air “Live From Daryl’s” on network television. Did your experience with “Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall” or with cameos on TV shows influence the decision to maintain tighter control over “Live From Daryl’s”?
A: My relationship with people who sell art is always very tenuous. I go in a lot of different directions, and I’m hard to categorize and pin down. For the entertainment industry, it’s hard to understand exactly where I come from. I butted heads with record labels from the start. Sometimes everything works, but often not. My catering show was a real experience in the world of TV – with all the restrictions that came with it, even though I had a great time doing the show. I tend to function better on my own without having a lot of people looking over my shoulder.
Q: Do you think the Internet has changed your approach to the business side of the creative industry?
A: The internet has it all. “Daryl’s House” wouldn’t have existed if the internet hadn’t been available to do so. I was the first to do this. The internet, when I started this show, was not a vehicle for entertainment at all. It was for information and association and things like that. There were no podcasts, there was nothing. So what I did was revolutionary and it could only have happened without any restrictions or discipline. Nobody said anything, so we went. This is the strength of the show. It was unhindered.
Q: You’ve had an extremely busy life and clearly have a strong work ethic. What drives you forward? And what do you do with your free time when you’re not making music, touring or restoring houses?
A: I don’t have much free time. I’m restoring the house I’m living in right now, and it takes me time between tours. Then I’m on the road again. Then we’ll start filming new episodes of “Live At Daryl’s House” in September. And it just goes on and on, so I don’t have a lot of downtime.
Q: What keeps you from burning out?
A: I try to change things. I do nothing to death, and I always change things. I’m always trying new things and challenging myself, and that keeps it interesting and keeps my energy flowing. I just have an active mind and like to shake things up.
Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren
When: 7 p.m., Sunday, August 7.
Where: Timberwolf Amphitheater, Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason.
Tickets: $40 to $80.