The past year will be long-remembered as the year we said goodbye to such legendary artists as David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), and John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson)—just to name a few.
But 2016 was another high point on the comeback trail for Colin Hay, whose first brush with fame came over thirty-five years ago in the reggae / rock bgroup Men at Work (“Down Under,” “Who Can It Be Now?” “Overkill”).
Hay fell off radar after his Australian pop band dissolved, but he reinvented himself as a one-man acoustic act whose solid songwriting, husky vocals, and fluid guitar finesse wowed smaller crowds in and around his adopted L.A. home. A string of modestly successful independent releases laid the groundwork for Hay’s post-millennial rebirth, which began with memorable cameos on the doctor sitcom Scrubs, an ebullient entry on the acclaimed Garden State soundtrack, and the re-make / retrospective CD Man at Work.
Since then Colin’s shared much larger stages with Milk Carton Kids, Of Monsters and Men, Kings of Leon, and Barenaked Ladies…and he’s been cited as an influence by members of Mastodon and Metallica. Hay’s also appeared a slew of talk shows—from Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to ABC’s Greatest Hits—whereon he performed mesmerizing versions of original songs from American Sunshine (2009), Gathering Mercury (2011), and Next Year People (2015).
Co-written with pal Michael Georgiades, the new disc called upon the talents of Colin’s regular Topanga-based backup ensemble (Yosmel Montejo, Jeff Babko, Fred Kron, Charlie Paxson, and San Miguel Perez). But finishing touches (horns, strings, etc.) were applied in Nashville under the guidance of Compass exec Garry West.
“Garry’s always trying to get me out of the comfort zone of my home studio,” says Hay. “So I went to Nashville, and he introduced me to some players who added another fantastic layer to the album.”
The arm-twisting paid off. Boasting the guitar and pedal steel skills of session aces Audley Freed (Black Crowes, Dixie Chicks), Jim Hoke (Don Henley, Darius Rucker), and Doug Lancio (John Hiatt), Fierce Mercy features Hay’s most compelling, confessional songwriting to date. The catchy Americana opener “Tumbling Down” and saccharine-sweet “Secret Love” will engage listeners, but it’s deep cuts like “The Best in Me,” “Frozen Fields of Snow,” and “A Thousand Million Reasons” that resonate long after the music fades.
The new video was animated and directed by noted Cuban cartoonist (and 2017 Havana Film Festival NYC honoree) Juan Padron, whose 1970s serial Elpidio Valdes entertained a generation of kids. Padron’s funny 1985 feature Vampires in Heaven was likewise a cult hit for a legion of fans who demanded a sequel.
“He created beautiful pictures which celebrate a sense of wonder at being part of the fabric of the universe,” says Hay of the artist’s evocative video illustrations.
You can check out the debut of “A Thousand Million Reaons” here today—but be sure to check out Colin when he plays your neck of the woods. The Scottish-born songwriter is bringing his full band (including singer / dancer wife Cecilia Noel of The Wild Clams) on the road this summer and fall to perform pieces from Fierce Mercy alongside hits from his ever-expanding catalog.
And yes, that means a couple Men at Work tunes, too.
You can also catch up with Hay by watching the career-spanning documentary film Waiting for My Real Life, which chronicles Colin’s days in Men at Work, his surprising comeback, and his ongoing musical adventures in the studio…and on stages around the globe.
Click here for upcoming Colin Hay shows.