Son of ’70s rockstar talks childhood travel, growing up with celebrities

Media Credit: Kevin Chen | Contributing Photo Editor

Tanner Oates, a junior majoring in systems engineering, is the son of 1970s rockstar John Oates – known for his role in the rock duo Hall and Oates.

Updated: Nov 20, 2017 at 7:22 p.m.

Switching on Spotify or turning on throwback radio is a family affair for one student who hears his father on every classic rock station.

Tanner Oates, a junior majoring in systems engineering, is the son of 1970s rockstar John Oates – known for starring in the rock duo Hall & Oates where he played guitar and sang hit songs like “You Make My Dreams” and “Rich Girl.” Due to his eccentric upbringing filled with tour travel and new schools, Tanner Oates was always conscious of his father’s fame but said it didn’t affect how he saw his dad.

“It wasn’t a thing where it was jaded and separated from me,” Tanner Oates said. “It never fazed me too much.”

Tanner Oates grew up outside of Aspen, Co., but much of his childhood was spent traveling the country and the world on tour, making it difficult to keep friends in one area code. When he wasn’t traveling the world with his dad and mom, he was growing up on his family’s rescue farm at his Colorado home, where his family saved animals like emus and llamas from slaughterhouses.

The rockstar’s son said his trusting nature and desire to constantly make new friends sometimes left him exposed to people who have tried to use him for concert tickets or his dad’s fame growing up and at GW.

“In D.C., I find that there’s more using all around,” he said. “Whether someone’s father is a senator, or your mother is a diplomat somewhere, everybody is trying to get stuff.”

John Oates’ career may have given his son an atypical childhood, but his father said he doesn’t regret the sacrifices, like switching schools often, that were made for them to travel the world together.

“Our main concern was that we stay together as a family – that’s why we did it,” John Oates said. “We thought that was important and I think that in retrospect, that was a really good thing. We are very close because we spent so much time together.”

Nowadays, it’s not as easy for the two to spend quality time. But even with both Oates’ schedules – Tanner being busy as a student and John as a musician – they still attempt to see each other as much as possible, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving this upcoming week.

Traveling all around the world – including to countries like Japan, Australia, Scotland and New Zealand – and meeting celebrities like Gene Simmons from Kiss while following his dad around on tour were regular experiences for Tanner Oates growing up.

“I didn’t get to spend a lot of time around kids my age but I got to spend a lot of time around adults and a lot of other musicians too, which didn’t really benefit me until later on when I had to deal with adults at the workplace and things like that,” Tanner Oates said.

Tanner Oates often wasn’t fazed by meeting famous and accomplished people until his friends started asking a lot of questions.

“That gave me anxiety and made me nervous. I kind of just viewed a lot of people as just normal people,” Tanner Oates said.

Though Tanner Oates grew up surrounded by music and musicians, he claims the musical gene “skipped a generation.” He said he never received pressure from his dad to pursue music, but that didn’t stop him from trying a variety of instruments such as piano, bass, drums and guitar.

“I enjoyed them, but it didn’t really click for me,” Tanner Oates said. “If I was a musician, it would be much more distracting professionally to have my dad – who he is – as you’re kind of living under the shadow.”

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