Who can it beeeee now? Who can it beeeee now?”
Somewhat ironically, my phone sings the chorus to one of Men At Work’s most popular songs. On the other end is the famous voice himself, Colin Hay. Even though he’s currently touring the U.S., I was fortunate enough to converse with him about his upcoming album, his recently released documentary, and his lifestyle as a musician both on the road and whilst recording.
SIGT (James): I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview with me.
Colin Hay: Not a problem.
SIGT (James): You’ve currently released 12 solo albums in the last 30 years. Two years ago, you released your last album, Next Year People. What have you learned about yourself as an artist during this time?
Colin Hay: Very little really. I just try and write better songs really, at the end of each record. And try and say more with less. There’s lots of things – you’ve asked me what I’ve learned about myself? I really don’t think of myself as an artist. I really don’t know what that means. I’ve just been trying to avoid the workforce for the last 30 years by writing songs and music and avoiding the straight world (Chuckle). But yeah, I like going down to the studio and writing and recording songs, but as far as what I’ve learned…I think I enjoy it more the more I do it. It’s become sort of a habit. But yeah, I never really think about what I’ve learned as an artist.
SIGT (James): So it’s more in the moment? Like a normal bodily function? Like breathing?
Colin Hay: Yeah! It’s what you do! It’s what you do not necessarily all the time, but it’s part of you; it’s always there, you know? It just travels with you in a sense.
SIGT (James): Your upcoming album, Fierce Mercy, explores themes of love, loss, and your own mortality. What do you hope that listeners take away from the album?
Colin Hay: I really don’t have any expectations of what people should take from it. I don’t really think about that. I know what it feels like to perform and to record it and what I feel about the music, you know? It’s up to people who listen to my music to decide what they like about it and form their own interpretations from it. I’m not gonna tell them what to like about it you know! (Laughs)
SIGT (James): Fair enough! (laughs) After listening to your new album, it sounds as though you’ve gone in a slightly different direction sound-wise. A few of the songs that really were noticeably different to me were “Come Tumbling Down,” “Secret Love,” and “I’m Gonna Get You Stoned.” What motivated you to make this change in style? Was it just trying new ideas?
You record each song and you record it in a way that you think the song deserves, you know? Each song has to be a little bit different. You treat each song a little differently. It’s not a cerebral or academic process, you know, making music. It’s more instinct – the music speaks to you a certain way while you’re recording or with a certain group of people and you just follow those instincts and trust them. It’s not even necessarily what you’re feeling while you write the song – you just listen to it as you record it, you know what I mean? It depends more on the music, not just you.”
SIGT (James): The album’s first single, “A Thousand Million Reasons” was just released in January. Could you give us some insight about the song’s inspiration?
Colin Hay: So like with “Secret Love” or “A Thousand Million Reasons,” for example, I was just sitting on the sofa and I just started playing this little bit and it reminded me of artists like, Roy Orbison and those ’60s records that I listened to when I was growing up. The records had American sound production, which gave them a big, lush and gorgeous sound. So I tried to get close to that sound while working on my music.
SIGT (James): The album’s art is interesting terms of artistic style and conception. What was the inspiration for that? How did you come up with the cover’s concept?
Colin Hay: It was a dream. A dream that I explained to the album’s designer, Robert Hakalski, and that was his visual representation of I was explained to him. Personally, I think it’s lovely and it’s pretty to look at.
SIGT (James): It is! It personally reminds me a bit of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s landscape drawings.
Colin Hay: Yeah? That’s good inspiration right there.
SIGT (James): How do you try to make each of your performances memorable for those attending, old fans and new attendees alike?
Colin Hay: Honestly, I usually just focus more on playing for the audience there that night and what I’m supposed to play each night. And try not to forget the words. That’s a hard enough job right there! (laughs)
SIGT (James): (laughs) I understand that you’re back on the road touring after taking a brief break in 2014. What are some of the challenges or difficulties you have run into while touring so far this year?
Colin Hay: Yes, I took a break from touring because I was working on my music, so it didn’t feel much like a break per se. There haven’t really been any challenges so far. With touring, you just get back on the road; back on the bike and off you go. It all comes back pretty quickly.
SIGT (James): You’ve been an actor for a while now, but your first documentary, Waiting For My Real Life, really opens yourself to the world. Viewers get a chance see both the ups and downs of your life; the good and bad. Looking back at the documentary, do you think it touched on all the moments in your career that you wanted it to focus on?
Colin Hay: I think it’s tough to try to sum up someone’s life in an hour and a half. It’s that short and you get to see a lot of major things that they hit and a lot of things that they didn’t hit but that’s natural because you can’t expect them to cover everything in such a short period of time. I think they did a great job of telling the story the film wanted to tell. Basically, how you achieve success, when it goes away and how you deal with that and how you try and crave a little niche for yourself to inhabit.
I had great times back then and now, but things are a bit different. I’m just happy being able to make music for the last 40 years in different ways; to get to stay in the game. Sometimes you get to play for a lot of people, sometimes you get to play for only a few people. You just got to roll with the punches and adapt.”
SIGT (James): I see. And I know that right now your movie is available to own digitally. Can we expect a (DVD/Blu Ray) copy to be available anytime soon?
Colin Hay: I think physical copies will be available soon but I’m not quite sure at the moment. It is available digitally on some networks and on Amazon Prime.
SIGT (James): Is there anything you would like to say to your listeners/ those reading?
Colin Hay: Nah I think you’re fine. I think people know too much! (laughs)
SIGT (James): Thank you again for your time and I look forward to seeing your performance at the Plaza Live!
Colin Hay: Yeah, you should stick around after the show and come say hello! The band and I will all be there. I hope you enjoy the show!
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Colin Hay | New Music Coming March 3, 2017 by James Strassberger
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