From down under: Former Men at Work singer Hay coming to State College
If you’re not familiar with his music by now, Colin Hay isn’t worried about it.
“If someone is not aware of what I’ve been doing for the last 35, 40 years, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “There may be a reason for it. I’m not really going to try to sum up 40 years in a conversation.”
That would be hard to do, considering the 63-year-old started out in the pubs of Australia and found relatively quick success as the front man for the pop group, Men at Work, in the early 1980s. Since the band broke up after a decade, he has enjoyed a successful solo career that brings him all the way to his current tour in 2017 that makes a stop in State College later this month.
Hay is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Jan. 22 at The State Theatre. The concert also will feature Chris Trapper, front man for the late 1990s alternative rock band The Push Stars and whose music today is considered roots-pop.
“Colin Hay appeals to a wide variety of music fans,” said Sarah Decker, operations director for the venue. “The longevity of his career alone has earned him fans all over the world. Not to mention, Men at Work is one of the most famous acts to come out of Australia in modern history.”
Decker said Hay is one of those singers who music listeners may not know by name, but will recognize.
“No one else sounds like Colin Hay,” she said. “People can hear a song of his on the radio and maybe not know his name, but they will recognize his voice. This is a bucket list show. It might be the only time he comes through the area for awhile.”
Hay said he has previously passed through the Keystone State.
“I do love Pennsylvania; it’s beautiful,” he said. “I like traveling across America on tours. There are so many interesting places to see.”
His current tour will include promoting his new album, “Fierce Mercy,” set for release in March.
On it, “Secret Love” is a line that popped out to him while listening to the late music great Roy Orbison.
“I’ve always been a huge fan,” he said.
Hay remembers his parents having a music show while he was growing up in Australia, and they featured the music of Orbison, as well as Gene Pitney, who “was big then.”
“They had that beautiful, lush-sounding American music that I love,” Hay said.
Another track on the album, “The Best in Me,” has a country twang on it, but don’t mistake Hay for a country musician. (Part of the album was recorded in Nashville).
“People hear all kinds of things in music,” he said. “I don’t really have any say in how they listen to it.”
According to his label, Compass Records, the new album explores themes of love and loss, mortality, and the “odd UFO sighting, but always with the singular perspective and insightful wit that define Hay’s work.”
Some are personal, including “She Was the Love of Mine,” an elegy for the singer’s mother who died three years ago.
It is his 13th solo release and is a long way from the Australian rock band that produced such hits as “Down Under,” “Who Can It Be Now” and “Overkill.” After the breakup, the singer-songwriter embarked on a solo career and collaborations that led to his music being used frequently in film and television, including the hit series “Scrubs,” on which he also made cameo appearances.
Last year was another breakout year for Hay, and it included a three-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe; performances on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “ABC’s Greatest Hits,” among many others. He also completed a documentary film about his career, “Waiting for My Real Life,” which was named for one of his best known solo recordings.
From 1980s fame to indie credibility, Hay “keeps getting better,” Decker said.
“The more you do it, hopefully you get better at it,” Hay said. “But it’s not really a process that’s particularly thought out. I like doing this.”
If you go
What: Colin Hay, with Chris Trapper
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 22
Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
Admission: $30 to $39, plus fees
Tickets/more info: www.TheStateTheatre.org, (814) 272-0606