Colin Hay, the Scottish singer-songwriter who initially found success in the 1980s as the frontman for Australian band Men at Work, is set to play The State Theatre on Jan. 22.
Men at Work’s hits include “Down Under,” “Overkill” and “Who Can it Be Now?” and The State Theatre performance will see Hay performing new music and some classics as a solo artist.
“This will be a solo show,” Hay said. “I’ll be there by myself, don’t you worry.”
The sharp and witty singer’s latest album, “Next Year People” was released in 2015 and his new record, “Fierce Mercy,” is set to release in March. The album is a fresh installment to Hay’s long and storied musical career.
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“It was a nice process because I got to work at home a lot,” Hay said. “I wrote a lot of the songs with a friend of mine who lives up the road, this guy called Michael G (Georgiades). We’d just sit around and play guitars and mess around until we had a song. We kept doing that, and I think that the material kept presenting itself and we thought it was pretty strong.”
After the songs had been written, the pair would invite friends over and they’d cut most of the tracks live.
“It was a pretty thrilling record to make in many ways, a lot of excitement,” Hay said.
When Hay was young, he said he didn’t have to look far to be exposed to music — his parents owned a music shop in his native Scotland.
“I was surrounded by it,” he said. “I started playing piano, which I gave up and I always regretted. My piano playing skills are not very good. I started playing guitar when I was about 12.”
Men at Work formed in 1978 and found international success in the early ’80s. The band released three albums before members went their separate ways in 1985.
There are no specific favorites among Hay’s catalog, but he has memories associated with various tunes.
“From this new record, there’s a song called ‘Frozen Fields of Snow’ that I quite like,” he said. “I like little songs. I like little kind of tales, they don’t have to be big in-your-face anthems or anything. I have memories associated with my own songs in many ways, too.”
After Men at Work disbanded, Hay came to the U.S. and decided to stay. During that time, he said “there was a lot of sitting around the house just figuring out what to do,” and he was free to seek his own musical visions and take his time smelling the roses.
“When I got over here, I didn’t have a record deal, I didn’t have anything going on, so I spent a lot of time by myself or going down the road and just playing to a few people,” he said. “It wasn’t so much that I even felt very passionate about it; it was just the only thing I could think of to do. I didn’t have anything to fall back on.”
In the early to mid 2000s, Hay’s career reignited when fans of Zach Braff’s movie “Garden State” and television show “Scrubs” were exposed to his unique sound.
“It was an organic process,” Hay said. “Zach Braff used to come and see me play a little bit before he was in ‘Scrubs.’ So, when he got that gig, he brought (‘Scrubs’ creator) Bill Lawrence to see me play and they just started using a few of my songs because they liked them.”
While his career has been filled with great music, Hay would still like to collaborate with a few artists.
“Oh, there’s many people,” Hay said. “I’d like to do a song with Sting. Well, I love Chance the Rapper, but then again everybody does. He’s pretty extraordinary.”
Singer-songwriter Chris Trapper will open The State Theatre show on Sunday.
IF YOU GO
- What: Colin Hay
- When: 8 p.m. Jan. 22
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.thestatetheatre.org