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Mar 20, 2013 - 07:41 PM
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John Oates shows his range with "Stand Strong" debut at Bristol
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 20, 2013 - 07:41 PM
Feature Articles
John Oates shows his range with "Stand Strong" debut at Bristol


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

With all John Oates has accomplished in the music business, the singer/songwriter achieved a "first" on Saturday afternoon when his song "Stand Strong" introduced the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The long-time member of the duo Hall & Oates says "Stand Strong," co-written by Teddy Morgan and recorded in Nashville, is the first song completed from a project titled "Good Road to Follow," in which Oates explores a variety of musical genres with releases scheduled each month -- as Oates puts it on his Twitter account: "Paving a Good Road to Follow one song at a time."

There was immediate synergy between the unabashed rocker "Stand Strong" and ESPN's NASCAR coverage. Oates and Rich Feinberg, ESPN's vice president of motorsports, have been friends ever since ESPN brought the Winter X Games to Aspen, Colo., (where Oates lives) more than a decade ago.

Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service talked to Oates by phone after the Bristol telecast.

NASCAR WIRE: Do you still get a thrill when you hear your own songs on radio or television?

OATES: I think this is actually the first time I've ever had a song on a sporting event, especially a racing event. It was really extra cool. I told all my friends and blogged it everywhere. It was fun. I had some breakfast, cranked up the TV. I was in Colorado, so it came on early.

NASCAR WIRE: Was the song written specifically for the race, or did that come later?

OATES: The song was written from a purely creative point of view. There was no consideration for anything. We came up with the idea for the music and came up with a very driving, powerful music. I did have an idea about brotherhood and teamwork, being strong… that was the overriding theme. After we were done, we kind of looked at each other and said, "You know, this sounds like sports. It sounds like the army, or a football team, or a motor race." We felt that when the song was completed, but that wasn't my intention.

NASCAR WIRE: How did ESPN pick up the song for the Bristol race?


 

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OATES: This was the first song I completed on the project "Good Road to Follow." It's kind of a musical journey. It's my opportunity to play with and collaborate with and record all the styles of music that I like -- and I have a very wide range of interests. This was the first song that was completed. It just felt so right for some sort of marriage with video that I just immediately called Rich, because he and I go way back. I just called him and said, "Hey, Rich, I've never sent you a song, man, but I think this one might be on the money." He called me back in like 10 minutes and said, "Hey, man, I closed my eyes, and I saw the race. I saw Bristol." I said, "You got it. Let's go."

NASCAR WIRE: You have more than a passing interest in racing. In fact, you drove professionally. How did that start?

OATES: I always loved racing when I was a little kid. I used collect Road & Track magazines and followed the European racing. In the late '70s, I got a go-kart. I had a house out on Long Island, and there was a go-kart track out there -- West Hampton, Long Island -- and a very active go-kart club. It was just a way for me to say, "Wow, this is kind of cool. I can do this on the weekend and have some fun." Once I got the bug, I raced go-karts for like two summers. Then I immediately moved into Formula Ford.

I went to England. A very good friend of mine named Richard Lloyd was running the Audi/Volkswagen racing program out of the UK. He and I were friends through music. I said to him, "Hey, I'd really like to learn how to race," and he said, "Let me hook you up with the Brands Hatch racing school." I did the racing school there in Formula Ford. After I did that, I came back to America, and I did a bunch of other racing schools. So I started racing Fords in SCCA, amateur racing. I did that for a couple of years, and I moved up to something called Sportsman South, which was a pro series the SCCA started, and it was basically kind of a Ford with full body work and a bigger engine.

I raced in the pro series for a couple years, and then I moved up to IMSA, and I started racing professionally with different cars. I ended up driving a Pontiac Fiero for Joe Huffaker. Bob Earl and I co-drove a few races together. Then I had a pretty bad accident at Elkhart Lake, and from there I just kind of drifted away from being active in it. But I've
always loved it, and I still follow it, and I watch all the races on TV. After the accident at Elkhart Lake, it really kind of rang my bell, and I just said, "You know what? I'm going to back off on it."

NASCAR WIRE: You're still touring with Hall & Oates after more than 40 years. How have you and Daryl Hall managed to stay together for all these years?

OATES: It's a complicated relationship. We're very similar on a musical level. We're very, very dissimilar in our personal lives, and we don't get in the way of each other. Our personal lives are off the court, so to speak, but when we're on stage and we're working together, it's really seamless. I think we're both smart enough to give each other freedom to be individuals and not tied into this kind of rigid partnership like, "Hey, man, you can't do that unless I do it." When you start putting those kinds of restrictions on a partnership, that's when I think a lot of partnerships run into trouble. Darryl's been doing solo albums since the late '70s. I've done four.

We've always given each other the room. We've tried to coordinate our schedules and be sensible about it. That's just the mechanical stuff. The most important thing, I think, is that our songs have stood the test of time. The songs that we wrote, and have written, still resonate. They resonate with people from the past, and they resonate with a whole new generation. That's why we're still out there working and selling out shows every night. We're doing better business now than we did in the '80s, believe it or not.

NASCAR WIRE: What's on your bucket list as far as racing goes?

OATES: I've been to pretty much all the great events in motorsports. I've been to Indy, I've been to Monaco. I've been to Daytona. Actually, I started Talladega (as honorary starter in 1987). I've been to so many great events around the world, and one of the great events in NASCAR is that Bristol Night Race. I've never been to it, so it's still on my bucket list.

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