John Oates talks music and rescuing animals before Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga benefit concert – Upstate Beat

John Oates.
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John Oates.

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UPSTATE BEAT — At their ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado, musician John Oates and his wife, Aimee, have rescued a menagerie of animals, including horses, peacocks, emus, llamas, alpacas and turkeys.

When Oates was asked to perform at a fundraiser for Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga on Sept. 8, the cause was a good fit for the guitarist and songwriter, known for his role in the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates.

Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga rescues retired racehorses and matches them with humans who can benefit from equine-assisted healing. Tickets are still on sale for the 7 p.m. benefit concert, billed as “An Evening of Songs and Stories (and Horses) with John Oates,” which takes place at the organization’s farm at 683 Lake Ave. in Saratoga Springs.

“We don’t have any horses anymore but my wife and I both had a lot of experience with rescuing horses and having horses on our property,” said Oates via Zoom this week. “My wife grew up on a farm and she’s always been involved with horsey stuff. When this opportunity came up, my wife jumped on it and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to do it. This is a great cause.’ I thought it seemed like a very worthy thing to do.”

The last tour by Hall & Oates (known officially as Daryl Hall & John Oates) ended in fall of 2022, and Oates and his longtime musical partner Daryl Hall have been on separate paths this year.

The duo last performed at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in August of 2021 with a six-piece band and a set that hit many high notes, including classics “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” “She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes” and “You Make My Dreams.”

Oates, a collector of classic cars, has also been to the area in recent years for events at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. He and his wife now split their time between the Colorado ranch and a house in Nashville.

“Our son went off to school on the East Coast, and when he did we wanted to be closer to him,” he said. “And also my dad still lives in Pennsylvania. He just turned 100 this year. And my wife’s family lives in Illinois, so we oriented ourselves to be a little closer to everyone else.”

For the Therapeutic Horses benefit, Oates will play acoustic guitar, accompanied by a percussionist while performing songs introduced by stories, a format inspired in part by the writing of his memoir “Change of Seasons,” released in 2017.

“It’s a format that I really enjoy doing,” he said. “It’s very freeing creatively. We can change the set and we can do requests. I love doing it because it’s very simple. There aren’t a lot of complications involved, not a lot of road crew and staff and equipment and trucks. It’s just very organic and real.

“I try to take people on a musical time trip,” he adds. “I like to talk about the music that came before me and made me who I am. I go chronologically, in a sense, through my musical career, focusing on songs and artists who were influential to me. And eventually I play a lot of my new original material, and of course I play some Hall & Oates hits as well and everything in between.”

Oates has released seven songs on digital streaming platforms this year, about one per month, including “Too Late to Break Your Fall,” a new track that blends roots music, blues and swing. Lyrically the song is about the universal experience of having a friend ask for advice that is then ignored.

Oates also recently released a reggae version of his ‘80s hit “Maneater,” which was originally inspired by a trip to Jamaica.

“When I wrote the original chorus of ‘Maneater’ I wrote it as a reggae song,” he said. “When Daryl and I got together to finish the song, we changed the groove and the beat to what you hear on the radio. But over the years I’ve always wanted to bring the song back to its original idea. I have a very good friend who’s a Jamaican producer, and he suggested going to Kingston, Jamaica, and rerecording the song with people who are legends of reggae.”

Oates’ set also includes songs by influences such as bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson and bluesman Mississippi John Hurt, and he sounds eager to make clear that his musical roots are much more diverse than many people think.

“These [artists] were my heroes growing up. I play some of that stuff to give people a deeper sense of who I really am as a musician,” he said. “I’m not just those Hall & Oats hits from the ‘80s. A lot of people have a distorted image because the hits were so popular and so powerful. And you have MTV and the videos, so people think that’s who I am. But that was only a small part of my life.”

Of course, Oates’ roots in Philadelphia, where he first met Hall in 1967 when both were in bands and attending Temple University, are an indispensable part of his music history as well.

“Philadelphia was a hotbed of music,” he said. “I could go to the Uptown Theater and see some of the greatest soul and R&B acts of all time. I saw Stevie Wonder when he played ‘Fingertips’ when he was like 12. I saw The Temptations, The Miracles, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding. At the same time, the folk revival was happening. I got to see the originators, people like Mississippi John Hurt and Doc Watson and Son House. Being in Philadelphia as a young musician, I was able to absorb all these things. That’s what I like to show during my concerts — that I represent a wide variety and scope of American roots popular music.”

Visit thsaratoga.org for tickets to the benefit show, which start at $150 for general admission.

The Week Ahead

  • The super blue moon, the last full moon of summer, will be shining overhead tonight for the final edition of the Howlin’ at the Moon Concert Series, this one featuring Everest Rising and Big Fez & the Surfmatics at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction. 7 p.m.
  • The three-day Adirondack Independence Music Festival takes over the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons in Lake George this weekend with two side-by-side stages and a jam-heavy lineup including moe., Dark Star Orchestra, Mihali, Rubblebucket and more.
  • Guns N’ Roses, with special guests Dirty Honey, roar into Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday, kicking off Labor Day Weekend with some hard-rocking “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” energy. 6 p.m.
  • 38 Special brings a string of Top 40 hits from the ‘80s and ‘90s to the Event Center at Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady on Friday, including “Hold on Loosely,” “Caught Up in You” and “Rockin’ into the Night.” 7 p.m.
  • The charismatic New Orleans band leader Trombone Shorty and his group Orleans Avenue will get the audience at The Egg in Albany up and dancing in the aisles on Friday. DJ Trumastr opens the show. 8 p.m.
  • The Mauskovic Dance Band from Amsterdam, Netherlands, combines elements of Cumbia, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and psychedelia to create a hypnotic groove at No Fun in Troy on Saturday for the popular astrologically themed Planetarium Party (Virgo edition). 8 p.m.

Contact Kirsten Ferguson at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Saratoga Springs

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