John Oates would love to tell you that there is some kind of master plan behind the upcoming release of "Good Road To Follow," his forthcoming three-EP set, which is due March 18 on PS / Elektra. Honestly -- he would love to.
“It came together out of necessity,” he tells Billboard. “I started out this project as a series of digital singles. I have such a wide variety of tastes in things that I like musically. I just thought, ‘Why be restricted to one style when I can collaborate with different people and do different things?’ I thought the single was the perfect vehicle for that sort of thing. Each track was so different that I thought, ‘Why don’t I just release them as singles?’ That way they will stand alone, and there’s no need for continuity or flow. So starting last March, we did seven digital singles.”
The new music caused his fanbase to want more. “After that, people began to ask for an album," Oates said. "I started looking at it after the fact, and I realized that it wasn’t thought of as an album. The songs were so all over the map. I looked at it, and realized that I had over 28 songs, and I whittled it down to 15.”
Oates says that it’s interesting to note that the industry has become more of a singles-driven business like it was when he was growing up.
“The world has accelerated to the point that as far as the album as a form, I don’t know if it’s going to last that much longer," he explained. "I still love it, and it’s something that is near and dear to my heart, but I believe with people with their individual playlists and the iTunes revolution that has allowed people to become their own DJs, everything has really changed.
“It has become more singles-driven, but I’m hoping that this EP is something a little more digestible for people. I’m just wandering in the wilderness here trying to come up with unique ways of delivering music to people and see if they will bite.”
Aside from a pair of tracks recorded with George Porter in New Orleans and one with Ryan Tedder in Denver, the entire collection was recorded in Nashville. Oates has nothing but praise for the creative community in Music City, saying that it stretches far and wide.
“There is such a professionalism with everyone you work with -- from the players to the engineers to the assistants and the interns," Oates said. "All across the board, everyone is a pro and takes their jobs very seriously. They all seem to want to work together to make something good. I just love that. I have a great appreciation for professionalism, and that’s one thing I find here.”
He definitely found that with songwriting icon Jim Lauderdale, with whom he co-wrote three of the cuts on the set, including “Close.”
"He’s probably my closest friend here in town,” he said of Lauderdale, who's written songs for Vince Gill, the Dixie Chicks and more. “He and I met at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival when he was working with Elvis Costello. I loved his sense of humor, but didn’t really known him very well. What is so great about him is that he’s willing to go some place he’s never been. But, he brings a very traditional and southern phrasing approach because he’s such a great singer. I bring a little bit more of the out of town chords kind of thing. But, together, we always seem to come up with something that isn’t what you think he would do -- or I would do.”
A few weeks after the release of "Good Road To Follow," Oates and his longtime duet partner, Daryl Hall, will be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I look at it like a lifetime achievement award in a way,” he explained. “We’ve been eligible since 1997, and were never nominated. I just put it out of my mind. It wasn’t something that I ever really dwelled on. I figured one day if it happens, great. It just so happened that we got nominated and elected the same year.”
How will Hall & Oates sing their way into the Hall? Oates didn’t give anything away as far as song selection, but he did hint that there may be some familiar lyrics being performed. “We’ll do three songs, but something tells me that there might be some hits involved.”