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Tasty Way to Do It: Oates to Headline Aspen Music Fest

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John Oates has gotten a lot of mileage off his impressive work with Daryl Hall and his facial hair fury back in the 1970s and 1980s, and rightfully so. But after all these years, it's time to recognize the man as a songwriter in his own right. Aspen will next month.

Oates is performing and leading the charge as executive producer of "7908: The Aspen Songwriters Festival" from Sept. 16-19. Specifically, the festival will feature an array of diverse, acclaimed songwriters including Allen Toussaint, The Bird & The Bee, and Mike Rayburn, performing at the Wheeler Opera House and throughout Aspen. Oates has had a say in who plays since jumping on board earlier this year.

"When I found out that the City was interested in producing a singer-songwriter festival, I jumped in and offered the Wheeler as the site and producer for the project. That was my first reaction. My second reaction was to call John Oates and ask if he would be interested in being the executive producer for it," Wheeler executive director Gram Slaton said.

Slaton said since he and Oates had worked so well together producing Oates' "The Stories
Behind the Songs" at Wheeler last year, it seemed like a natural fit.

"I knew that John's natural enthusiasm for creating great events that bring in talent interested in cross-pollenization would make sure we got a great lineup, as well as make this more than 'just another music festival.'"

With just a few weeks away from the festival, I asked Oates what he thinks of his first foray into festivaldom, and more.

You're a native to Colorado - is it nice to have this all take place in your backyard?
Part of the reason that this festival is taking place in Aspen is my association with the Wheeler Opera House. I have never performed in a better venue for acoustic music anywhere in the world. I wanted to invite my friends and artists that I respect to experience this great venue and the amazing City of Aspen.

Awesome. I allude to it, but do you feel you and Hall don't necessarily get the appreciation you so richly deserve?
Both Daryl and I are very pleased and satisfied with the respect and accolades that we have received over our long career especially recently with the acknowledgment by so many contemporary artists who have feel that our music was and still is important to them now and when they were growing up.

True that. I know Travie McCoy in particular is a huge fan. So let's get to this festival. What are some highlights?

One of the most unique aspects of the Aspen Songwriters' Festival will be the fact that we are encouraging many " one of a kind" collaborations during the performances that the audience may never see again.

Is there anyone in particular you'd like to collaborate with?
Well...it seems like I'm pretty much sitting in with everyone! It's one of the perks of having your name associated with the festival. Since I am hosting the weekend, it really gives me a chance to hang out with everyone and not only enjoy their individual shows but learn lots of new songs as well.

What musicians are you currently listening to - in other words, what's on your iPod?
Well I don't have an iPod but if I did I'd be listening to songs by all the artists coming to our festival.

Well played. You recently released a solo album a few years back - any plans for a follow-up?
I just finished my new solo album, Mississippi Mile. I recorded once again in Nashville with a stellar line up of new and old friends like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Pete Huttlinger and Bekka Bramlette. The album was co-produced by myself and Mike Henderson and I can't wait for people to hear it. It's a collection of many of the songs I liked growing up as a kid (plus a few originals, too). Its very organic and we basically recorded live in the studio.

Awesome, man. Let me pick your ear for a second, and not literally because that's weird. Who should be the next American Idol judge in your eyes?

Bret Michaels. He's got the musical cred, he's smart, entertaining and from Pennsylvania.