A Man at Work: Almost 30 years after "Down Under," Colin Hay is now singing about the American dream | Sound Stories & Interviews | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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A Man at Work: Almost 30 years after "Down Under," Colin Hay is now singing about the American dream 

In a way, Colin Hay has lived two musical lives and most people came to know him during that first life when he was the front man for the iconic Australian band, Men at Work.

In a way, Colin Hay has lived two musical lives and most people came to know him during that first life when he was the front man for the iconic Australian band, Men at Work. Yes, the same Men at Work that informed the world in 1981 that they had come from the "land down under" and that same year asked us "Who Could it Be Now?" And this is the same Men at Work that popped up in the news in the past few weeks after the band was ordered to pay back royalties because a judge in Sydney decided that a flute melody found in "Down Under" had been copied from a children's song.

But then there's the other Colin Hay - the guy who resurfaced in the middle of the last decade with sweetly seasoned, mostly acoustic songs that appeared in television shows like Scrubs, in addition to the wildly popular Garden State soundtrack. This second career has brought Hay an entirely new group of fans, many of whom probably weren't yet born when Men at Work scored its first round of big hits or only knew the band by way of novelty '80s mix tapes. But Hay, who comes to the Athletic Club of Bend on Wednesday, July 14, just a month before the release of his new solo album American Sunshine, hasn't forgotten about Men at Work.

"Why would I shy away from Men At Work? I was an integral part of that band, we were very successful, and I was proud to be part of it," says Hay. "It is true that it's difficult to get new songs played on the radio, but that's not my problem. It is due to the fact that most of the industry is locked in the past."

But Hay's new material is hardly falling on deaf ears, even if it might not be at the hugely popular level he and his band attained in the early '80s. His solo songs are being adored by a new group of fans who join Hay's built-in Men At Work followers at the heavy slate of shows he plays across the world each year.

"I have a lot of new fans who have picked up on what I'm doing since Scrubs and the Garden State soundtrack, but I also have a lot of fans who have been following me for many years, and this, I am grateful for," says Hay, e-mailing from Australia, where he was visiting family.

Australia, however, is not the home country of this Scottish-born artist. Rather, he lives in California these days, as he has for about 20 years, which is why he's equipped to write an album like the forthcoming American Sunshine. The disc is both poppy and insightful and serves as a commentary on contemporary American society, taking on subjects like the pursuit of the American dream and the nation's history. When recording the album, Hay even got into full Americana mode, laying down half of the disc during a two-day recording binge in Nashville with some of that area's best studio musicians. Hay says his position as a non-native resident gives him an interesting perspective for writing and singing about his adopted homeland.

"I have an inside-the-house point of view, not in the main room, but perhaps in the kitchen looking into the dining room, which has no dividing wall," he says.

As he looks back on his career, he doesn't see the two different phases that others might. Rather, Hay sees his music as one continuous string. Maybe the times have changed along with the sounds and the faces in the crowd, but Hay is charging on, doing things the way he's always done them.

"I think of it as a continuing career full of new and exciting challenges. I started off playing acoustic guitar and singing, and that's what I'm still doing," he says.

Colin Hay
6:30pm Wednesday, July 14. Athletic Club of Bend, 61615 Athletic Club Dr. $16. All ages. Advance tickets at Newport Avenue Market.

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