Daryl Hall’s new album, Laughing Down Crying, is aptly titled. He's enjoying a career renaissance from his Internet series, Live From Daryl’s House, happily married with a family, and finally getting the pop icon treatment for his work as half of one of the biggest duos of all time, Hall & Oates. (Plus, he celebrates his 65th birthday today.)
As a musician you’ve had incredible success, but doing an Internet show is a whole different world. How gratifying has the response to the show been – and the fact it’s being syndicated?
That is an amazing thing, I had no idea. The whole point of the Internet, to me, is it demands a lack of pretension, no bullshit. And I wanted to convey an experience that maybe for the first time, on a large scale, had never been done. It shows what musicians do hanging out together, with nobody watching, normally, and the stories they tell and the way they relate to each other when they’re not trying to prove anything. And now of course I’m taking this Internet show to television, so let’s see how people relate to it when it’s on a bigger screen.
Who is your dream guest on the show?
I’m not really sure. I think it would be interesting to have Bob Dylan on because I think that he would be fun, we sort of know each other and I think it would be a really unusual circumstance. So I’ll just say him. If Bob reads this, come on the show.
The Web definitely allows you to communicate more directly with fans. Do people feel like they know you better from Daryl’s House?
I have to be more approachable now. They see me sitting in the kitchen eating and stuff, so yeah, without a doubt. It’s sort of important to me after all these years to be seen as I really am. I think there’s been a lot of people with misconceptions, about what I am or what my motivations are, people that don’t really know me. And I think it’s sort of gratifying to have people see me sort of like a friend, because when you’re in somebody’s kitchen, whether you’re watching it as an audience or you’re actually there, you start feeling that sort of family kind of thing.
You’re married now with a family. Are you more comfortable with putting yourself out there?
I’ve always been a person who was not afraid to put myself into my songs, but having said that, yes, I’m more comfortable in my own skin now. I think that’s part of maturing. You start learning more about life and what matters and what doesn’t matter and the important things and it definitely affects any artist and grounds you in a different way. So yeah there’s no question about it.
Was there anything that emerged in the writing of the new album that surprised you?
I did find there was a certain coalescence of thought that happened with the way I really felt about a lot of things that more than ever, I think, made it easy for me to say. The lyrics came extremely quickly and I felt very focused in what I was saying and what I had to say. There wasn’t a lot of flailing around in the writing process. So I think there was a difference there than a lot of my past work.
Was there a central theme in that coalescence of thought?
That I’m happy in a very fucked up world.
Can you talk about the passing of T-Bone Wolk, who was your best friend?
That was the one mar to my happiness. But again, when something that extreme happens, it’s a goad to you to be real. This record was created in the midst of extreme emotions; literally the death of T-Bone in the first week of making this record. And then there was the regrouping of the force and trying to figure out where I was gonna go, if I was gonna finish this record, who I was gonna use, who was ever gonna be able to take T-Bone’s place as a musician in the project. I found who my friends were musically and who had my back.
How long did it take before you realized that you were going to go forward with the album?
I knew I was gonna finish it, I just didn’t know how. There was no way I was gonna stop, T-Bone would’ve hated that idea. So I made some calls and one of the first people I called was the guitar player Paul Pesco, who was in my band with T-Bone for a long time. He was aware of what had happened and I said, “Paul, do you want to come in here and help me with this?” And he said, “I’m doing something, but I’m stopping that right now tomorrow.” And he literally was in Indonesia and he left Indonesia and was at my door step in about two days. The song “A Message To You” was a song we wrote together. He came in with that guitar lick, which was a very sort of happy guitar lick and he sort of broke the ice. He didn’t just come in saying, “Okay, what do you want to do now?” He came in saying, “Okay, let’s take this.” I really owe him a lot for the way he treated this whole situation, sad as it was.
Are there any Hall & Oates songs that you have a new appreciation for?
Last year when I put together the Hall & Oates box set it gave me an opportunity to be objective about what I’d done with John over all those years. And it gave me a new appreciation for a number of songs that I had forgotten or didn’t realize how much I liked them, and not necessarily ones that the whole world was that familiar with. So I got a lot of that. I came into this project with sort of that knowledge of what it is I do on my own and what I do with John, what we had done together and used that as a jumping off point. And I look at Laughing Down Crying stylistically as the box set of my mind because it was really taking all the styles of my development musically from the very beginning, when I was in my teens right up until now.