Daryl Hall hosts Jason Mraz in new video from Dutchess home
Rock star Daryl Hall has always enjoyed performing with famous musicians. And in 2007, he started filming these collaborations at his Dutchess County home and then posting them online as part of the aptly named Web series, "Live From Daryl's House." The 55th episode, featuring singer-songwriter Jason Mraz ("I'm Yours"), will be posted online at 8 p.m. today.
Rather than filming the monthly show in a recording studio or on a formal stage, Hall says he has his reasons for shooting in the most casual of settings and for keeping the camera rolling during dinner and drinks.
"People act differently when there's no audience around," he says of the show's guests, which have included Cee-Lo Green, Train, Grace Potter and Todd Rundgren. "Put it in a very personal environment, so it's literally coming into somebody's house -- my house -- and it becomes sort of a party. So, people are just sort of hanging out and playing and having a good time and forgetting what they're there for...What it does is allow the audience to be like a fly on the wall."
Hall got his start in music decades ago as half of Hall and Oates, a group that fused pop, rock and soul, scoring six chart-topping hits in the '70s through the mid-80s ("Rich Girl," "Maneater," "Private Eyes," "Kiss on My List," "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," and "Out of Touch"). As part of that duo and as a solo artist, he had always toyed with the idea of filming informal jam sessions with famous friends, but the Web finally provided him with the medium.
"In the '80s, when I did a show at the Apollo Theater, I brought two of the Temptations on stage with John [Oates] and the band," Hall recalls. "And we sort of did a proto-LFDH that way, in front of an audience, where we traded back and forth and did verses, and it sort of took the same kind of format -- minus the food, of course."
He admits he's come a long way since his first guests made the 90-minute trip from New York City to his suburban home, a time when he felt more comfortable singing into the microphone than acting as the show's host.
"It's funny: If you watch the early episodes, you'll watch how I've learned how to do it," he says. "I [was] kind of stumbling around, looking for my role."
With time he became more natural on camera and the show's appeal grew -- it won a Webby Award in 2010 and became nationally syndicated last fall.
To ensure great performances, Hall says he and his band make a point to put guests at ease, but that doesn't mean he won't try to cajole them on occasion. One of Hall's favorite unexpected moments from the series is when he convinced Smokey Robinson, one of his childhood idols, to sing one of the Motown legend's biggest hits, "Ooo Baby Baby."
"It all happened on camera, and you could see the process," Hall says. "You literally see his eyes and the wheels turning in his brain and everything...I look at that as really one of the highlights."
The tapings, which often represent the first time that Hall sits down with his guests, always offer something new.
"Every guest is a surprise," he says. "The truth is, I never know what's going to happen...most of these shows are blind dates."
And although many of Hall's guests are his contemporaries -- he's 65 -- the relaxed format allows younger musicians the chance to offer fresh takes on Hall's songs, and vice versa. Highlights include Chromeo's talk-box-enhanced vocal breakdown on Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," and Cee-Lo Green and Hall's soulful harmonies on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."
Hall, who continues performing with his own band and with Oates, says that keeping current and embracing reinvention has helped him stay relevant.
"I watched my generation age and I see who falls by the wayside -- who operates in diminishing returns because of rigidity -- people who just don't have the imagination to do anything other than that act that they figured out 40 years ago," he says. "You know, life moves, man. It keeps moving. It doesn't ever stop."
Despite his constant forward momentum, Hall gains satisfaction, too, from knowing that his earlier music continues to endure.
"It's one of the great joys of my life right now," he says. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be one of those artists like James Brown and B.B. King who, in those days, crossed over generations; I've become one of those people. You can't plan for that. That just sort of has to happen externally. With Hall and Oates, my audience is as much kids as it is people who have followed me for years."
And, of course, he's enjoying "Live From Daryl's House," too: "I've never had so much fun in my life."
CHECK IT OUT
What: Daryl Hall and guest Jason Mraz on "Live From Daryl's House," featuring musical collaborations as well as informal discussions about food, music and more
Where: Available at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 15 onward at www.lfdh.com; previous episodes air on WPIX-TV (check local listings); free