Holiday chat with John Oates

If you know us (and have seen any of our last 5 years of Halloween costumes), you know that we’re Hall & Oates fans. So when John Oates sent out his digital Christmas card (ok, we’re on his fan mailing list) where he recorded Mel Tormé’s classic “The Christmas Song”, we decided to reach out and request a call to chat about the song, Christmas traditions, and pandemics.

Holiday chat with John Oates

Like fireside chats, but on the phone.

Photo by Matt Christine Photography

We’re loving the digital Christmas card you made of Mel Tormé’s classic “The Christmas Song.” Why did you choose that song and/or what does it mean to you?

I think it, as you said, it’s a classic. It’s probably one of the most well known Christmas songs of all time. It’s so simple and straightforward, but deceptively complicated musically, which is cool. I was sitting at home in my little home studio and decided I was going to learn the chords. Then, when it came out good, I decided to send it to some friends as a musical Christmas card. I sent it to one friend who’s in the musical business and I trust his taste, and he told me it was one of the best versions he’d heard since Frank Sinatra. He said I should put this out there, so I did!

Tell us some of your and Aimee’s Christmas/holiday traditions.

Well, they’re all changed this year. This will be the first year we’re not spending Christmas in Colorado. We decided we’re going to stay in Nashville. Unfortunately, we can’t see my dad who’s 97, or Aimee’s folks, and our son as well. So, it’s going to be a little weird, but we decided we’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to make lasagna, which is one of my Christmas traditions because my grandmother was Italian and every Christmas she’d make lasagna. 

That, and our tiny little tree.

We loved how you shared on your Twitter account (@johnoates) what you did for Thanksgiving since you couldn’t have family visit.

Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Favorite winter pastimes? Do you ski?

I was a very avid skier when we lived in Colorado. I was a big-time downhill Telemark skier, and I used to do a lot of backcountry skiing. Now I stopped doing downhill; I just don’t feel like getting hurt anymore. I do a lot of Nordic skiing now.

[Lora’s note: When I was living in Manchester, VT in 1987/1988, I finished work and headed to the Ralph Lauren store to see some friends who worked there and waited for them to clock out. I was walking around looking at ties and whatnot, when I heard, “Excuse me.” I looked up and saw John Oates standing in front of me. I do a ?and John goes, ? We smiled. It was awesome.]

Besides recording at home during the pandemic, any new hobbies, hidden talents we don’t know about?

No hidden talents and no new hobbies. [laughs] Whatever talent I have I’ve definitely put it out there into the world. 

As far as keeping busy…. Well, I enjoy sports cars and I like to go for drives in the country. I get up early in the morning when nobody is around and go for a drive. I hike a lot. There’s some great hiking trails here in Nashville. 

But other than that, I’ve been doing some cool musical stuff. I did four songs for a movie that’s coming out. It’s called Gringa, and it’s about a young girl in Southern California who goes to Mexico in search of her estranged father. It’s really turned out great! I did a duet with a singer named Ximena Sarinana [fyi, we’re obsessed with her “Girls Go Wild” song], she’s from Mexico City. I sang in Spanish, so maybe that’s my hidden talent!

Current projects?

Right now, my wife and I are in the process of producing a virtual songwriter’s festival which we’re going to put out this spring and we’re getting a lot of amazing artists signing on. Every artist will submit a song and it’s going to be for the benefit of Feeding America, which is a great organization that provides food to food banks around the country. We’re organizing it right now and putting it together as we speak. We’re really looking forward to rolling that out.

What’s on your Christmas wish list this year?

[laughs] Peace on earth and goodwill toward men!

Currently watching?

Wow, now you’re talking. We’ve been streaming our brains out! [laughs]

We’re in the middle of watching Your Honor with Bryan Cranston. We’re 3 episodes in. And The Undoing [we love Nicole Kidman!] – that was incredible. And we’re just tuned into The Flight Attendant – it’s good and crazy. I’m a big college football fan, so my Saturdays are on the couch. I watch football till my eyes bleed. I want to see Greyhound with Tom Hanks that just came out.  There’s certainly plenty of TV out there!

Currently listening to? Podcasts or music…

I’ve been doing podcasts. I just did one with Kras, he’s an incredible musician I’ve worked with in the past. And I just did one with Joe Bonamassa

In terms of music, I’m actually working on a song right now and as soon as we hang up I’m going to get back to work. There’s a guy called Jack Savoretti from London who’s amazing. We have a bunch of mutual friends in England that we didn’t know we had. He sent me a great new song and he asked me to sing and play on. So you’re giving me a break from that [laughs]. It’s almost Euro disco, but it’s not. 

Favorite beverage this time of year, adult or otherwise!?

I don’t have any adult beverages anymore. I’m definitely not in that mode anymore. I’ve decided to clean my act up. My favorite beverage has to be an Arnold Palmer – lemonade and iced tea. I drink it all the time. And of course, coffee, tea.

What has been a hidden blessing or lesson learned during the pandemic?

Yeah, there’s been a lot. I hope that all the lessons that we’ve learned in terms of adapting and being more compassionate, and thinking of other people, we can carry over into the New Year and beyond, so that when this pandemic is over, we don’t forget about what it was like to go through it. I think that’s a really important lesson that we can all carry with us.

Us: Amen!

Photos provided by Wolfson Entertainment

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