John Oates, half of Hall and Oates, the Philadelphia pop-rock-soul duo that recorded more hits than it can play in a single show, is about to scratch some things off his bucket list.
Oates and Daryl Hall, the duo behind “She’s Gone,” “Rich Girl,” “Kiss On My List” and many more, make their New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival debut Sunday.
“It’s something that Daryl and I have always wanted to do,” Oates said from his home in Colorado. “I’ve never even been to Jazz Fest. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I’m getting a two-fer here, playing and going at the same time, which is pretty great.”
Oates will use his New Orleans visit to record music for his new project, Good Road to Follow. He’s releasing new songs every month for a year, beginning in June with “High Maintenance,” a collaboration with rising pop act Hot Chelle Rae.
In the few days after Hall and Oates’ Jazz Fest appearance, Oates will join Louisiana musicians, including George Porter Jr. and Chad Gilmore, drummer with Carencro neo-soul singer Marc Broussard, in the studio.
It’s fitting that some of the music for Good Road to Follow is being recorded in New Orleans. When Oates was a music-loving kid growing up near Philadelphia in the 1950s and ’60s, his record collection included vinyl 45s by New Orleans artists.
“I have Fats Domino records, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and the Clowns, Lee Dorsey, all that stuff,” he said. “It’s soul music. It’s unique regional American music that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist so much anymore.
“But in those days, every region of America had a sound. New Orleans’ sound was different from Memphis and Chicago, Detroit, Philly and New York. New Orleans just had a thing. I think it had a lot to do with the city’s jazz heritage and mixed cultures.”
Hall and Oates fans at the Jazz Fest can expect a big sampling of hits from the duo’s discography.
“We have a good problem,” Oates said. “We have too many hits. I don’t say that in a boasting manner. It’s just a fact.
“People come to hear the songs they want to hear. We respect that. Our show is full of hits. We’ll insert some album tracks but, really, it’s almost impossible to play all of the songs we have.”
Hall and Oates is among the extremely successful music acts that haven’t yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s not recognition, however, that Oates covets.
“We’ve been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which, for me, is a bigger honor,” he said. “The reason we’re still around, the reason that we’re at Jazz Fest, is because of the songs we wrote. The other stuff — the production, the vocals, the arrangements — they’re all the icing on the cake.”
Hall and Oates’ previous New Orleans appearances include the duo’s turn as grand marshals for the Krewe of Endymion 1989 Mardi Gras parade.
“It was a freezing cold, rainy night,” Oates recalled. “We were on that float for what felt like forever.
“And then we ended up in the Superdome with the Neville Brothers, playing at like 2 a.m. It was insanely fun.”