- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mortality weighs heavily upon the music of Colin Hay, which he describes as “not a conscious thing” even though the subject appears frequently in his more recent albums like “Next Year People” and 2017’s “Fierce Mercy.”

“I suppose you just become aware of the fact that you’re in the last [third] of your life no matter which was you look at it, so it just comes out in the songs,” Mr. Hay, 64, told The Washington Times. “Your life ends at some point, and people don’t really talk about that very much.”

Indeed, “Fierce Mercy” features several songs about “the undiscovered country,” including “Frozen Fields of Snow,” “I’m Going to Get You Stoned” and “Two Friends,” the latter of which sees the narrator screaming at the unfairness of two of his friends being gone.

“As you get older it’s more on your mind, especially as people keep dropping,” Mr. Hay said of the deaths of many of his famous contemporaries. “But it’s not something that I go, ‘oh, I’m going to write a song about getting old.’ You just don’t ignore it.”

But mixed in with the ennui of aging and losing friends to time are uptempo songs like “I’m Inside Outside In,” and Mr. Hay also shows his many influences on the country-sounding “Blue Bay Moon” and “Love Don’t Mean Enough.”

Mr. Hay describes his songwriting now as “trying to make sense of the senseless,” whether it’s loss or tragedies large and small. But even amid such heavy subject matter, Mr. Hay still tries to give his audiences a good show, as he aims to do at the District’s Lincoln Theatre Saturday evening.

The Scottish-born Mr. Hay says he enjoys coming to the capital of his adopted nation, and has previously played at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, many times over the years.

“For some reason I’ve always done really well in Washington. I don’t know why that is,” Mr. Hay said of coming to the District. “I’d like to think there is some sophistication to the audience and they pick up on what I’m doing. I always love coming to that part of the world.”

Indeed, Mr. Hay’s original part of the world is far from Los Angeles, where he has lived for the better part of 30 years. Although born in Scotland, Mr. Hay emigrated with his family to Australia when he was a teen. It was there that he met Ron Strykert and soon formed the band Men at Work. The band broke through with “Down Under,” a paean to their home country, and such other ‘80s staples as “Who Can It Be Now?”

The band splintered not long after coming to America, but by then Mr. Hay considered the U.S. his home.

“I feel like a stranger in my adopted homeland because I’ve lived in California for longer than I’ve lived anywhere,” Mr. Hay said of a certain alienation he feels when he returns to Oz.

However, when he does head back to Australia, he enjoys exploring the Outback and visiting old friends.

“Sometimes I just go driving by myself for days at a time, or I just stay in Melbourne where I lived for many years and hang out with the two or three friends I’ve got,” Mr. Hay said.

However, there is no looking back. L.A., he said, is where he belongs.

“I’ve lived here 30 years,” he said. “I love it.”

In those ensuing three decades, Mr. Hay has learned how to tour to his liking and with backup musicians tailored to his music. He writes the music he wants to perform and tours when he desires.

Additionally, Mr. Hay says one of the benefits of touring is being able to “distract yourself” from the madness that is endemic in the daily news.

“It’s not like you ignore those awful things that are going on, but it’s a little bit of respite where you play music and you put that energy out into the air,” he said. “It goes out in the audience and comes back, and it’s nourishing.”

Mr. Hay knows he has been fortunate in his showbiz career — which has also included acting stints — but professes that he has “never understood the industry,” nor how to navigate it to success.

“I don’t know what I would say to someone who is young and trying to get into the business,” he said. “I would probably say don’t really try and get into the business. The old-fashioned [method is] practice and get really good, and the industry will find you.”

However, if being a professional musician is the goal, Mr. Hay said the rewards can be wondrous.

“Everyone has to make their own way and make their own mistakes. You’re really only as good as what you can create on a daily basis,” he said. “If you can do that and you’re good at it, you can make a living from it. I don’t think there’s anything better.”

Incredibly, even with 13 solo CDs to his credit since 1987, Mr. Hay still feels that his career outside of Men at Work is somehow “a bit of a secret.”

“I can put a thousand people in a room; there’s nothing wrong with that. But if I’m really honest with myself, I would really like for my solo career to be a little more successful,” he said, though in the same breath acknowledges he doesn’t “lose sleep” over its current level of success.

“I think I’m better now as a songwriter and singer and performer,” Mr. Hay said of what his decades in the spotlight have wrought. “You can only do what you can do, but I still feel very ambitious.

“You just gotta keep moving. As long as you’re moving forward, that’s the important thing,” he said. “Then at least you know you’re alive.”

Colin Hay performs at the Lincoln Theatre Saturday evening. Tickets are available at Ticketfly.com.

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