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Daryl Hall on His New Career-Spanning Solo Music Collection 'BeforeAfter'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/14/2022 David Chiu

Singer and songwriter Daryl Hall is currently in the midst of his first solo tour in a decade, taking a break from performing with his longtime musical partner John Oates. He's having a good time on the road playing not only a few of the famous Hall and Oates hits but also his own songs outside of the duo's music.

"People are really digging it," he tells Newsweek about the tour. "The set has a great flow to it. I mix a lot of different things in and throw some other things in, too. It's just working out. I really enjoy doing it."

The tour, which continues through May 22 in the U.S., coincides with the recent release of BeforeAfter (Sony Legacy), a retrospective of Hall's solo music spanning from his debut LP Sacred Songs (1980) to his last studio album Laughing Down Crying (2011). The 30-track collection showcases the singer's eclectic musical range.

"That's the idea," Hall explains. "I'm not a one-dimensional artist."

With BeforeAfter, the singer-songwriter felt it was the right time now to release a compilation of his own music.

"I wanted to put out what I call my alternative history," Hall says. "Everybody knows me for what I do under the name 'Hall and Oates,' and there's no reason for people not to know what I do under my own name because I care just as much about it. It has its own history and all its own stories. I just thought, 'If not now, when?' That's what I say."

Several notable songs from Hall's solo output are included on BeforeAfter, including "Dreamtime," "Foolish Pride," "Can't Stop Dreaming" and "I'm in a Philly Mood." Also gracing the new set are six previously unreleased tracks recorded from Live From Daryl's House, Hall's long-running web/TV series. Among them is a haunting and eloquent cover of Eurythmics' classic "Here Comes the Rain Again," performed with Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, whom Hall had known for many years.

"It was sort of an after-thought because Dave was appearing as a guest on the show," Hall recalls. "At the time, I had a grand piano. And I said, 'Why don't we just set up in there and just play "Here Comes the Rain Again"?' And we did. It was a first take, like many things that I do on the show. We played it, and it just sounded really, really good. I enjoy playing it now on the road. And in Nashville, Dave actually came on stage and played it with me."

Another of the newer tracks on BeforeAfter is Hall's duet with Todd Rundgren on the latter's ballad "Can We Still Be Friends." The two had previously worked together when Rundgren produced Hall and Oates' 1974 album War Babies.

"He's done a lot of things with me over the years, one-off things, different singles or different songs," explains Hall. "I have a long relationship with him as well. 'Can We Still Be Friends' has always been one of my favorites of his. I have a sort of a personal connection with it and it's just fun to sing it with him. He's such a great songwriter."

Additionally, for this set, Hall unearths an oldie from the early 1960s, Ruby and the Romantics' soul hit "Our Day Will Come."

"I was a kid was when it was out on the radio," he says of that track, which was also recorded from Live From Daryl's House. "I always thought it was sort of out of place in that time. When you listen to the songs that were being played on the radio at that time, that song really stood out as something unique. I thought it was worth putting on the album because it's a bit of a departure, but somehow it holds up. I just really think it's a great classic song."

BeforeAfter contains a couple of tracks from Hall's first solo record, 1980's Sacred Songs, which was produced by guitarist Robert Fripp of the British progressive rock band King Crimson. First recorded in 1977, the art rock music on Sacred Songs was a noticeable departure from the mainstream pop that Hall and Oates had been known for at the time.

"I remember meeting him for the first time, I think, in Canada," Hall recalls of Fripp. "I think he came to a show. I guess we had a mutual friend and he came backstage and had seen the show and we were talking. We immediately hit it off.

"Over the years, I've spent a lot of time in England, so I used to see him all the time. So we decided to work together and said, 'Why don't we try this?' It's an off-the-wall idea but not really because we do have a certain musical sensibility. We come from different backgrounds but somehow it works together. I did two albums with Robert and Sacred Songs being one of them, and I loved doing them."

Sacred Songs' radical sound reportedly resulted in RCA Records, Hall's label at the time, shelving the album until three years later when Hall and Oates were enjoying a commercial comeback with the Voices album.

"People didn't know what they wanted from me," Hall explains. "They just thought they knew, and people didn't really understand me in those days. I did certain things that worked and certain things that didn't work, and the ones that worked are what they started tagging me with. I certainly had that in me, and that's all part of my musical library in my brain. It's a language I speak."

Six years after the release of Sacred Songs, Hall turned in a more accessible rock-sounding effort with Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, which Eurythmics' Stewart co-produced; it yielded Hall's solo Top 10 hit single "Dreamtime."

"The musicality of it all and just the thrill of us working together and clicking so well," Hall remembers about making that record. "We laughed a lot. I mean, David and I have a real relationship, and a lot of it's based on humor. That's what I think of. I brought a lot of people in that I knew at that period of time—Joni [Mitchell] and Bob Geldof and all these kinds of people were on the record just as drop-ins. When I look back on that record, it just sounds so good. David did such a great job of production."

Singer-songwriter Daryl Hall recently released 'BeforeAfter,' a collection of his solo music. Stuart Berg © Stuart Berg Singer-songwriter Daryl Hall recently released 'BeforeAfter,' a collection of his solo music. Stuart Berg

Since then, Hall has since been balancing between his solo career and recording and performing with Oates, who is also currently touring on his own as well. In the last 15 years, Hall's profile further grew with the success of his Live From Daryl's House show, which first began on the Web and was later broadcast on television.

Over the course of the series, Hall and his band have performed with special guest musicians such as Joe Walsh, Styx's Tommy Shaw, Smokey Robinson, Nick Lowe and Shelby Lynne. In retrospect, the series somewhat prefigured the trend of music podcasts.

"Nobody was doing it," Hall says about his show, which he is planning on restarting. "I definitely paved the way. It's hard to remember how sparse the ground was when that show started. There was no entertainment on the Internet. People didn't use the Internet for entertainment. They used it for information and communication. So the idea of doing it for entertainment was completely my idea."

Fittingly, BeforeAfter has been released in the same year as Hall and Oates' debut record, Whole Oats, will turn 50. While he is revisiting his past works on his current tour, Hall is already looking ahead to the future with a new solo record on the horizon.

"I have about eight tracks," he says. "I've been working with Dave Stewart. We spent a month doing it, and some of the songs are unbelievable. I'm just waiting for when to put it out and to finish it up. So some time by the end of this year, the album will be finished. I'm not quite sure when I'm gonna release it, but somewhere in that vicinity."

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