Colin Hay (born Colin James Hay, June 29, 1953; Kilwimming, North Ayrshire, Scotland) is an Australian musician, who made his mark during the 1980s as lead vocalist of the Australian band, Men at Work, and later as a solo artist. Hay is married to singer Cecilia Noel, who often provides backup vocals at Hay’s shows.
Hay was born in Scotland, but moved to Australia at the age of fourteen with his family. In 1978, hay met Ron Strykert and the men began playing acoustic music as a duo. Soon after, hay and Strykert formed the band, Men at Work, adding Jerry Speiser (percussion), John Rees (bassist) and Greg Ham (flautist/saxophonist). The group released their debut album, Business as Usual, in 1981.
Following the breakup of Men at Work in 1985, Hay released several major label solo albums, including Looking for Jack and Wayfaring Sons, to some commercial success. In 2004, Hay contributed to the Garden State soundtrack with his solo song, “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”.
In addition to recording, Hay also established his own record label, Lazy Eye Records, and has made appearances in cult movies and television shows. In addition, Hay has also been a member of Ringo Starr’s Eighth and Tenth All Starr Band.
Are You Lookin’ at Me? is Colin Hay’s first studio album of new material in over five years. A tuneful, insightful meditation on life, love, sobriety, maturity and perseverance, the album finds Hay at the absolute peak of his craft. As a writer and vocalist, he has never been more masterful, finding intriguing new angles on instantly relatable scenarios, skewering and savoring in equal measure. His less acclaimed but no less formidable skills as arranger, engineer and bandleader insure that each song is supported by evocative musical backdrops ranging from electronic textures to plaintive acoustic balladry to classic guitar-driven pop. Are You Lookin’ at Me? is unified by Hay’s immediately identifiable voice, relentless curiosity, wonder and a decidedly uncluttered sound which has its roots in Hay’s consistently busy tour schedule.
“Since my last album Company of Strangers in 2002,” Hay explains, “I’ve been pretty much either on the road or in the studio . . . when I’m not on the road, I’m working on songs and trying to make them as good as possible. When I was working on these, I had my road band in mind, and in a way tried to limit the arrangements to match our live sound.” Songs like the refreshing, buoyant “Lose to Win” and the disarmingly direct, horn-spiked “Pure Love” reflect this commitment to, in Hay’s words, “avoid over-recording.” Hay also performs regularly as a solo acoustic artist, weaving new and old songs with touchingly hilarious tales of his experiences. These solo tours have left him unafraid to strip his music to its bare essentials, such as on the bittersweet “Up In Smoke”.
Nowhere is Hay’s gift for touching, relatable songwriting more immediate than the title track of Are You Lookin’ at Me?, which opens the album. What at first seems an autobiographical litany unfolds, over the course of four minutes, into a gripping reflection on dreams, aging, and maturity. “Yes,” Hay admits, “it’s my story. But it could be anyone’s story.” Beginning with a litany of childhood fantasy (first cowboys, then rock ‘n’ roll), it follows Hay through the whirlwind of his success and the subsequent hard truths that emerged because of it. “Basically, if you hang on to one idea too long, it will kill you . . . you can’t be a cowboy or a rock star forever - well, you can, but it’s not as glamorous as people make it out to be . . . the dream of living some kind of pastoral existence in whatever way shape or form it is gets shot down all of the time. You have to roll with the punches. You have to learn to weave and move out of the way . . . .”
Few have endured and survived the way Hay has, from an unimaginable pinnacle of success to forging new roads as a working artist and songsmith. Avoiding the pitfalls that have claimed so many of his peers (drugs, depression, delusion), he continues to ply his craft. The rewards, he knows now, are greater than something as fleeting as fame and notoriety. Are You Lookin’ at Me? is the next chapter in a story that is still unfolding - on his terms. “I feel really great about this record,” Hay reflects, “because I feel close to it. I don’t listen to it and think 'Oh, that’s not me’ or 'I’m trying to do something weird here.’ That’s what’s different...I have a great band and a great group of people to work with. It’s fun now. But not in a light way - it’s got some weight to it. But,” he says smiling, “it’s not like I have to please anybody. Well, maybe my wife.”