How John Oates Is Moving Beyond Daryl Hall Dispute and 'Reuniting' with His 'True Self' to Create New Music (Exclusive)

The Grammy-nominated musician opens up to PEOPLE about his new album 'Reunion'

<p>David McClister</p> John Oates in Nashville in 2020.

David McClister

John Oates in Nashville in 2020.
  • John Oates is set to release Reunion, his sixth solo studio album, on May 17

  • The musician says the album was born amid a renewed sense of freedom after he and bandmate Daryl Hall stopped touring together

  • John Oates says it's "shame" his legal beef with Daryl Hall "had to be aired in public," but that he's "happy" for both Hall and himself as they pursue solo endeavors

For more than 50 years, John Oates has been linked to Daryl Hall, his Hall & Oates bandmate.

Since the release of their debut studio album in 1972, the musicians have sold more than 80 million albums together, thanks to hits like “Maneater” and “She’s Gone.” But now, in the midst of a contentious legal battle and two years after they last played together, Oates is ready to do things his way.

On May 17, Oates will release his sixth studio album Reunion, an album he says granted him the freedom to explore his creativity in ways he hadn’t in decades.

“There was a period where we thought we were going to lose [my father Al]... and he told me he was going to reunite with Mom,” Hall tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I thought, ‘OK, what is the real meaning of the word reunion?’ I’m reuniting with my true self [on the album], who I was before and who I need to be now.”

<p> Jim Smeal/Shutterstock</p> Daryl Hall and John Oates receiving their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016

Jim Smeal/Shutterstock

Daryl Hall and John Oates receiving their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016

Related: John Oates Says He's 'Trying to Lead My Best Life' amid Daryl Hall Lawsuit (Exclusive)

Though Oates, 76, says he “never lost” his true self, he admits to having “definitely buried him” along the way amid a suffocating touring schedule with Hall (The pair put out their last original album together in 2000, and Oates released his debut solo album two years later).

“I spent the entire early 2000s squeezing my individual creativity into this very regimented schedule of touring and business,” he says. “It was debilitating for me, and I couldn’t do it anymore. There was really no creativity left for me in that. It was just about celebrating our past.

Though Oates has released other solo albums, Reunion feels different, because it’s the first time he’s been able to “fully commit.”

“That’s why I believe this album resonates in such a way, because it’s so honest and so real, because I don’t feel like in the back of my mind, I’m looking at a calendar going, ‘Well I’m doing this now, but next week I’m going to be out singing ‘Maneater,’” he says.

<p>Jasper Productions</p> John Oates' Reunion album cover.

Jasper Productions

John Oates' Reunion album cover.

For now, it seems as though there will be no new chances to catch Hall & Oates play “Maneater” on a stage together. The pair — who released their debut album in 1972 — last played together in 2022, and in November, Hall, 77, sued Oates in a case that remains ongoing.

In the suit, which Oates calls “boring, legal mumbo-jumbo,” Hall sued Oates in an attempt to stop Oates’ alleged plans to sell his share of a joint business venture to a third party, something Hall said was in violation of a business agreement previously reached by the pair (Hall said in legal filings obtained by PEOPLE that the possible sale had caused “tremendous upheaval, harm, and difficulty in my life”).

“It’s a shame that it had to be aired in public. I have no plans [to play together again]. I always felt Daryl wanted to make his mark as a solo artist as well, and in a way, what’s happened has given him the freedom to do whatever he wants. I’m happy for him, and I’m really happy for me. I don't see any downside to it.”

<p>Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns/Getty Images</p> Daryl Hall and John Oates performing in 2018

Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns/Getty Images

Daryl Hall and John Oates performing in 2018

Related: John Oates Says He's 'Moved on' amid Ongoing Legal Battle with Bandmate Daryl Hall

As he forges ahead in his solo career, Oates credits his move to Nashville some 15 years ago with changing his life, as it opened his eyes to the world of Americana.

“That’s become my core,” he says. “I began to rethink a lot of things. And what it really did was it kind of reignited my early musical DNA, the music that I was making prior to meeting Daryl. Because once Daryl and I got together, we combined our individual kind of influences and created something totally new and totally unique to ourselves. But I had a whole musical life before I met him — I started playing at 5, 6 years old and met him when I was 19 or 20. So it was like all of a sudden I realized that if I went back to my earliest musical DNA, I could create something new and original that was completely unique to me.”

Much of Reunion is made up of songs he wrote years ago, like “I Found Love,” originally written just before his 1994 wedding to wife Aimee.

“This album is really the sum total of a lot of experiences,” he says.

For more on John Oates, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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