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Colin Hay Interview


Colin Hay whilst born in Scotland and long time resident of Southern California is one of Australia's most succesful musicians and celebrated singer songwriter's his solo shows are renowned as 100 % entertainment a mixed bag of songs and recollections, we had a chat with him about his work and his upcoming show in Cairns.

Where are we speaking to you from today?

I am in Melbourne it is nice in the sun but it is probably only 12c

What’s a Colin Hay show like?

It’s a solo acoustic gig and I play songs from all of my albums and that’s what I do for a living travel all over the world and play music. I take it pretty seriously and I try to make it as interesting as I can so that it’s funny and a lot of other things. It is constantly in development and really every night is different and in a lot of ways it depends who turns up as well because obviously that has a lot to do with the dynamic of the show as a lot of unpredictable things can happen. It tends to be a pretty good experience, it certainly is for me and I haven’t really had any complaints from people.

You are a Scot who wrote an iconic Australian song who lives in California, where feels like home for you?

I feel pretty much at home wherever I am really if I am working. I thought about this actually when I was playing at a place in Alexandria which is near Washington in the states and I was playing at this place where I often play and last year I was on stage surrounded by familiar people the crew I knew very well and I was doing a sound check and I thought this is about as home as I will ever feel, I kind of feel at home wherever I am playing really whatever town I am in.
But as far as when I go back to where I live in California  for me that is where I live and I feel fantastic there but having said that I am looking out over Port Phillip Bay and that feels at home as well. I am lucky because I don’t really have one place ...I kind of feel at home in many different places.

You were in Ringo Starr’s All Star Band what was that experience like?

There are few experiences like it really where you get to hang out with Ringo for a couple of months and play on stage with him every night. He was in the Beatles of course which was hugely influential to generations of people including myself so it was one of those things that was really a unique experience so I cherished every day of it and I loved it. I did a couple of tours...and I think he is out on the road at the moment...I did two tours with him and a television special but it was pretty magical.

At the end of the day Ringo is a lad from Liverpool when all is said and done he was in, certainly if not the best one of the greatest bands ever...but he is very sharp, he doesn’t suffer fools and he is somebody you can learn a lot of things from and he is still a great drummer and I would stand next to him every night he is also very funny and he is a unique character.

What is the best thing about being a musician?

For me it’s being able to live a life which is close to every day  being a process of self determination, I don’t really have a boss I am pretty much as close to my own person as I can pretty much be. I am very grateful that I make a living from music but one of the greatest things about being a musician is being able to make a living from it which is fantastic because I don’t have to do other things I don’t want to do. Though I have done that in the past and there is value in that as well....being able to live as free as possible and make a living from it. It is brilliant.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician?

For me there are not too really too many things I don’t like about being a musician to be honest, you know it’s a pretty great life. Every time I think it’s a bit lonely out there on the road and you are not home all that much, but really I like being on the road, it doesn’t really bother me that much you know....so every time I think about those clichéd things people say I Think “ I don’t really mind that”

Probably at the risk of sounding a little Spinal Tap – probably back stage hasn’t really changed in 20 or 30 years as far as I can tell....the cold meats still don’t fit the bread.

Did your parents support you in your desire to be a musician?

My dad was a singer and a dancer when he was young then he had a music shop in Scotland and when he came to Australia he went back to his piano tuner trade so I was always pretty much surrounded by music.

There was both support and fear on their part because they supported me they paid for singing lessons they knew that I could sing and I wanted to sing but they were somewhat fearful that I would actually go into it as an occupation because they considered it was a very difficult to make a living from but I did Ok there so as soon as they knew I was very serious about it they seemed to welcome it.
What advice would you give a young musician entering the music business?
It is difficult for me in a sense it’s the thing about it being an industry. It is an industry that is like an obstacle course more than anything else is my experience. There are a lot of things along the way that you think would be helpful but sometimes they are not helpful.

What advice would you give a young musician entering the industry today?

There are many things that have changed but some things never change. I think you really have to have talent and you have to work hard and I really don’t think that has changed....

You really have to work hard and be responsible for whatever your talent is, there is tendency these days for people to have to decide whether they want to be a creative person say a singer/songwriter whatever avenue you are following in regards to music or whether it is you want to be famous which is a very different path but I think if you want to have some level of authenticity to it. If you want to live your life as a musician then you have to have talent and you have to be true to that talent and work hard at it and I think you can do well and you will be successful.

What is your song writing process like?

I don’t really have one technique of doing it I tend to write things down. I used to remember a lot more than I do now and I would have a song in my head it would float around and sit there quite happily and I would play it and record it as I saw fit. I have noticed if I just do that in the last decade or so that I just forget a lot of things, I forget ideas that I quite like so I tend to record things on very simple devices such as my iphone just to get simple ideas down and I just build up a bunch of ideas then when at some point I go home where I live I have a studio in the basement I go downstairs and I listen to them and threes some threads of ideas for songs. I take the best ones and I sit with them for a while and I mull them over, sometimes I co-write things with a friend of mine but at some point I have to go downstairs and some songs present themselves to you and some you really have to wrestle to the ground and they are all different but I like the ones that dance around in your head they are really a lot of fun and they live there and you can just hear how you want them to sound, they may not end up like that but they are always good ones those songs that are already formed in your head.

Sometimes I get back from touring and listen to stuff I have recorded myself you know at night time after the show little bits of ideas and I am often really surprised by the things that I have no recollection of recording and some of them aren’t bad ideas some of them are pretty good.

If you could record with any musician living or dead who would they be?

There are many musicians I would love to have sat and watched...how Robert Johnson recorded in that hotel that he was sin way back then...I would have loved to have been in the studio with John Lennon...there are hosts of people really. Randy Newman is my favourite songwriter really, but he doesn’t need my help.

What’s the funniest thing to happen to you on tour?

I always find it difficult on a telephone call to drum up a funny experience of what has happened on the road that why I really save it for the live shows... So you will have to come along to the show in Cairns to get a real blast of that and hopefully I will deliver on the night.


Colin Hay plays at Tanks Arts Centre on the 17th of August 2012 tickets avaliable HERE