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John Oates

John Oates

Photo by Philip Murphy

The musical talents of John Oates are varied. Most music fans know him as part of iconic duo Hall & Oates.

But Oates also brings another rich sound to the musical marketplace. He's versed in Americana/roots music and has recorded six solo albums since 1999.

Thirty Tigers just released Oates' latest album "Arkansas." He brings his solo concert with The Good Road Band to The Old Town School of Folk Music on Thursday.

"This was an easy record to make," said Oates, during a recent telephone interview. "Once the band was assembled, it organically happened."

The album, which was recorded in Nashville, a town Oates has called home for the past 10 years, is filled with tunes that blend roots, bluegrass, Delta blues and Dixie sounds.

"I found a support system, living in Nashville, with people who are playing this music."

Oates said the recording process was a natural, organic thing, similar to the old-fashioned way of recording. There were no embellishments, and they simply focused on the music.

"We didn't want to mess with a good thing. What you hear on the record is what happened (in the studio)," he said.

"(The album) started as a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, who was one of my idols. It became a snapshot of American-roots music."

Oates said he really can't pinpoint why he's long been attracted to this style of music. "That was just something that happened. This was the music I heard as a kid," he said. The new album, he explained, is "true to what I really am."

In addition, he said growing up in Philadelphia was influential in turning his attention to that genre of music.

"In the early '60s, Philadelphia was an important city for American roots music," he said. Oates saw many performers of that genre at that time and was greatly influenced by them.

"I was in the right place at the right time," he said. I learned a lot from them before I met Daryl Hall and we went on our pop journey."

Oates, who stressed he's a real "music history buff," said he's looking forward to bringing his show to The Old Town School of Folk Music, which is an iconic venue on the Chicago scene.

"It's the perfect place for me to showcase this album," he said.

While Oates will be touring with his solo show through March and then occasional dates after that, he's also gearing up for a big Hall & Oates tour this summer.

It was recently announced the duo will tour with the band Train beginning in May. The Hall & Oates/Train tour kicks off May 1 in Sacramento, California. They play May 18 at The United Center in Chicago.

"I'm very fortunate to have two careers. Many artists would love to be in my position," he said. "The incredible success of Hall & Oates allows me to do what I want."

Oates said he admires the band Train.

"I love Train and love Pat Monahan (lead singer of Train)." He said Hall & Oates and Train complement one another's musical styles.

The fact that Hall & Oates is still taking to the road and finding success with fans is something Oates believes is quite an honor.

"The single biggest compliment a musician can have is that the songs  stand the test of time," he said.

When asked about  recent announcements musical legends Neil Diamond and Elton John made about discontinuing touring, Oates said, "I have great respect for both of those guys, particularly Elton John."

He said he saw Elton John for the first time in concert in 1972. "We shared band members during the '70s," he said, adding "I'm a huge Elton John fan."

Oates said the touring life can often be rather taxing so "whether it's health or personal reasons, I completely understand" (their decisions).

FYI: John Oates will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Call 773-728-6000. Tickets are $40 for general public; $38 for members of Old Town School. Also visit johnoates.com.

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Features reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.