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Colin Hay of Men at Work on his latest LP, the ghost of Elvis, and touring with Ringo

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Colin Hay of Men at Work on his latest LP, the ghost of Elvis, and touring with Ringo (Photo courtesy of Colin Hay/Missing Piece Group/Paul Mobley Studio)

When it comes to pop songwriting, Colin Hay has been one of the art form’s most consistent deliverers of quality for more than 40 years. Hay’s hits with the Australian formed band Men at Work (including back-to-back U.S. chart-toppers “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under”) were just the beginning of a career that has now extended to 15 solo albums, including his latest, “Now and the Evermore,” reviewed in these pages last spring.

As mentioned in that review, Hay has a gift for turning out memorable and meaningful songs with staying power and melody to spare that work on multiple levels.

“Now and the Evermore” offers further evidence that Hay’s gifts remain in abundance. From the affirming and optimistic “Love is Everywhere” to the Cajun-jump of “A Man Without a Name,” the contemporary shanty “All I See Is You,” and the mysterious “When Does the End Begin?” it’s clear that he is creating some of his finest work now.

Hay was on tour with Men at Work in mid-August when he checked in with The Maine Edge for the following interview which aired on the stations of BIG 104 FM. As you read this, Hay is on the road for his fifth stint as a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.

Hay’s friendship with Ringo led to an invitation for the former Beatle to appear on “Now and the Evermore,” which Hay says is deeply meaningful for him.

During the interview, Hay shared his love for the state of Maine, citing previous visits to Rockland, Boothbay Harbor and Portland and stating that he always enjoys the opportunity to perform here.

Hay’s newest release is the follow-up to last year’s “I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself,” an album of cover songs that he associates with pivotal moments from his life.

The Maine Edge: I could be off the mark but on “Now and the Evermore,” I hear you writing from the heart about your appreciation for life. Would you say that’s accurate?

Colin Hay: Yeah, I think that’s accurate. Sometimes life can be confounding but it’s what we have. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m feeling the slight pressure of time to appreciate where I am, but I am very fortunate.

TME: One of your new songs that remains lodged in my brain is “A Man Without a Name.” I loved it from the first listen. What inspired that song?

CH: I started thinking about the ghost of Elvis walking around today. What would he be doing? What would he think about things today? Where would he go? That’s how that song came to be.

TME: I keep returning to the closing song on the album, “When Does the End Begin?” Are you taking stock of your own life in that song or is that reading too much into it?

CH: Most songs are probably autobiographical on some level if they came out of you. Your DNA is in there somewhere but that song isn’t really about me. The idea for the song came from Michael Georgiades, my songwriting partner. On a macro-level it could be about whether or not we’ve reached the tipping point as far as climate change is concerned. It’s also about the idea of relationships and how we sometimes persevere with situations when we shouldn’t because we fear being alone. When I listen to that song I’m never quite sure what it’s about so it’s really about whatever you can get out of it.

TME: We spoke about a lot of your early influences when your album of cover songs was released last year. Do you listen to much new music being made these days other than your own?

CH: I don’t listen to my music at all, really. You listen while you’re doing it but once it’s done you move on. There’s lots of new music that I like. I really like the band The War on Drugs because they still sound like a band to me. They may not be but they sound like it.

It’s not like it was years ago when you were waiting for the next Beatles record to come out, or The Kinks or Diana Ross or whichever artists you loved. Now there’s so much music coming out it tends to come at you from all sides (laughs). I don’t know much about the hip-hop world; it’s not a genre I’m really familiar with. Even though there are great things happening in that world I feel that I’m always looking at it from the outside.

TME: You are about to shift gears from touring with Men at Work to your fifth tour with Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band. It’s so cool that the very first thing we hear on “Now and the Evermore” is one of Ringo’s patented left-handed drum fills to open the title song “Now and the Evermore.” That’s kind of a nice full circle moment. What does it mean to you to have Ringo on your album?

CH: It really means a lot to me. My parents are both gone now but I did think of them when Ringo told me to send the song over and that he would play on it. We were all great lovers of The Beatles when I was growing up, my parents included because we had a music shop. My father was the first person to play The Beatles for me so it’s quite meaningful for me to share this with them even though they are not physically here.

TME: When the Men at Work album “Business as Usual” was released with the hits “Who Can It Be Now” and “Down Under,” some of the media at that time tried to put you in a box labeled ‘the new Beatles’ which is never a good idea. Did you hear about that at the time and if so how did you feel about it?

CH: I did hear about that and I think it’s because there was a high level of intrigue about our band because of where we were from. The level of success that we had was so monumental at that particular time in all different parts of the world, but America was the last country to pick up on the band, so I think there was a lot of fascination. Of course, it’s very flattering to be compared with The Beatles but I don’t think anyone can really compare with who they were, what they did and what they achieved. There can only ever be one Beatles.

TME: Is it tricky to tour these days with all of the Covid precautions in place?

CH: It’s a little bit weird and slightly stressful. We all tend to mask up still because we’re coming into contact with a lot of people. So far, it’s been OK. I was on tour with Ringo a little while ago and we were sent home because a couple of the guys came down with Covid. We’re taking all of the precautions now to make sure none of the band or crew goes down.

Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2022 11:02

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