A CHAT with Colin Hay is a little bizarre as you struggle to decipher the strong Scottish accent of a musician who was the front man for one of Australia’s all time great bands, but now lives in Los Angeles.
After the global success of Men at Work Hay had the opportunity to move to LA and says he needed to get away.
“I had a record deal with MCA based out of LA, was getting divorced and drinking a lot, and I wanted to … make music people would be interested in hearing,” Hay says.
“I thought I could develop a following in a bigger gene pool. Good Vibrations [by The Beach Boys] was a favourite when I was a kid and I always wanted to live where that music came from.”
He says Australia is a hard place to leave but you have to make sacrifices, and he loves living in California.
After 11 solo albums Hay admits it has been frustrating because he doesn’t feel like he is part of any kind of industry.
“It’s not a complaint, it’s more of an observation. I haven’t really existed [in the industry], I’ve made records for myself and the people who stay with me.”
Hay considers his recent work as the best he’s ever done, but says “it’s a secret”.
But he doesn’t care how he is perceived in a commercial sense.
“I have an old fashioned approach, based around doing the leg work and getting fans by playing live.”
Luckily he continues to return to his old stomping ground of Australia, this time including a stop in Port Macquarie.
Hay says it’s always great coming to Australia and touring the UK and the west coast of the US.
“It’s fantastic going up the coast from San Diego, I always feel like I’m going home. In the UK it feels like home and here it feels like home, too – for lots of different reasons.”
This tour is called Finding My Dance, an expression which came from an Aboriginal man telling him after a show one night, he had lost his dance.
Hay says the search to find it “is going quite well”.
“I’m not too concerned about finding it, because if I did, I’d probably then go – ’now what’?”
“In 1991 there was a punctuation mark [in my career]. I was dropped by major labels and … consumed by how to get back to the lofty peaks. I wasn’t in a bad position but I suddenly realised it’s what I was meant to do.”
He commented on his sense of frustration about the Down Under “kookaburra” flute saga.
The whole thing in hindsight was avoidable, says Hay about the lawsuit against him, fellow songwriter Ron Strykert and Men at Work’s record companies Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia.
“It’s two corporate structures with a huge variance and no commonality to settle it.”
Larrikin Music owns the copyright to Marion Sinclair’s Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, where it was found the two bars were from.
Hay says their request for 60 per cent of the profits is unreasonable and the question is really whether or not an infringement had taken place.
“It was not intentional and four or five years later and many millions of dollars and personal loss … there is a sense of sadness. Smoke came out of my dad’s ears when he heard about it because he knew I wrote it.”
Hay says it will be a great day for him when it is finally settled.
Down Under is one of the three or four songs he always includes in his sets but Hay says his audience don’t have an expectation of hearing more Men at Work songs.
“They come to see me and have for a long time. I’m not trying to run away from it, but people want my new songs.”
Hay also brings a sense of fun to his shows these days.
“In Scotland you have to have one [sense of humour] to get by. My father was a funny man. When you are standing on stage with an acoustic guitar it’s predictable. So you develop some sort of conspiratorial atmosphere and it grew from there.
“Now people sing out for particular stories.”
Hay is on tour until November and says he hopes to get back into his home studio after that to make some more music.
Colin Hay, on his Finding My Dance tour, plays the Glasshouse from 8pm on Saturday. tickets are $49