John Oates returns to Temple to discuss music industry

The first “Visiting Artists: A Day in the Life” event focused on working in in the music industry.

(From left to right) John Oates, Phil Nicolo and David Haskell speak on a panel for Klein College of Media and Communication’s “Visiting Artists: A Day in the Life” series in Charles Library on Oct. 21. | ERIK COOMBS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At 71 years old, John Oates’ hair is still about as thick and curly as it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when he was at the peak of his popularity as half of the all-time best-selling pop duo Hall & Oates.

Continuing a more than half-century-long music career, Oates, a 1970 journalism alumnus, is still playing music to massive audiences.

Oates, along with three of his longtime colleagues and collaborators, David Haskell, Anthony Aquilato and Phil Nicolo, spoke to a crowd of students at the Charles Library on Monday about their careers in the music business and advice they’d give to students entering the industry. It was the first event of Klein College of Media and Communication’s “Visiting Artists: A Day in the Life” series.

Oates, who will continue touring his solo act next month, highlighted the importance of playing live shows, which he said he’s done almost constantly over the last several decades, whether as a solo artist or with Daryl Hall, the other half of Hall & Oates who also attended Temple.

“If you’re an instrumentalist, it keeps your chops up,” Oates said. “I like nothing better than to come into the recording studio immediately after coming off tour because I’m playing better than I’ve ever played.”

Nicolo, a 1977 journalism alumnus and media studies and production instructor, produced several of Oates’ records. He emphasized the importance of passion for a career in the arts.

“We’ve been doing this for at least 30, 40 years, and yet we’re all still excited about what we do,” Nicolo said. “Keep pushing that passion because let me tell you, it’s five times harder than you think it is, but when you get there it’s a hundred times better than you imagined it could be.”

Brandon Liemer, a media studies and production master’s student, said that he thought it could be hard to follow your passion because many people are doing the same thing, but it is important to find a niche in the industry.

“It’s awesome to hear what the artists have to say about their legacy, and how they’ve grown in the industry, from being unsure to now being at the top,” he added. 

Oates and Nicolo both said attending Temple was key in equipping them for their success in the music industry. Nicolo gained technical knowledge for audio production, and Oates met Hall during his freshman year.

On the night they met, Hall and Oates were playing in separate soul bands at a dance party in West Philadelphia, when gunfire between two rival gangs broke out. Hall and Oates ended up striking friendship while fleeing in the same elevator, said Temple’s Dean of Libraries Joe Lucia.

The two then grew out of Philadelphia fame to top world charts, with hits like “Maneater,” “You Make My Dreams” and “Rich Girl.”

Gabriela Barrett, a freshman history major, attended the event with classmates from her music course.

“I do think that the messages that they communicated were really important regarding how you can continue your life not only doing what you love but maybe making a little money on the side for it as well,” Barrett said.

Mary Swingle, a sophomore media studies and production major, said she attended the event in part because she’s interested in working in the music industry. She said she enjoyed how Haskell discussed the importance of your attitude.

“Your personality and how you interact with the people around you is probably the most important thing you can have,” he added. “Bark less, wag more, you know? And listen, listen, listen, listen.”

Aquilato, Oates’ tour and production manager, said that his job is crucial in helping the artist make their art.

“When you’re putting it all back into the truck at the end of the night, you’ve had a really successful event, you’re one with everyone,” Aquillato said. 

Oates said he hoped that sharing his and his colleague’s experience at the event would help students get a real-world idea of the music industry. 

“We can present it in a way that makes it a little bit more realistic for kids, rather than operating in a void that, ‘Oh what is this really about?’” he said. “We can actually talk about what it’s like to be out there every day and every night.”

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