‘I’m interested in things that are more provocative’: John Oates on how his writing style has evolved

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Though he typically handed the microphone over to partner Daryl Hall, John Oates co-wrote three of Hall and Oates’ six No. 1 Billboard hits, as well as charting favorites like “She’s Gone.” But he says his compositional style has changed since then.

“It’s evolved as I’ve evolved as a person,” Oates tells Megan McNerney of Temple Update. “When I was a kid, I wrote kids songs. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I wrote pop songs that 20s and 30s people like. Now, I’m really old, and I write things that really old people like.”

Oates waits a beat, as a sly smile curls up his face: “No, I’m kidding,!” he quickly adds.

Over a period between the mid-1970s and the latter part of the 1980s, Hall and Oates would notch 34 hits, including charttoppers co-written by Oates like “Out of Touch,” “I Can’t Go For That” and “Maneater.” He also helped compose “You Make My Dreams,” “Sara Smile” and “Adult Education,” among many others.

More recently, however, Oates has focused on roots-focused albums like Mississippi Mile, is now in the midst of an intriguing series of single-song releases — to arrive once a month into next year — that will eventually be compiled into a new album. The first one, issued in March, finds Oates working in a tough new country-rock style.

“I write things that are much more mature; I think I’m more interested in mature subjects,” Oates concludes. “I’m interested in things that are more provocative lyrically. I’m not writing about going to the club. That kind of stuff doesn’t interest me, because it’s not part of my world. I’m writing about personal relationships, and things like that.”

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