Daryl Hall Brings His ‘House’ to Milwaukee

Rock and pop star Daryl Hall talks about his musical roots and his current tour, which will bring him to the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee Nov. 25.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Daryl Hall turned out a series of top-40 hits – “Sara Smile,” “I Can’t Go For That,” “Rich Girl” – as half of the duo, Hall & Oates. His vocal range and expressiveness created an undertow of soul, imbuing those songs with an unexpected depth of emotion and transforming them into enduring classics. Memorable lyrics didn’t hurt – to this day, I’m always looking for the opportunity to work the fabulous phrase, “I need a drink and a quick decision,” (from “She’s Gone”) into a conversation. 

More recently, Hall explored all kinds of grooves, from rock to R&B, on the web series and television program, “Live From Daryl’s House.” Hall will be playing the Riverside Theater here in Milwaukee on Nov. 25, with special guest Todd Rundgren, whose career has included a few stellar examples of pure pop, including “Hello, It’s Me” and “We Gotta Get You a Woman.” The show promises to be a crowd-pleaser, and a good choice for a post-Thanksgiving family outing. 


 

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I spoke with Hall last week about the gig, his musical roots and more. 


Daryl Hall; Photo by Stuart Berg

Q&A

CAROLE NICKSIN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Milwaukee Magazine. Can you give us a little preview of what this tour is like? 

DARYL HALL: It’s a lot of fun. It’s very reflective of the live sets from “Daryl’s House.” It’s the house band [from “Daryl’s House”], they back up Todd first, and they back me up, and then Todd and I play together. The stage set looks like the [Daryl’s House] club. It’s structured and loose, it’s both. 

How did you choose Todd Rundgren to join you on this this tour? 

Todd and I grew up, my high school played his high school in sports. We’re the same age, we moved to Philly from the ‘burbs at the same time, we moved to New York City at the same time. We’ve known each other since we were kids and we have an easy working relationship. I think it’s mutual. We are both eclectic and we are both fearless. 

Speaking of Philly, how did growing up there influence you as a musician? 

I grew up outside Philadelphia, and it was a very musical area. I grew up in a multicultural environment, across the river from Pottstown, which was a multi-ethnic factory town. My parents were both musicians. I grew up listening to blues, gospel, R&B, doo-wop, and I loved it. I sang in the choire, I saw my mother play in a band and my father was in a vocal group. 

When the O’Jays  – also from Philly – were on “Daryl’s House,” they commented on how much soul you have. Is the Philly scene the source of it all?

Soul is a state of mind. But yeah, Philly is home to a certain kind of soul, and I sprung up from that sound.

You’ve written so many top-40 hits. What’s the secret to a perfect pop song?

I don’t know if there is such a thing. I find personally, it’s partially the message I’m putting across, but I also try to put mini surprises into it, like unexpected chord changes and things like that. It perks people up, all these little thing, these little moments that add up.

As an artist, you seem to be very forward-looking.

I just like expansion, I like to break boundaries and try different things. If I have a creative key, that’s what it is. I like playing the musical field. Philly soul, that’s always the base, but from there, I explore. That keeps me alive. My core audience accepts that. At first, critics didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but the fans did. They always got it.

That’s so interesting. Some musicians seem to get stuck in the era of their initial success.

Definitely not stuck. The past, the past is part of my present. It influences me. But I try to stay in the present.

How would you characterize where you’re at right now, in terms of your music?

I think that I’m getting closer to raw emotion in things that I write and do. When I sit down to a keyboard, I’m more emotional and playing more melodies.

Is that a product of getting older?

Yeah, it might be a product of age. Things become more immediate. I am doing more of exactly what I feel. There’s no time to procrastinate, or compromise, or whatever it is. You’ve just got to do it now.

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Editor-in-chief Carole Nicksin has worked in publishing for over 20 years. Prior to joining the staff of Milwaukee Magazine, she was the style director at All You, a Time Inc. publication. She also served as decorating editor at Home magazine. Carole has written for the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, InStyle and numerous other publications.