Colin Hay
Colin Hay

Colin Hay

About Colin Hay

A Scottish-born singer, songwriter, and actor, Colin Hay has led a widely varied career since breaking out in the early 1980s as the frontman for Australian new wave heroes Men at Work. The author of idiosyncratic pop hits like "Down Under," "Who Can It Be Now?," and "Overkill," Hay's distinctive vocals and inventive songwriting helped Men at Work become international stars and staples of the early MTV era. Following the group's 1986 breakup, he relocated to Los Angeles where over the next three decades, he reinvented himself as a prolific solo artist and occasional character actor. Hay's solo career has encompassed a range of styles from strident rock to soulful Americana, though a unique strain of acoustic-driven folk-pop remains his sweet spot. His career enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-2000s after actor/director Zach Braff used his song "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" in the offbeat comedy Garden State; Hay subsequently appeared several times on Braff's popular sitcom Scrubs. Additionally, Hay has been a member of Ringo Starr's All-Star Band, appeared in televisions shows like JAG, The Larry Sanders Show, and A Million Little Things, and in 2015 was the subject of the documentary film Colin Hay: Waiting for My Real Life. He released his 13th studio album, I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, in 2021.
Thanks in part to the global success of Men at Work's "Down Under," Hay will forever be associated with Australia, though it is not his country of birth. Born just south of Glasgow in Kilwinning, Colin James Hay spent his formative years in Scotland before emigrating with his family to Australia in 1967 at the age of 14. Just over a decade later, inspired by the burgeoning new wave scene, he teamed up with fellow guitarist Ron Strykert in Melbourne and formed Men at Work. Along with bandmates Greg Ham, John Rees, and Jerry Speiser, Hay and Strykert developed a sound that fused quirky melodic pop with an edgy new wave sensibility. Released in 1981, Men at Work's debut album Business as Usual was a massive global hit, topping the charts in Australia, the U.S., the U.K., and several other countries. In the U.S., videos for their hits "Down Under" and "Who Can It Be Now?" were put into heavy rotation on the nascent MTV network, giving Hay and his band even greater access to a fresh young audience. While it didn't reach the lofty heights of their debut, 1983's Cargo was still a big success and yielded one of Hay's signature songs in the hit single "Overkill." By 1985, Men at Work had begun to fracture and when their third album, Two Hearts, proved a critical and commercial disappointment, the band called it quits a year later.
Hay's 1987 solo debut, Looking for Jack, was a moderate chart success with a slick studio sound befitting its era. Relocating to the U.S., he settled outside of Los Angeles in the city of Topanga and recorded 1990's Celtic-rock-infused Wayfaring Sons as the Colin Hay Band. After parting ways with MCA, Hay more or less became an independent artist for the remainder of his career and spent much of the '90s issuing albums like Peaks & Valleys (1992) and Transcendental Highway (1998) on various small labels before founding his own Lazy Eye imprint in 2002. He also pursued a parallel acting career, appearing on The Larry Sanders Show, JAG, and The Mick Molloy Show. While his solo albums never recaptured the massive success of Men at Work's early releases, Hay nonetheless built up a strong cult following that included celebrities like Metallica's James Hetfield and actor Zach Braff. In the 2000s, Braff became a champion of Hay's music and helped spark renewed interest in the singer's career by featuring his music on Braff's hit television series Scrubs. He also included Hay's acoustic ballad "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" in his 2004 directorial debut Garden State, introducing Hay's solo music to a new generation of listeners in advance of releases like 2007's Are You Lookin' at Me? and 2009's American Sunshine.
Hay remained prolific through the next decade, releasing albums like 2011's Gathering Mercury and 2017's acclaimed Fierce Mercy. He also continued acting in small roles and had a 2015 documentary film, Colin Hay: Waiting for My Real Life, made about his career. Hay returned to the studio to record 2021's I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, a collection of cover songs by artists like Gerry & the Pacemakers, Faces, and Glen Campbell. ~ Timothy Monger

  • HOMETOWN
    Kilwinning, Scotland
  • BORN
    June 29, 1953

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