John Oates brings intimate new tour to town

John Oates
Guthrie Trapp and John Oates
Michael Weintrob

John Oates knows how to perform.

From selling out stadiums and performing in front of thousands of people alongside Daryl Hall in the best-selling duo of all time Hall & Oates, to recording seven solo albums, to now slowing the pace down a bit with a new string of shows, the musician can undoubtedly be considered versatile when it comes to being up on stage.

In his latest endeavor, Oates joins longtime friend and accomplished guitarist Guthrie Trapp for a seven-city intimate tour aimed to bring their living room experience to the Northeast—and Phoenixville is the first stop.

“An Evening of Songs and Stories with John Oates, Featuring Guthrie Trapp” comes to town this week on March 16, and Oates sat down to discuss what people can expect, and it’s certainly more than just music.

John Oates
John OatesMichael Weintrob

Where did the idea for this tour come from?

Not only is Guthrie an amazing musician, but he’s also [been] a great friend for over 15 years. He is really one of the many, many amazing guitar players in Nashville— and he certainly stands out. After Daryl and I had finished our last tour in the summer of 21, I wanted to do something completely different, and I knew that Daryl and I weren’t going to tour right away. I love to work and I love to play, so Guthrie and I got together in a living room and we just picked up two acoustic guitars and played. It felt so good and it just felt so natural, so we thought why don’t we bring the living room to the stage? And that’s what we’re trying to do, and that’s essentially what we are doing. We tell stories, we just talk to each other just like we are in our living room—except there’s an audience. We tell stories about how the songs were written, how we met, the experiences we’ve had, and we tie it all together in a musical way. I like to go back to the earlier days with my musical influences way before I met Daryl Hall, because I’ve been playing guitar since I was six years old. I go back to folk and early RNB, and even things like music that formed the basis of early American pop music in the 20s and 30s and how this influenced not only me, but contemporary popular music and rock n roll.

What does this kind of concert experience feel like for you, versus playing a sold-out stadium?

It works on a lot of levels. First of all, there’s no replacing the energy and the excitement that happens when you play a sold-out arena with 15,000 people—that’s something that you can’t replicate in any other way. It’s very exciting and the Hall & Oates band is amazing, we have all of these hits that people love to hear and the music is great. But, when you’re doing a show like this, it requires a lot more focus and listening in, and being a part of it. That’s why I love to play these older theaters [where] some of them were actually built in the 1920s when this music was made, and some of the music I’m playing was actually played in that theater back in the day. So, it’s really great to have an audience sitting in a very comfortable environment where the acoustics are amazing and then really be able to see them, and interact with them… It’s a much more personal type of show.

What are some songs that people are going to hear more about?

I tell a lot of stories about how the songs are written because a lot of the time, songs are written in very unusual or humorous circumstances… Songwriters are a very interesting group of people, they’re very creative, and there’s always some kind of amazing back story to some of these songs. I tell stories about some of the Hall & Oates hits, and I tell stories about some of the solo songs that I’ve written with some amazing songwriters—and I go back really almost to the beginning. I play the first song that I ever played on guitar when I was about 7 or 8 years old in front of people… It really kind of puts a time stamp on my career. It says, well this is where it started, and then we go from there. I play a lot of cover songs by people who were influential to me. People like Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Jimmie Rodgers, even James Brown—people like that. I just want to give people a sense of the type of music that made me who I am.

Does performing feel any different to you after the pandemic?

Daryl and I started a tour in early August of ’21, and I thought it might be odd or weird or stressful to start again—and it wasn’t. We rehearsed a little bit, we put the show together, we went and played our first show up in Rhode Island and it was amazing. What I sensed was a real welcoming feel from the audience…They were so glad to be out again and going to a concert, and we were glad to be on stage again. So, I think it was a real love-fest when it came to that. I felt the gratitude not only from the audience to us, but from the performers to the audience because we need each other—it doesn’t work without each other.

How does your music and Guthrie’s music blend together for the show?

Guthrie’s a very interesting guy. He grew up in a musical family, and his whole life he’s never done anything except music. He won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival when he was 12 years old…He’s a genius honestly as a guitarist, and he’s very intuitive. What it does is it frees me up to do a lot of things and just having him by my side, it makes me a better player. It’s really a synergy that we have and we have a friendship as well. He’s a great hang, he’s funny, he’s got a great personality and he backs it up with this really amazing guitar playing. So, for people in the audience who want to hear some really high-level guitar playing, that’s what he brings.

What do you hope audiences take away from your tour?

A lot of things. I hope they’re entertained, I hope they discover something that they didn’t know about me in terms of where I come from and where my sweet spot is in terms of music. Hopefully, maybe they will learn about the history of popular music, because I take people on a bit of a journey and trace the evolution of how American pop music kind of evolved. So, there’s a lot in this show, but in the end, when it really comes down to it, you want people to enjoy themselves, be entertained and really if they come away having felt like they learned something or they got turned on to something they might not have listened to in the past—that’s just a bonus.

Catch ‘An Evening of Songs and Stories with John Oates, Featuring Guthrie Trapp’ Wednesday, March 16, in Phoenixville at 7:30 p.m. at The Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge St.) For information, visit thecolonialtheatre.com

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