How Daryl Hall Solved “Musical Mysteries” With His Solo Work

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There are a number of readily available compilations from Daryl Hall and John Oates. But, so far, there has been no collection of Daryl Hall’s solo work. It’s an important segment of his career, which he has described as a way for him to solve his own musical mysteries.

Before after lands April 1, collecting original material found on five albums without John Oates, from the 1980s sacred songs until 2011 Laugh while crying. The LP is rounded out with additional highlights from its long run Live from Daryl’s house program.

Hall previewed the set by posting a duet with Todd Rundgren on “Can We Still Be Friends.” They will reprise this couple on Hall’s upcoming solo tour, which also includes Rundgren. Hall spoke to UCR of the Bahamas, where he is working on new solo music with Dave Stewart.

I love that you haven’t taken the chronological approach with this new collection. There are some great segues, like the crackling vinyl sound at the end of “NYCNY” in “What’s Gonna Happen to Us,” for example.
I did it on purpose. I had the choice, as you said, to do it chronologically. [But] I felt doing it the way I did makes all the songs – it just underscores the timelessness of the whole thing, the Before after-ness of it all. And yes, those little sequences, like the crackling record and all that, that was very intentional.

How was it for you to revisit your body of work? What were you happy to rediscover?
Many things came to my mind. First, the quality of production. I was so blown away. I share that, you know, so I can’t completely take credit for it. This was all in collaboration with people like Dave [Stewart] and robert [Fripp]. But the production, oh man, all those songs. Also, their relevance, even though I wrote these songs on sacred songs [when] I was a kid in my twenties. There is something they still resonate with me. The thoughts that I tried to express, I always express them. I still feel them.

There are songs that I won’t say that I forgot them because I didn’t forget them. But you know, a lot of these things I revisited in the past because of Live from Daryl’s house. I go deep with my cuts and do a lot of solo songs. So it’s not like I haven’t heard these songs in years. But there are a few. Like “Survive”, I purposely put it there for the lyrics. I forgot this song; I had forgotten how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. You know, it was a bit of a revelation. [Hall pauses.] I think I’ll go back on what I said, the quality of the production really blew me away. Everyone involved and all the players involved were all so good.

It’s great to have the stuff Live from Daryl’s house as part of this new collection. A song like “North Star,” for example, shows that you’re not just playing the hits.
Yeah, I mean, one of the reasons I decided to start Live from Daryl’s house was to show people that all of these songs, whether they were songs that I wrote in the Hall and Oates experience or songs that I wrote with other people in collaboration – you know, solo stuff – I do not care. But the world, they are used to hearing the big hits. There is all this work that I wanted to bring to the surface. Like you say, I wanted to pull it out from under the rocks and show people all those songs that I’m proud of and mean to me. It was the impetus behind Live from Daryl’s houseand that’s kind of the impetus behind it [new compilation].

As a performer, I think people can see that you’re clearly trying to find something new in the songs every night. What is your process and philosophy when it comes to playing live?
I try to find something in the song every night, to make it a unique experience for me, the band and the audience. I mean, it’s not like every night is a unique arrangement or anything, far from it. But I find something in the song. Who knows what, you know? Could be the day I had. This may be where I am. Could be the mood I’m in. All these things [contribute to the performance]. It’s spontaneity, really. It boils down to this. I don’t play by the book. Everything that comes out of me comes out of me.

Listen to Daryl Hall’s new Todd Rundgren duo

How do you think it evolved from when you started?
I’ve always been quite spontaneous and I’ve always tried to incorporate that into my performances. It’s coming from where I come from, all that Philadelphia soul stuff – you know, where the people, they just sing from the heart and it’s never the same. I’ve always brought those elements into performance as far as I can remember, I mean since my childhood.

How far are you going to go with the setlists for this next tour?
I didn’t actually put the whole thing together. It’s hard to say. I mean, there have to be elements of familiarity, obviously. I’ll mix that up. The songs I wrote under the Hall and Oates label are my songs. You know, I wrote “You Make My Dreams”. I wrote “I can’t go (it’s not possible)”. There’s no reason why I can’t play these songs. In fact, why not? Mixing it all up, I’ll also be playing songs like “Everytime You Go Away,” a song I wrote that Paul Young had a hit with. [We’ll] mix it all up, kinda like an episode of Live from Daryl’s house.

Looks like there’s a good chance you and Todd will share the stage for a song or two.
Oh yeah, that’s part of my kind of performance. I mean, Todd is here! He will use my group. He will do [his set] then leave the stage and I’ll do my show. Then I think I’ll bring it back, we talked about doing “Can We Still Be Friends” and maybe something else. We will see.

How did you bond with Robert Fripp at the time?
We share spontaneity. When he writes or when he plays, there is a lot of improvisation that goes down within the structure. I think we both appreciate each other’s ability to rise to the occasion. When something happens, I can just spontaneously do something and he can do the same thing. Even though our musical styles and backgrounds are different, there is something [connects]. He has his own kind of soul, that’s the best way I can put it. It’s its West Country soul; it’s deep and it’s ancient. I can identify with it and it can identify with mine.

In the Dangerous dances book, there’s a line about how you were looking to solve your own musical mysteries while you were doing the sacred songs album with Fripp. What do you remember trying to find out at that time?
In those days, and I’ve never changed, it was about unraveling the mysteries of what I could do and what’s possible – what you can do musically with a disparate type of collaboration, what you can do when you make something literally from scratch. [For example,] someone gives you lyrics and you start singing: The song “North Star”, Robert’s girlfriend at the time wrote those lyrics and gave them to me, and I just started singing. What you hear is what came out of my mouth, just out of nowhere. He kind of did the same thing with his guitar. Exploring the mysteries and finding what you can do and what your potential is, you know, [it involves] at the height of the occasion.

RCA refused to release sacred songs initially, so you and Robert start putting it out on the radio and to reporters on your own. That would cause a lot of trouble today.
It’s hard to understand in today’s world, what power record executives had in those days. There was no way to get your music anywhere. There was virtually no independent way to do this. There was no internet, there was nothing. We used to go around record stores. [Also], I was living in New York at the time, and Robert was living there too. We would go to writers and say, ‘Listen to this’, because there were people who were what I call kindred spirits who would have gotten it and not immediately tried to set it up. [the terms of], “Why is the Hall and Oates guy doing this?” It was a challenge to change people’s perceptions. I did my best to do so. We both tried our best to do it and it was frustrating, but I think the story was kind to us about the whole thing. We kind of prevailed creatively, I guess.

Before after gives equal time to all your solo albums, which is good. What’s holding you back when it comes to working experience on the 2011s? Laugh Cry?
It was an unhappy time. I had collected all the production ideas with [late longtime collaborator] T Bone [Wolk]. A week after the start of the project, he died. It was devastating and creatively confusing. I was kinda left with [the feeling] from “What Now?” How am I going to bring this to the world without the person who was part of it? I thank Paul Pesco, the guitarist who is also an old friend. He stepped in and sort of took T-Bone’s place. Another guy I’ve worked with for years is Greg Bieck, they just took over. They said, “Okay, here we are.” The album is really the result.

Between your solo stuff and the music you did with John, T-Bone was such a big chunk of it all.
He was a very close friend. We didn’t really write songs together, but he was the ultimate shaper of my ideas. It was a different type of collaborator because it wasn’t a songwriting collaboration, it was literally a musical collaboration where I played an idea and he took it somewhere. When I played guitar, he listened like no one ever listened, which I [was playing], so he can play with it. We had this amazing way of playing together that I hadn’t really had with anyone else. I have other things that I would like to do with other people, but as far as sitting there and interacting with him musically, it was like, wow, he really got me had.

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