Colin Hay poses in front of wall of guitars
Paul Mobley Studios

Colin Hay on Mortality, Working With Ringo Starr and New Album 'Now & the Evermore'

Colin Hay had a point when he quipped that there comes a time in every boy's life when he has to face the fact that he'll never be a member of The Beatles. That said, Hay has come closer than most. He is best known, of course, as the frontman of Men At Work, one of the biggest bands of the '80s. But Hay has also been releasing solo albums — not to mention touring and appearing in the odd TV show — for more than 30 years now. His latest disc, Now and the Evermore, arrived March 18 and is his 15th studio outing.  Hay spent much of the last two years at home (which, for him, is southern California) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But like a lot of musicians, he found that the downtime made him more creative. Just last summer, he released a delightful collection of covers called I Just Don't Know What To Do with Myself. Whereas that album was very intimate — mainly just Hay and his friend and collaborator Chad Fischer — Now and the Evermore is more of a band effort. All but one of the 10 songs are originals and most have fairly elaborate arrangements. The album's title track is a song about mortality and features Ringo Starr on drums. 

"I don't want to say that [the song] seemed to sum up the record," Hay tells Wide Open Country.  "[But] it had a kind of expansiveness, if you like. It was a phrase that could mean a lot of things to people. I don't really have any idea about what happens after we [die].  I suspect that probably the curtains just close. That's my instinct — and I'm okay with that. But lots of people think that something else happens. And hey — if they wanna believe that, who am I to say anything?"

"When I was trying to write the words, certain images came to mind of growing up," he continues.  "My first awareness of the fact that people die was because I had to go through this graveyard to get home. It was very frightening. I always loved [taking] the shortcut to get home, but it meant that you had to kind jump over the gravestones and go through them and so forth. I used to imagine being chased by witches [and] all kinds of devilry.  I was probably eight or nine years old [and] in Scotland."  (Although Men At Work is considered an Australian band, Hay spent the first 14 years of his life in Scotland.)

Another of the album's songs that deals with mortality is the lovely "Starfish and Unicorns." 

"It's about my mother and father," Hay reveals.  "My brother and sister and I are hardly ever in the same town. But a few years ago, we happened to be in Melbourne at the same time. Prior to that, whenever I was in Melbourne, I would drive around [with] my mother's ashes in the trunk of the car! [And] my sister had my father's ashes. We were always thinking, 'We [need to] organize that and do something with them.'  So finally, my brother and sister and I were in the same town. We spread them in the bay, next to where they used to swim in the summertime. In Phillip Bay. And they settled on these starfish. So I thought, 'Well, their final resting place is there.'  That's where the song came from."  

Despite the weighty subject matter, Now and the Evermore is not a dark album. Hay is nothing if not resilient and that comes through in the lyrics. And fans of the quirky pop he made in his Men At Work days will find much to like here as well, on catchy character sketches like "Agatha Bell" and "A Man Without A Name." Plus, how can any album that has Ringo on it be dark?  In addition to touring on his own this year, Hay actually plans to go back on the road with Ringo and The All-Starr Band.

"I've done it off and on since 2003," he says of touring with Ringo. [But the last] tour got postponed because of the pandemic. We were originally going back out in 2020. So I think the last time I did was '18 and '19.  But yeah — there's nothing wrong with going out with Ringo, you know? When you hang out with [him], you think to yourself, 'Ah, he's 18. How can that be?' Because he's quite lithe and very slim [and has a] healthy lifestyle. But even someone that's got a healthy lifestyle, as you say, they [don't] look like that! And to play the drums is difficult. [Gregg] Bissonette plays the whole night but [Ringo's] not holding back. He plays at least half the night, you know? It's beyond belief!"

Now & the Evermore is available for purchase here

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