Colin Hay at Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival

The former lead vocalist of the 80s Australian band Men at Work Colin Hay is now known by a new generation for his solo work.

By Susan Wallner
State of the Arts

Colin Hay.
In 1983, the Australian band Men at Work won the Grammy for Best New Artist. That year, Men at Work had the top album and top single, “Down Under,” in both the U.S. and the U.K. But within a few years, internal tensions broke up the band, and lead vocalist Colin Hay started a solo career. “It was just a band that didn’t stand the test of time and didn’t go the distance,” says Hay, “It could have very easily happened, but we were stupid men with very, very limited powers of communication. And that’s what most men are, most men don’t develop sophisticated powers of communication ever! And we were in our twenties and we were idiots.”

Since then, Colin Hay has learned a thing or two. After his major record label dropped him in the early 1990s, Hay was one of the first to form his own label and go it alone. He’s recorded a dozen albums and is now known by a new generation for his solo work, including his appearances on the TV series Scrubs and the song “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” on the Grammy-winning soundtrack for the movie Garden State.

In an interview by phone from Europe on his day off, the 59-year old Colin Hay reflected on his choice of career. “I like writing songs and being in the studio, and performing has a certain sense of fulfillment, but it’s not without its frustrations,” he says. “I think that the fulfillment outweighs that, but sometimes it’s a tricky balance. It’s not always easy.”

Colin Hay’s most recent album is Mercury Rising (2011). One of the songs, “Dear Father,” is a letter to his dad written about a year after he died. Hay says the song came to him while he was working in the studio, and was fully formed in 45 minutes. “It was a way of bringing him back to life,” he remembers. “It was a selfish thing so I could think about him, and love him again.”


Colin Hay performs his song “Dear Father.”

Colin Hay is currently in the midst of a year-long tour that began in Australia, taking him to Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. On June 1, he’s one of the headliners at the Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival, along with Brandi Carlile, Delta Spirit, John Gorka, and others. The Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival runs from 11:30 am to 8 pm on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at Appel Farm in Elmer, NJ.

Susan Wallner is an award-winning producer with PCK Media. She is a long-time contributor to State of the Arts, now airing on NJTV Sundays at 8 pm and Thursdays at 11:30 pm.