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Fabulous Flip Sides of Men at Work with Imogen Clark and Colin Hay

On Imogen Clark’s new EP “Bastards,” she is joined by Colin Hay, the lead vocalist and guitarist from Men at Work, who also has a new collection, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”
Imogen2 Bastards

PART ONE – AUSTRALIA’S IMOGEN CLARK

GOLDMINE: Welcome back to Goldmine with your new EP Bastards, which includes a song you wrote and sang with Colin Hay, from Men at Work. 

Let’s begin with a pair of their songs, both sides of the “Overkill” single. I reached out to the Ohio music duo LoveDust regarding today’s session. I saw them perform a version of “Overkill” in Cincinnati. Tim Sylvester said, “’Overkill’ is a song I always loved as a kid. Then Colin’s acoustic guitar version inspired me to do my own acoustic cover with a Phrygian cadence and a Spanish guitar solo. Verse one includes the line ‘I can’t get to sleep’ and verse two includes ‘It’s time to walk the streets.’ Both verses together transport me to memories of my time living and touring throughout big cities like L.A., Chicago, and Tokyo, while having the time of my life, but being alone during the whole experience, overthinking memories.” You spoke with Colin about “Overkill” as well.

IMOGEN CLARK: Yes. It was one of those rare instances where you get to ask the songwriter what they wrote the song about and whether it matches what you felt the song was about when you listened to it. It was so wonderful because I worked with him and we wrote a song together for my new EP, and I said that “Overkill” has been a really important song in my life. It made me realize that I was experiencing anxiety and that I wasn’t alone in that experience. He said, “That is exactly what I wrote the song about.” Then he talked about a mental health spiral. It was really wonderful talking with him about that and so encouraging that we can make it through to the other side, positively. Regarding the single’s flip side, “Till the Money Runs Out,” even though there aren’t many lyrics to it, it still has that Colin Hay catchiness. It has a chaotic, fun, upbeat energy to it. I really love that song.

Imogen2 flip side

Men at Work

Flip side: Till the Money Runs Out

A side: Overkill

Top 100 debut: April 9, 1983

Peak position: No. 3

Columbia 38-03795

GM: Now let’s talk about “First Class Man” which you co-wrote with and sang with Colin. I love the title, Eric Gorfain and Richard Dodd’s strings, the vocal range, Jason Boesel’s drumming, and the absolutely wonderful bridge. You powerfully sing, “Now it’s only memories I keep. Love is not the enemy of what you seek,” and that just jumps out at me.

IC: Thank you so much. I appreciate you saying that. That was one of the hardest songs I’ve ever written, and I was so pleased that Colin would write the song with me. Having him sing it with me was really special. Lending his beautiful voice, that I have grown up listening to, was such a privilege. He was so kind and gracious the whole time. That song was very difficult to compose, about a tough topic dedicated to a friend of mine who was a mentor, a co-director in my band, and who we lost to depression about two years ago. It was shocking to many of us including me. I had absolutely no idea that he was struggling like that. He kept it very much private. I just wish I had a chance to talk with him about it and to help him. We still miss him so much. I wanted to write a song and dedicate it to him. His name was Glen Hannah and he left behind a beautiful wife and family and it was incredibly devastating. I still think of him every day. It is our way of remembering Glen and I am so glad that Colin was part of it.

Australian musician Glen Hannah, 2019, ABC News, Caitlin Furlong

Australian musician Glen Hannah, 2019, ABC News, Caitlin Furlong

GM: How did you connect with Colin initially?

IC: It was through a friend of mine who had written with Colin before. She passed my music on to him and asked, “How would you like to write a song with Imogen? She will be in L.A.” This is obviously before the pandemic. He listened to my music and said he would be happy to write with me, which was a massive honor. He is a hero to me. We ended up having a lovely session in his house and wrote the song for Glen, did a little demo of the song together, and then he agreed to have his voice included on my EP. It is one of those times where you have to pinch yourself when you realize you are working with one of your heroes.

GM: Colin also told me that he enjoyed the experience with you. He has a new album out, which we are featuring in part two of this article. I mentioned the duo LoveDust earlier, which is Tim Sylvester and his fiancé Melissa Claire, and she said, “I absolutely love that Imogen paired up with Colin. Their voices work very well together.” They have a new song called “Play by the Moon” which has a section that jumps out at me like the bridge in your “First Class Man,” which is why I thought of Melissa. She also told me, “I’ve always enjoyed Colin’s acoustic arrangements alongside his past Men at Work songs. One of my favorites has always been ‘Who Can it Be Now?’” What has always stood out for me in “Who Could it be Now?” is the saxophone solo. In your opening number, “Forget About London,” Sylvain Carton’s saxophone break is outstanding.

IC: Thank you so much. That is the first time I have ever had a saxophone in any of my songs and it was so much fun. We had a great time in the studio, trying to figure out what would go there. Our producer, Mike Bloom, suggested a Clarence Clemons style Bruce Springsteen saxophone solo, and we all thought that would be perfect. We are all big Springsteen fans. When we play it live, we also get a saxophone player to join us and surprise the audience.

GM: You sing “I remember Notting Hill” in the song, a favorite film of mine and a place I have visited.

IC: Me too. It is beautiful there. It has become a big tourist attraction because of the movie. I was staying there because a friend of mine was letting me crash on her couch in 2019, when I was touring the UK and Europe. After the tour, I was stranded in London for a few weeks, waiting for my visa to come through for America, to tour with Clare Bowen. My friend lives in Notting Hill and I would wander through it during the day, going to the cafes and markets.

GM: We talked about Clare Bowen with last year’s Goldmine interview. Now you have another Bowen joining you, Timothy James Bowen, on “Casualty.”

IC: That’s right. They are the absolutely most beautiful family. It is amazing how much talent you can find in one family. Clare and Tim and have both been such beautiful friends to me. They are sister and brother and they both have taken me under their wing and have supported me in my music and personally. When I was touring with Clare, Tim was the support act on that tour. We were having a great time from a business perspective, but from a personal perspective, I had just gone through a really difficult breakup, which is what I wrote “Found Me” about on my prior EP, which we discussed last year. They were really kind to me during that time and gave me a sense of hope, friendship and support when I needed it most and I am eternally grateful to them. Having Tim on “Casualty” is wonderful. He is a great male singer to sing with. I adore his voice. Everyone’s jaws dropped when he opened his mouth in the studio. It was so beautiful.

GM: The song includes a melodic build and a cascading range that I just love. It is so catchy.

IC: Thank you so much. That’s so lovely. I really appreciate that. This is another first for me, really doing a duet with another artist on a record. I am so glad that he said yes. We are great friends and we love collaborating. The song is about a demise of a relationship where both parties are too afraid to let go, afraid of being alone, even though they know that breaking up is for the best. I wanted someone who could sing the male part of the relationship.

GM: Last time I shared my story meeting Clare and her husband Brandon at a country music festival here in Daytona Beach, and speaking of country, I hear a touch of Rosanne Cash when I listen to “Never This Time.”

IC: Thank you. That’s a wonderful compliment. Rosanne Cash is a beautiful artist and such a great legacy. “Never This Time” is a guttural song, very raw, very close to the nerve, probably another one of the hardest songs I’ve had to write. It is another collaboration that I wrote with Jason Boesel, from the band Rilo Kiley, and Taylor Goldsmith from the band Dawes. Those two lovely gentlemen came over to my Airbnb when I was staying in L.A. and they very graciously agreed to help me write this song which I had been wanting to tackle for a while.

GM: The title song “Bastards” has, what I would call, an Adele beat, from Pete Thomas, known for his decades of work with Elvis Costello. Also, the animated video for the song, with Scumcorp is a lot of fun.

IC: Ha ha. I am so thrilled with how that turned out from an incredible animation artist Binbin Lu. I have no skill in that area whatsoever. She did a wonderful job and Scumcorp is so hilarious. We wanted to make it into a funny story. The song is about experiencing misogyny and sexism in industry, which is a serious topic, but to make the video almost as a satire, to alleviate the heaviness of the subject. The boss villain yells at me and my dog Socks is featured as my sidekick. My dog is completely black with white paws and a white chest, who is tall, like a great dane, Labrador, England Staffordshire mix. I love the way she comes to my rescue in the video. She is a very gentle dog, but if someone was hurting me, she would definitely come to my rescue.

“Bastards” video cell, animator Binbin Lu

“Bastards” video cell, animator Binbin Lu

GM: “Eat You Alive” is the most Clare Bowen-like song on the EP, with a nice steady sound.

IC: Thank you. That is lovely. I hadn’t heard that comparison between that song and Clare’s music before, but now that you say that, I can definitely hear it. It is probably influenced by all my time touring with Clare here in Australia and in the U.S. The reason why I wrote that song is that I was chatting with Clare when she was visiting L.A. at the same time as me. I had lunch with her, my manager Jeremy Dylan, and Clare’s husband Brandon. I told her that I would be in Nashville soon and if there were writers that she would suggest, please let me know, and straight away she said, “You should write with Justin Halpin.” She introduced us, and Justin came to where I was staying in Nashville. I was playing an arpeggio section on the piano, with just one line of lyrics when Justin arrived. He suggested that we build off of that. The song fell out of us quickly. So, it is thanks to Clare that this song happened, and perhaps that is why you hear elements of her in “Eat You Alive.” Thank you for going through all my new songs again this time for Goldmine. As different as Bastards is from The Making of Me, I feel it is like a sister EP. Releasing the EPs has been a nice way to share my music despite the difficulties of the pandemic. Thank you so much for everything, for being so thorough, and for wanting to promote the music in the U.S. It really means a lot to us. It is very lovely of you.

Socks listening in on the interview, photo courtesy of Imogen Clark

Socks listening in on the interview, photo courtesy of Imogen Clark

Imogen2 Colin album

PART TWO – COLIN HAY FROM MEN AT WORK

COLIN HAY told Goldmine, “Imogen contacted me and said she wanted to write a song with me, so that’s what we did. She came with a strong idea concerning the sad death of an old friend. I helped where I could and perhaps brought some objectivity to an emotional subject. I very much enjoyed singing along with her stellar vocal performance on ‘First Class Man.’” Regarding Imogen Clark’s future, Hay concluded, “Imogen is plotting her own course. She knows exactly what she’s doing. More power to her!”

In addition to his work on Imogen Clark’s new EP, Colin Hay also has a new recording, a ten song collection of diverse favorites, on Compass Records, I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, named after the Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition. In the U.S., the title song reached the Top 40 for Dionne Warwick in 1966, after it had reached the Top 10 in England two years prior for Dusty Springfield. Hay said, “I worked at my parents’ record store in the 1960s in Scotland and it seemed that Dusty Springfield always had a hit on the charts. Her version of ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ was produced by Johnny Franz, whose team created the closest thing Britain had to Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound.’”

Two Beatles covers are included on the collection, “Norwegian Wood,” which Hay has performed live, and “Across the Universe” with a swelling arrangement. At the heart of this John Lennon creation, Hay said it contains “a staggering lyric and equally beautiful music and melody.”

Colin Hay matches Steve Winwood’s upper vocal range on a classic rock track and shared, “That one Blind Faith album had a big impact on me in 1969 and ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ is one of those songs you could attempt on acoustic guitar, so that’s what I did.”

The least known track on the new album was originally performed by Scotland’s Del Amitri, who in America are known best for the short 1990s song “Roll to Me,” often squeezed in as the final song in a radio’s rotation, to get to the top of the hour. Hay selected their number “Driving with the Brakes On,” augmented with strings and harmonies and stated, “This is simply one of the best songs ever written. I love Del Amitri and Justin Currie’s writing. When I first came to live in California in the early 1990s, I would listen to this song, driving home late at night.”

The album includes Hay’s renditions of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” Faces’ “Ooh La La,” Gerry and The Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” and ends with a Jamaican anthem. “We all became obsessed with the film The Harder They Come in the early 1970s, when it was shown in Melbourne cinemas,” Hay revealed. “The music and sound of Jimmy Cliff transcends time. Many people have sung ‘Many Rivers to Cross.’ It’s a singer’s song. My goal was to simply deliver it and not get in the way of the brilliance of the song itself.”

Colin Hay is on tour in the U.S. with his next stop being The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia for two nights.

Imogen2 Colin tour

Related links:

imogenclark.com.au

colinhay.com

Goldmine 2020 Interview with Imogen Clark