Colin Hay may be best known as the lead singer for Men At Work, the platinum selling Australian band that topped worldwide charts in the '80s with anthems like “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now?” Hay’s justifiably proud of his place in pop history, but since moving to Los Angeles in 1989, he’s made 12 solo records in a new chapter of his lengthy and prosperous career. His most recent is called "Next Year People," released in 2015.
Although he’s one of Australia’s best-known exports, Colin Hay was born in Kilwinning, Scotland. “I wasn’t in bands as a boy,” he recalls, “but I was surrounded by music. My mom and dad had a music shop, so there were instruments everywhere. The Hit Parade list came in every Monday morning, so obviously I knew The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Screaming Lord Sutch, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie And The Dreamers and, of course, Cliff Richard. I started playing guitar when I was 12."
Hay taught himself to play guitar and, when the family moved to Melbourne in 1967, he found himself in the middle of a thriving musical community. One of those musicians was guitarist Ron Strykert. They started playing as an acoustic duo and Hay began writing songs. “We liked all kinds of musicians and writers, like Ry Cooder, John Martyn, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the Beatles obviously, the reggae of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff to name a few. I’d always wanted to be in a great rock band. So, in the middle of 1979, we were joined by drummer Jerry Speiser, whom I met at university, and sax and flautist Greg Ham, whom I’d known since schooldays." Men At Work was formed, and off they went. Bass player John Rees joined a couple of months later.
Men At Work built up a strong local following and got signed by CBS Australia. Their first album, Business as Usual, released in 1981, went 5X platinum within the first year, won a Grammy, topped charts all over the world and ultimately sold more than 10 million copies. Their second album, Cargo, also went multi-platinum and moved five million copies, but inner disputes put an end to the original line up.
Hay and Greg Ham toured with backing musicians as Men At Work from 1996 to 2002, and played to an estimated audience of 2 billion viewers during the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Hay has also toured with Ringo Starr’s All Starr band and took part in the All Starr TV special. Hay and his music, most notably an acoustic version of the Men at Work hit “Overkill”, as well as more recent works such as “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” and “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get over You”, has been featured on TV shows including Dawson’s Creek, Judging Amy, and Scrubs. His song “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” was included on the soundtrack of the Zach Braff film Garden State.
Today, he’s equally at home in the studio or on stage, playing with either his band or solo acoustic. “I started off playing acoustic; it’s my natural game, if you will,” he concludes. “It’s the point I started from and may well be the point I end with. It’s always what I return to.”