Twenty-five years ago John Oates left the bright lights of New York City for the sleepy mountain town of Woody Creek, Colorado (famously home to the late Hunter S. Thompson, Oates’ former neighbor). At the time, Oates shaved his trademark mustache and reinvented himself as both a mountain man and, eventually, a solo artist. This month he and longtime collaborator Daryl Hall—together the best-selling music duo of all time—head back to the Big Apple to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We caught up with Oates recently to talk about the prestigious honor, his favorite ski terrain near Aspen, and more.
When did you first visit Colorado? Why did you end up moving here?
I came to Aspen on a college ski trip in 1968. It cost $125 and included the flight, lodging at the base of Lift 1A, and a ski pass! I skied powder for the first time and was hooked. I came back in the late ’70s when a friend of mine let me stay at his house. In the ’80s I bought a condo, and in 1988 I left the East Coast behind and moved to Aspen. I’ve been here ever since.
We hear you’re a rippin’ telemark skier. Where do you like to ski?
I started telemarking in the ’90s and fell in love with the style and the feel of skiing powder on three-pin gear. I’ve always loved the off-piste and hike-to terrain like Highland Bowl and the Hanging Valley area of Snowmass.
What were you doing when you found out you’d be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I was writing a song with my friend Jim Lauderdale in Nashville. It was midnight, and my manager called with the good news, so we toasted and kept on writing till 3 a.m.
Were you surprised?
Not really. We had been eligible since 1997 so I figured one day they would get around to giving us the nod.
You’ve been spending more time in Nashville recently. How is your life there different from Colorado?
The two are 180 degrees different. We have a small ranch with lots of rescue animals in Colorado at the edge of a national forest; it’s all about recreating in the mountains. In Nashville, we have a city pad in a neighborhood with lots of restaurants and music venues. When I’m there, I work all the time: writing, producing, recording. It’s a great balance to be in the studio then to get out to the ranch in
Colorado and drive my tractor.
Tell us about your latest project.
I had been writing some original songs and was collaborating with various people in a lot of different genres. I liked the songs but realized they didn’t necessarily go together stylistically. In March 2013, I began releasing a series of digital singles. Finally there was the demand for a CD, so I compiled 15 songs into a three-EP package. I called it Good Road to Follow because it’s been a musical journey that I’ve been taking my entire life. I wanted to share all the styles of music that move me.
You still tour with Hall. What is it about your music that makes it still relevant today?
I believe our songs have stood the test of time. They speak the same language and communicate emotions that transcend generations.