Colin James Hay (born 29 June 1953) is a Scottish Australian musician and actor who made his mark during the 1980s as lead vocalist of the Australian band Men at Work, and later as a solo artist. Regarding his solo career, Hay stated, in 2011: "I feel like it's been building for the last fifteen or so years that I’ve been touring. It's slow and steady. It's been word-of-mouth. People see the show, like it, and tell their friends. It feels very organic."
Hay's music has been frequently used by actor and director Zach Braff in his work, subsequently leading to a career rebirth in the mid-2000s. Commenting on his younger fanbase, Hay noted, "Most of them have an idea about Men at Work, but that's the subplot. They picked up on me since Scrubs, they're young enough they never heard of Men at Work. But I've found if people discover you they discover everything about you."
Hay was born in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland, but emigrated to Australia with his family at age 14 in 1967.
Men at Work
In 1978, Hay met Ron Strykert and the men began playing acoustic music as a duo. Hay on vocals, guitar and keyboards; and Strykert on guitar, vocals and bass guitar; formed the band Men at Work, adding Jerry Speiser (drums), John Rees (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Greg Ham (flute, saxophone, keyboards, vocals). The group released their debut album Business as Usual in 1981.
In 1982, the success of Men at Work and their albums Business as Usual and Cargo prompted Hay to relocate to Los Angeles. He settled in the Topanga region of the city and has resided in the USA since, though he has not taken US citizenship.
Hay joined as guest vocalist with The Incredible Penguins in 1985, for a cover of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", a charity project for research on Little Penguins, which peaked at No. 10 on the Australian Kent Music Report in December.
Following the break-up of Men at Work in 1985, Hay released several major label solo albums, including Looking for Jack (Columbia) and Wayfaring Sons (MCA), to fluctuating commercial success. In 2011, Hay commented on his early solo career, stating, "After Men at Work, for the better part of a decade, I was stumbling around being unfocused. It was pre-internet, I really had to try to find my audiences by going out on tour. Men at Work really didn't build a foundational audience. We came in as a pop band with enormous radio success; once that goes away and the band breaks up the audience tends to go away with it. You're left with what you want to make of it. When you start out doing those tours, you start again [and] you tend not to attract a very big number of people. I'd play to a hundred people or sometimes less."
In 2004 he contributed to the Garden State soundtrack with his solo song "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You".
In addition to recording, Hay also established his own recording label, Lazy Eye Records, somewhat incorrectly named for his own divergent ocular condition, exotropia, or divergent strabismus (the usage of lazy-eye generally refers to Amblyopia) and has made appearances in cult movies such as Cosi and television shows, such as The Larry Sanders Show, JAG, and The Mick Molloy Show. Hay also appeared on television in the NBC show Scrubs, which along with episodes of ABC's What About Brian, NBC's The Black Donnellys, CBS's Cane, and the BBC hospital drama Casualty, have included performances of some of his previous songs.
In December 2005, Hay and Heather Mills released "My Brilliant Feat" as a charity single as a tribute to football player George Best, who died on 25 November of that year. Proceeds were forwarded to the Donor Family Network, supporting organ donor families and promoting organ and tissue donation. The single is available on iTunes with a bonus music video tribute to Best.
In 2006 Hay provided his voice for one of the characters in animated movie The Wild. He has also been a member of Ringo Starr's eighth and tenth All-Starr Bands. He continues to perform regularly, including playing some folk venues.
On 13 February 2009, former Men at Work band member Ron Strykert was arrested for allegedly making death threats against Hay.
Hay contributed music to the TV series Scrubs in the course of a number of episodes, including on-camera performances. In Episode 1 of Season 2 he performs an acoustic version of the Men at Work-hit "Overkill" and he also makes an appearance in "My Hard Labor"
Hay released his 10th album, "American Sunshine", on 18 August 2009 on Compass Records.
In 2009, Hay's former group, Men at Work, were named in a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement by Larrikin Music, which owns the rights to the "Kookaburra" song. Larrikin Music claims that part of a flute riff from the band's 1981 single "Down Under" was copied from "Kookaburra" originally written by a music teacher, Marion Sinclair, who died in 1988. In February 2010, a court ruled in favour of Larrikin Music. Although the petition from Larrikin Music requested 40% to 60% of royalties dating back to 1981 and future royalties, in July 2010 a judge awarded the plaintiff only 5% of royalties dating back to 2002 and the same amount of future royalties.
In May 2009, Hay performed at the Artist for the Arts Foundation benefit at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica, California. Performing alongside Curt Smith of Tears for Fears, Fee Waybill (Tubes) and Venice and over 70 members of the Santa Monica High School Orchestra and Girls Choir, the benefit helped to provide funds for the continuation of music education in public schools. In August 2010, Hay performed in Missoula, Montana with a Los Angeles Roots rock band named Patrolled By Radar.
In December 2013, Hay announced on his website that he was done touring "for the time being" and would spend 2014 writing and recording.
After performing in Men at Work, Hay performed in a number of films and TV shows, usually in small roles.
- Jack Irish – Bad Debts (2012) as Tony Baker
- The Uninvited (2008) as Nick
- The Wild (2006) as Fergus Flamingo (voice)
- Scrubs (TV series) (2002, 2007, 2009)
- Episode – "My Overkill" as Troubador (Performing "Overkill")
- Episode – "My Hard Labor" as Troubador (Performing "Down Under")
- Episode – "My Finale" as Troubador (Cameo)
- The Country Bears (2002) (singing voice – uncredited)
- The Mick Molloy Show (TV series)
- Episode No. 1.4 (1999) as Gay Builder
- Episode No. 1.2 (1999) as Artist
- The Craic (1999) as Barry
- Heaven's Burning (1997) as Jonah
- JAG: Judge Advocate General (TV series)
- Episode – "Trinity" (1997) as Miles
- Cosi (1996) as Zac
- Blue Heelers (TV series)
- Episode – "Shadow Man" (1995) as Brad Fielding
- Episode – "Theft" (1994) as George Patterson
- Raw Silk (TV movie) (1988) as Parker
- Wills & Burke (1985) as Publican
Hay is married to singer Cecilia Noël, who often provides backup vocals at his shows. Noël has also helped to produce Hay's solo albums. For example, Hay said of his solo album, "Are You Lookin' At Me?" that:
She was really crucial. She was a really great sounding board for me. She's a really good producer in the sense that she's very musical and has a great sense of song structure and so forth. So she was great to bounce ideas off. And she sang on nearly all the songs. So she was really a great part of this record.
Hay and Noël live in Topanga Canyon, near Los Angeles, California.