Posted On 15 Jan 2015
As a member of the Australian group, Men At Work, singer-songwriter, Colin Hay saw immense success during the 80’s.
In January 1983, they were the first Australian artists to have a simultaneous No. 1 album and No. 1 single in the United States Billboard charts for Business As Usual and “Down Under”.
Men at Work have sold over 60 million albums worldwide. Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 1986 and reformed in 1996 to disband again by 2002. This however has not stopped some of the members from having very successful careers. Men at Work founder, Colin Hay has gone on to have a quite a solo career.
Hay’s music has been frequently used by actor and director Zach Braff in TV show Scrubs and several films. Learn more about this very funny and very talented singer in the following interview:
Men at Work have released 2 albums but you’ve released over 10 solo albums, do you find it more fulfilling to work as a solo artist or as part of band?
I find it fulfilling to work, both solo, and with a band. Both are exhilarating in their own way.
Your music has been used by Zach Braff in his film/TV projects. How did you and Zach Braff come to work together?
Zach came to see me play at Largo a number of years ago, and very kindly introduced me to Bill Lawrence, who created “Scrubs”. Between them they used a number of my songs in TV/Film projects, which helped expose my songs to a large TV viewing audience.
Your voice is remarkable. How do you maintain it physically? Have you ever had to perform without it at optimum and what did you do to overcome it?
Getting enough sleep is key. Don’t talk unless you have to during the day, and warm up your voice an hour or so before you sing. I have lost some frequencies in my voice on a number of occasions, when performing a show, usually when I haven’t warmed up beforehand. If it happens, I try and relax and work around it.
Your show contains very funny jokes, anecdotes, and stories. What/who are your comedy influences?
I have many comedy influences, and some of them are comedians believe it or not. I love Bill Burr, Billy Connolly, the late Mitch Hedberg, Sarah Silverman to name a few. But my biggest comedy influence, was my father, who was a great singer and dancer, and a very funny man.
You performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony. How was the experience of playing for such a huge audience?
Your guitar picking is very impressive, almost sounding as though multiple guitarists are on each track. Do you use a pick or are you a finger-picker? At what age did you learn to play and did you have lessons?
Both. I started when I was around 12 years old, and yes I did have lessons. I still do.
Your music has been featured in many TV shows and films. Have you ever considered scoring an entire film if the opportunity presented itself?
If the opportunity presents itself sure.
Your wife is a musician that often performs with you. How did you meet? How much do you collaborate on each others’ music or do you prefer to keep it separate?
Yes, my wife is the uniquely talented Cecilia Noël. We met in ’93, we were playing on the same bill.Yes we collaborate on each other’s music. She has invaluable musical instincts, which help me immeasurably.
When was the first moment that you realized that you wanted to be a performer?
When I was around 14 years old, and it felt so good to sing and play guitar.
How have you grown as a musician since you started?
Well hopefully I’m a lot better than when I started.
If you had the opportunity to work with any artist/band from the past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Well I’d like to work with Bob Dylan, but not writing songs or anything like that, perhaps fixing a car, or plumbing in a new copper pipe. That would be fun.
What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
I like performing the latest song I’ve come up with, because it’s the latest song I’ve come up with.
When you aren’t performing and writing new material, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have spare time, and neither does anyone else. You just have time and then you run out. But if I’m not in the studio or touring, I find the kitchen to be my natural habitat.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making? Who are some new bands that you are loving now?
Oh I don’t know, let me see, I like that Bon Iver boy, he makes a good noise, Sia writes excellent songs, I just bought the new ACDC, and I’ve been listening to old Albert King recordings. Oh and as it was just the Christmas season, Bob Dylan’s Christmas album from a few years ago. Can’t get enough of that.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something silly that’s taken place (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
I find every day when I wake up to be very silly indeed. I can’t believe my luck.
To learn what Mr. Hay is like live, check out this concert review from his show at the West LA venue, The Largo: https://music.allaccess.com/colin-hay-former-front-man-for-the-hit-australian-band-men-at-work-brings-his-solo-show-finding-my-dance-to-los-angeles/