Though best known as the frontman of iconic and infectious '80s group Men at Work ("Who Can It Be Now?" "Down Under," "Overkill," "It's a Mistake"), for over 20 years Colin Hay has forged a newer identity as a singer-songwriter to a growing fanbase less likely to yell out "Vegemite Sandwich!" in between songs.
On his latest solo record, American Sunshine (Compass Records), Hay proffers 11 bright-and-spright tracks featuring some deft picking and his clear, expressive voice. The material is easygoing and low-key - but hardly soft - and filled with his love of the Golden State and wry observations about male-female relations.
Hay's current tour finds him performing a mixture of Men at Work and solo tunes, laced with his comedic interludes. In this e-mail interview (hey, the economy is tough - who's gonna pay for a phone call to Australia?), Hay proved a man of few words with a dry sense of humor. Either that, or he's a very slow typist.
Rocks Off: I'm going to burst a lot of people's bubbles here. You were born in Scotland! What's the most bizarre thing someone has said to you who assumes you're originally from Australian?
Colin Hay: I am actually both Scottish and Australian, and I have lived in the U.S. for 20 years, so I guess I'm a Scottish born Australian-American - if you'll have me, that is.
As far as bizarre things said to me, nothing much, but a fight did break out between two people at a show who were arguing the point. I wanted to point out that national identity is not all that important.
RO: How is the show set up? Are you a solo act or will you have a band?
CH: I will be solo in all my glory!
RO: American Sunshine is such an upbeat and relaxing-sounding album, even when the lyrics are not. What did you want to do with it that perhaps you haven't with any other record?
CH: Nothing. As with all my albums, I always assume they're going to be massive hits, so I'm ever hopeful.
RO: Has the California Tourism Board approached you about using "Oh California?" It's perfect!
CH: They have not, but I agree with you, I think they should. So if you could send it to someone in a decision making capacity, I would be forever grateful.
RO: My other favorite song is "Pleased to Almost Meet You." Based on years of real-life experiences with fan encounters, I assume?
RO: As a child of the '80s who watched MTV constantly, those Men at Work videos are burned into my consciousness. How did they benefit the band, and how did the not do so?
CH: MTV was hugely beneficial for the band, but we were still big on the radio first.
RO: For you, what was the personal highlight of the years you were with the group?
CH: Playing at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland.
RO: I recently had to download "Be Good Johnny" for my six-year-old son, who loves it because it's the theme of the Supernanny TV show. How were you approached about that?
CH: By telephone, from my publisher.
RO: Do you have any specific memories of playing Houston in the past?
CH: I played in Houston last year and I love playing the Dosey Doe in Woodlands which is a lovely room.
RO: What are your plans for after the tour?
CH: More touring, hanging with my family, and traveling to exotic and faraway places.
8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 10, at Dosey Doe Coffeehouse, 25911 N. I-45, The Woodlands, 281-367-3774 or www.doseydoe.com. Ticket includes three-course meal and beverage.
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