A talented musical duo you won’t want to miss is coming to Newport’s JPT Film and Events Center later this month. You’re probably familiar with half of the duo, but the other artist performing that night may not be a household name.

John Oates is well-known as the co-founder of Hall and Oates; Guthrie Trapp is a well-respected Nashville-based guitarist. The pair will be playing a special show at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport on Saturday, March 26.

I spoke to Trapp recently and learned more about the upcoming show, John Oates and the guitarist’s notable career. He’s a classic “behind the scenes” guy, more than a session player, but not quite a headliner … until next week, of course when he co-headlines the Pickens show. 

How does the collaboration with Oates work, I wondered.

“The partnership creatively is 50-50,” Trapp explained. “During shows, he’ll leave the stage and I’ll do some songs on my own, then he’ll do a song or two on his own. Of course, we all know that he’s the guy, he’s the legend, he’s got 30+ years on me in this business, so that’s a given, but creatively, it’s a partnership.”

Trapp has worked with many notable artists over the course of his career but has a special relationship with Oates.

“It’s great working with John, he’s a dear friend. We’ve known each other for 17 years and have been in multiple incarnations of bands, from this duo to a trio to an eight-piece act. We’ve done different projects with records, we’ve toured all over the place, all kinds of stuff together,” noted Trapp.

The idea to tour together came about unexpectedly one afternoon when the two friends were hanging out.

“We were rehearsing for something, sitting in his living room and I said to him ‘Hey John, this is what we should be doing.’ I’m not taking credit for the idea, but I said ‘this is awesome. We’re playing two acoustic guitars, they sound great unplugged.’ So that’s what we started doing, we started playing two guitars with microphones where you get the true sound of the acoustic guitar. It’s bringing the living room to you, it’s bringing what we do – sitting down, playing songs, laughing, telling stories, making jokes … we’re just doing it in front of an audience.”

Trapp occupies a unique space in the Nashville music scene. “I’ve done a lot of sessions here in Nashville and people think I’m a really big session player, but I’m really not. I’ve always been more an artist. I’ve played on a bunch of amazing records with incredible artists from Jerry Douglas to Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, a bunch of country stars, and a bunch of organic bluegrass and folk artists,” he explained.

“I’ve developed into more of an artist on the guitar, writing my own music, playing on these records, playing as a trio. I’ve just managed to keep this thread of high artistic integrity, hustling, networking, keeping the profile going, getting involved in education, taking opportunities where I can see that I can add something,” he added.

“I’m just known as being Guthrie Trapp, this is my style and this is what I do, and that’s attracted the attention of guys like Dennis Quaid, Billy Gibbons, John Oates, and Vince Gill and all the other people I’ve worked with over the years.”

Trapp appreciates the virtue of playing traditional music.

“I always say music is meant to be treated with the utmost respect, but not overthought. There’s nothing worse than someone on stage trying too hard or taking themselves too seriously, it’s just no fun.”

If you’re going to the show, don’t expect a night of Hall and Oates songs … but do expect to hear an evening of great music. Trapp shared a little about how the setlist is put together.

“It’s like an Americana road map through music history,” he explained. “We do these versions of songs that were big hits in the early 1900s all the way through to the Delta Blues. The setlist kind of evolved into a history lesson, without it being that, formally. We also get into John’s original stuff that he’s written that we’ve recorded together over the last five or ten years. Then we wrap up the show with about three or four of his hits from the 80s. We do our own versions of those songs, and he’s always evolving, always changing arrangements and chords, he’s an extremely musical guy and very creative.”

Trapp certainly admires Oates and his commitment as an artist.

“The thing I love about John is that he could have checked out of his career a long time ago, like a lot of those guys do. He’s always writing songs, constantly collaborating with young artists, staying in touch with new music. He’s the first guy at the soundcheck … he stays very relevant and very current. He sees the value in that.”

For tickets and more information on the show, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.