John Hall was wise to have heeded some advice from a longtime friend in 2006.
It came shortly after he had won his election to the House of Representatives in the 19th Congressional District, when Hall was swept into office the last time there was a blue wave.
“When I got elected in 2006, Jackson Browne told me make sure you have a guitar in your office,” said Hall, who had been friends with Browne since they collaborated to help organize the No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1979. “After the business for the day was done and my staff had all gone home and things were quiet, I’d take it out and play guitar for a while, just to clear my head and keep my fingers strong and calluses a little bit strengthened.”
Hall, who also served on the Saugerties Board of Education and Ulster County Legislature years before his congressional run, never intended to make public service a career. For that, music lovers can be grateful.
An original member of the 1970s band Orleans and co-writer of their two biggest hits, “Still the One” and “Dance With Me,” Hall will make the drive from his Dutchess County home and perform at Saturday’s 14th annual Pleasantville Music Festival. He will share the Chill Tent Stage shortly after 7 p.m. with Dennis “Fly” Amero, a member of Orleans who joined the band when Hall pursued a solo career in the late ‘70s and again when he served in Congress.
On Saturday, expect the duo to play a little bit of everything from throughout their careers.
“The set that Fly and I will play will be fun for us and the audience and it will be an assortment of Orleans songs and other songs of his and some really good guitar playing and hopefully some really good singing as well and it will be a blast,” Hall promised.
Since shortly after returning from Washington, Hall has kept plenty busy. During his first two years out of office following his 2010 defeat, his parents and both of his brothers passed away. Hall, who will turn 70 later this month, said he also needed to address his own health issue at the time.
Then in July 2012, Hall was contacted by his old Orleans bandmates when original member Larry Hoppen died. They were in the middle of a tour and asked for his assistance to complete their string of concerts.
Despite dealing with his own challenges, Hall didn’t hesitate to help.
“We liked playing so much and I liked playing with them as much as ever,” he said.
It caught the eyes of booking agents after Hall had once again rejoined Orleans. They were asked to join Christopher Cross, Player, John Ford Coley and several other popular late ‘70s and early ‘80s acts for the 2013 Sail Rock Tour in Southern California.
They will do another cruise, the Rock ‘n’ Romance cruise, next March with Peter Frampton, America, Ambrosia, Little River Band and Firefall.
“So we did that and since then there’s been increasing demand for us.” We’re pretty busy,” Hall said. “We have shows booked, Orleans has concerts booked pretty much throughout next year, 2019.”
But he also makes sure he finds time to perform with his own group, the John Hall Band, and with Amero.
Although Hall has no plans to return to elected office, he remains as passionate on the issues as ever – protecting the environment, the federal budget and taking care of the men and women serving the nation’s military, among many others, In fact, Hall said he has been asked to run again for his old congressional seat every election year since his defeat.
But there are many others who can serve admirably, Hall said. He prefers music more than ever rather than the dog-eat-dog world of politics.
“The object is to bring people together and music has always been able to do that, and actually for me it’s a release from a lot of the tension and the anxiety of the day,” Hall said. “So I love doing what I’m doing.”