Colin Hay – Solo

Colin Hay

The Center for the Arts presents
Sunday, April 7, 7:30PM

Hay is a consummate songwriter, who’s only gotten better and better with age. – Daytrotter, Illnois

Hay is funnier than most stand-up comedians, so he’ll split your sides and then drop a heartbreaking ditty on you. – The Houston Chronicle

“He’s a stellar singer-guitarist, and his between-song banter gives today’s top comics a run for their vegemite sandwich. Watching Hay perform, one gets the sense he’s an old family friend (perhaps an itinerant uncle) come home for respite—yet ready to regale you with some sweet musical storytelling.” – The Cleveland Sound

Colin Hay may be best known as the lead singer for Men At Work, the platinum selling Australian band that topped worldwide charts in the 80s with anthems like Down Under, Overkill, and Who Can It Be Now? Most artists who have experienced the levels of success and adulation Colin Hay has would be content to sit back and earn a living walking to the mailbox and back. Yet Hay is restless, eager to move forward and continually hone his craft while continuing to challenge himself.

Hay’s solo shows intersperse classic and new songs with hilarious, poignant, and downright surreal stories drawn from his often unbelievable experiences over the past three decades. “I’ve been doing these solo tours for a number of years,” he explains, “going back to the same places and building audiences by doing the best shows I can.” Themes of redemption and renewal come naturally to Colin Hay, as he is in the midst of a remarkable renaissance.

Although he’s one of Australia’s best-known exports, Colin Hay was born in Kilwinning, Scotland. I wasn’t in bands as a boy, he recalls, but I was surrounded by music. My mom and dad had a music shop, so there were instruments everywhere. The Hit Parade list came in every Monday morning, so obviously I knew The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Screaming Lord Sutch, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie And The Dreamers and, of course, Cliff Richard. I started playing guitar when I was 12.

My father and mother had music in their DNA; they passed it on to me. As a teenager, my dad was a singer and dancer on the vaudeville stage. He later became a piano tuner. My mother also could hold a tune, and is a great dancer, and there were many people in my extended family known for their singing abilities. When I heard The Beatles and read (John Lennon’s) Spaniard in the Works, I knew this was a world I wanted to be part of.

Hay taught himself to play guitar and, when the family moved to Melbourne in 1967, he found himself in the middle of a thriving musical community. The late 60s and early 70s were remarkable, a golden age for Australian rock music. There were lots of places to play, fantastic bands and lots of great musicians. A lot of them never saw the light of day, but there was uniqueness and brilliance. One of those musicians was guitarist Ron Strykert. Hay was impressed by his musicality and technique. They started playing as an acoustic duo and Hay began writing songs. We liked all kinds of musicians and writers, like Ry Cooder, John Martyn, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the Beatles obviously, the reggae of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff to name a few. I’d always wanted to be in a great rock band. So, in the middle of 1979, we were joined by drummer Jerry Speiser, whom I met at university, and sax and flautist Greg Ham, whom I’d known since schooldays. Men At Work was formed, and off we went. Bass player John Rees joined a couple of months later.

Men At Work built up a strong local following and got signed by CBS Australia. Their first album, Business as Usual, released in 1981, went 5X platinum within the first year, won a Grammy, topped charts all over the world and ultimately sold more than 10 million copies. Their second album, Cargo, also went multi-platinum and moved five million copies, but inner disputes put an end to the original line up. Hay and Ham finished one more record as Men At Work, 1985’s Two Hearts, then went their separate ways.

I made a solo rock album for Columbia called Looking for Jack in 1987, Hay says. When it wasn’t commercially successful, I got the feeling that Columbia didn’t know what to do with me, so I took up an offer from MCA Records, and Columbia let me go. Hay went back to his original musical inspirations for Wayfaring Sons, an album with Celtic folk influences for the MCA record. I’d moved to the States in 89, and soon realized I’d have to work harder for more modest returns. I started my own label, Lazy Eye Records, and set about building a new audience, through writing, recording and touring. It’s been hand to hand combat ever since, but nourishing work at the same time.

Hay has released nine albums since founding Lazy Eye in 1992. Peaks & Valleys(1992), an outing for solo acoustic guitar and voice; Topanga (1994), a rock album that featured Waiting for My Real Life to Begin; Transcendental Highway (1988); the acoustic Going Somewhere (2001); Company of Strangers (2002); a collection of newly recorded Men at Work hits and some new songs called Man At Work (2003); Are You Lookin’ at Me? (2006); American Sunshine (2009) and the current Gathering Mercury. Since 2003, Hay has had a partnership with Compass Records and he’s slowly rebuilt his name recognition. I went from playing for 50 people a few years ago, to 500 and 1,000 seat venues. I’d like to speed it up a bit, cause I’m running out of life, Hay quips in fine Scottish style, but for the most part I’m happy to be on the road and still making music, and attracting ever increasing audiences.

Hay and Greg Ham toured with backing musicians as Men At Work from 1996 to 2002, and played to an estimated audience of 2 billion viewers during the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He’s also toured with Ringo Starr’s All Starr band in 2003 and 2008 and took part in the All Starr TV special. Hay and his music, most notably an acoustic version of the Men at Work hit Overkill, as well as more recent works such as Waiting for My Real Life to Begin and I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get over You, has been featured on TV shows including Dawson’s Creek, Judging Amy, and Scrubs.

His song I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You was included on the soundtrack of the Zach Braff film Garden State. Hay also appeared in an episode of the celebrated Larry Sanders Show, in Hay’s mind, a career highlight. Today, he’s equally at home in the studio or on stage, playing with either his band or solo acoustic. I started off playing acoustic; it’s my natural game, if you will, he concludes. It’s the point I started from and may well be the point I end with. It’s always what I return to.


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