Hall & Oates' John Oates has been having a tough time as of late.
"There's a lot going on in my life right now," admits Oates during a revealing interview with PEOPLE. "I'm going through some things that I've never experienced in my life, stresses, and things like that which are affecting me very deeply. So, in a way, it's cathartic for me to have this song right now."
That song that Oates speaks of is his latest single, "Pushin' a Rock," an all too relatable anthem that speaks of the importance of struggle and perseverance and the universal nature of both.
And while Oates, 73, seems somewhat hesitant to delve too deep into his own circumstances surrounding his current mental health, the Grammy-nominated artist does offer up clues as to the challenging times he found himself wading through when the pandemic shutdown caused the man — who had been entertaining millions for five decades as part of the iconic pop-rock duo Hall & Oates — to finally stop.
Michael Weintrob John Oates
"For so long, I had been on this hamster wheel of traveling and touring and hotels and shows, but then all of a sudden, I was able to reflect," says Oates, who recently teamed up with Movember, the leading international men's health charity, to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues such as mental health. "I placed my trust in certain people and certain business adventures that weren't being reciprocated. I felt betrayed in a sense."
And it was that betrayal that ultimately resulted in "Pushin' a Rock." However, the story of "Pushin' a Rock" goes all the way back to 2015, as Oates was working on a new album that had him co-writing the song with Grammy-winning producer and writer Nathan Paul Chapman.
"I went over to his house, and he and I wrote ["Pushin' a Rock'] together. We actually pushed 'record' in this little room where he had worked on all the Taylor [Swift] stuff," Oates remembers of the coveted producer. "There definitely was an interesting, emotional, dynamic thing going on."
David McClister John Oates
Those emotions soon had the two men talking about the struggles that everyone feels at one time or another, and ultimately, a version of "Pushin' a Rock" then titled "Pushin' a Rock Uphill" made it to Oates' 2013 album Stand Strong. It wasn't until years later that Oates began to wonder if the song ever did reach its full potential.
"Lyrically it was solid, but musically, it felt like it didn't really capture the emotion of what the lyrics were really about," Oates recalls of "Pushin' a Rock." "And for me, the ultimate test of the song is when the lyrics and the music integrate perfectly and mesh together and feel like they belong together."
And in Oates' mind, "Pushin' a Rock" had yet to mesh, so he began to work on it once again with Chapman during the pandemic with the hope that the song could come together as Oates envisioned.
"When Nathan came to the studio this time around, he said, 'Man, this is how it should have sounded from the start,'" remembers Oates, who has recorded seven solo albums since 1999.
Also, this time around, the music video for "Pushin' a Rock" also tells the all-too-relatable story exactly the way Oates always hoped it would.
Monica Baranko John Oates
"I'm super proud of the video," explains Oates, who worked alongside video director Jason Denton on the artistic piece. "This is about reality. It's about grit. It's about getting down to the essence of what this song is really about. And then, when I hit that high note, [the music video] has this uplifting feeling that reminds you there is a silver lining behind this dark cloud."
And for Oates, the dark clouds have also begun to clear.
"I feel like I've turned a corner and I think this song was part of it," he concludes. "So many artists and songwriters might not be able to articulate themselves and their emotions necessarily, but they do it through their music and through their song. And in this case, that's exactly what happened. I feel like something's lifted off me and getting this song out to the world is super important to me."