DARREN HAYES – Interview with the acclaimed singer + songwriter

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With his latest single ‘Talk Talk Talk’ churning up the airwaves, I thought it necessary and somewhat nostalgic of me to re-live my incredible interview with Darren Hayes back in 2007 when his last album, ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made’ was released. Hayes is a wonderful artist, with a powerful yet tranquil voice and sensational song writing skills, set against a backdrop juxtaposed with personal fragility and unparalleled strength, happiness and melancholia, memories and hopes for the future. He talks about his beautiful marriage, childhood memories, oh and he predicted Robyn’s worldwide success.

Sitting in the Langham Hotel with Hayes as the sun was setting over Melbourne, was truly one of my most magical moments, not only with my journalism, but in my life. Hayes is a sensational artist that should never be underrated. He speaks from the heart and sparked in me the want to ‘shine from the inside, out’. He also jovially told me, after I asked for a photo with him as our interview wrapped up (I had never asked a celebrity for a shot with me prior to this moment). “If a celebrity says no to a photo with them, tell them to get fucked!” Here’s to a genuine person and a deity- like performer, mister Darren Hayes.

Forget the tabloids. This is an honest insight into a remarkable artist whose passions run deep and strong. He chats to Lara Antonelli about his third solo album This Delicate Thing We’ve Made.

Favourite artist of the moment? Swedish pop singer Robyn. She’s just had a number two single in the UK. She’s like Madonna meets Lil’ Kim.

Who would you most like to collaborate with? Someone like Annie Lennox. She’s just got an incredible voice. She lives near me so every time I walk past her I nearly have a heart attack!

Favourite item of clothing? At the moment I’ve got a Marc Jacobs trench coat. I’m obsessed with it.

Most treasured possession? My wedding ring.

What’s in your fridge? Soy milk, lacto-acidophilus-biffitto something (laughs), or other yoghurt. Usually fresh berries and whatever I’ve just had for dinner.
Which character would you portray in Star Wars? “Oh, it’s boring but Luke because he was the hero. The kid that dreamt of a life that was extraordinary and found it. I relate to Luke because he had really cool outfits. Especially in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi – you can’t go wrong with all black.

If you could be any other profession for a day, what would it be? A crew on a video shoot. I’m always envious of them. They have a lot of fun and they get to eat M&M’s!

The press release for This Delicate Thing We’ve Made was a very personable one. Was this in an effort to portray your journey to date? Yeah, in fact it wasn’t so much a press release, it was me in conversation with a journalist in England called Paul Flynn, who writes for The Guardian. I was very much trying not to be contrived, trying to give my music a little bit more of a personal context. I mean, I’ve had a really colourful life and I think there was a point in my career where I felt like the perception of me was actually quite one dimensional – to a point where people wouldn’t attribute me with the stories and songs that I was singing about.

How does it portray the different layers of your experiences and personality? With this album I very honestly talk about how I went through quite a sad period in order to feel comfortable about myself and where I am today – in such a happy place. And you can’t just tell people, ‘I’m happy but I’m not going to talk about any of the details of being dark’, without them switching off and thinking you’re insincere. That was kind of what the idea was – in owning up to some of my problems, in owning up to the way I was brought up and my struggles with coming out. Hopefully, it’s given the songs on the record that authenticity. I wanted people to listen to it and understand the background of it all.

What do you hope this honesty will achieve? I felt it was important to give people that missing piece of me. When I think of my favourite performers, I understand what motivated them. And what motivated me was escapism – what motivated me as a kid was reinventing my life. That’s kind of what being honest does. It gives you that piece of the puzzle, so that you understand where this guy is coming from, how he grew up and why it took him so long to discover who he is. My album is my story. It’s me looking back at my life.

How do you reflect on the success of Savage Garden, knowing you weren’t in an entirely happy place emotionally? Well, strangely I look back on it very fondly because I was doing an expert job of putting my head in the sand. Success was a wonderful distraction from growing up and dealing with who I was because I was having number one hits in America and winning awards; I had become the pop star I had designed on a piece of paper when I was 10. In some way maybe it kind of saved my life too, because I had this opportunity to travel the world and meet a myriad of people and realise that there was a whole other destiny for me that I hadn’t encountered.

How does it feel, knowing you’ve helped others tackle their problems through your music? It makes me happy because I think – even in the depths of my own sadness – I was putting something out there which was positive. I’m very hands on with MySpace and I spend hours a day reading all my mail. Some of the messages you get from people can be from a mother worried about her son to a girl with an eating disorder who writes that one of my songs has given her hope or inspired others. As a song writer that’s a wonderful thing. But it’s kind of selfish as well because those songs helped me and knowing that people related to them made me think ‘I’m not a freak!’. People have felt this emotion, so I don’t feel alone either. It’s definitely a two way street.

What inspires you, creatively and musically? I look to people who have lasted, regardless of whether they’re in the Top 40. People like Annie Lennox or U2 will release an album that sells really well and tour tickets are snapped up just because of the reputation they have created for themselves. That longevity, quality, dedication and commitment to making good and sincere records is what inspires me.

Do you feel that your prior concept of being “unloved and unlovable” is still a melancholic reality for you? I think there will always be a part of me that feels hideous. I am very lucky that I am in a really gorgeous relationship – I am loved by someone that just sees me for all my strengths and weaknesses and accepts me whole. I never thought I would find that, I always thought I would end up alone. I never ever felt good looking, but I think that everybody feels a little bit like that. It would be a bit terrifying if you walked around constantly thinking your shit didn’t stink, so to speak. The fact that I can’t lie about my insecurities is my thing. I’m a bit broken and a bit messed up. Thankfully, I’ve worked out how to put one foot in front of the other one and get through life and smile.

Do you see your music as a medicine you can’t live without? Yeah, if I couldn’t sing I would be so sad. The part of my body that would be the worst to loose would be my voice. When I sing, something happens to me and I smile from the inside out. It’s so much a part of my DNA. If I had to press the records myself and give them away for free, I would still make music because it’s not a job at all, it’s who I am.

What’s the symbolism behind the paper crane that features on the cover artwork? It seems complicated, but it’s not. It’s an album about relationships and how fragile we all are. The paper crane is a metaphor for being alive. When you unfold it, you can see all of the creases representing the scars and choices that we have made, whether they are good or bad. That’s our life, that’s what makes us who we are. The idea of This Delicate Thing We’ve Made is just my way of saying that everything that happens to us, creates us. Essentially you see a whole life unfold when you unwrap the bird. [Darren then begins to fold a paper crane for me.]

How was this idea created? You know, I don’t know! This is the first time in my career where I had the title of an album and the front cover image in my head. I had this extraordinary year where I had fallen out with my record label, I was losing my confidence in who I was, but I had met the man that I married. I buried one of my best friends who died of cancer, but at the same time one of my friends had a baby and I became a godfather. So there were all of these extremes going on in such a delicate balance.

When were majority of songs on the album written? They’re definitely new songs. It’s not like I sat on a bunch of songs for years and thought I’d flog them on a new album (laughs). I threw away a lot of songs because they weren’t relevant. Once I wrote How To Build A Time Machine, I knew this record was about going back. All the songs on the record are sung in past tense up until the last song, Tuning Of Violins.

Favourite track on the album? A song called Casey – it’s all about how my sister used to come and rescue me in her car. It didn’t matter how bad things were at home, we would drive down to the coast in this old station wagon and listen to Like A Prayer on the radio. It was summer and everything was going to be okay and I was going to be something … I was going to be a star.

Have you finally found happiness? Yes completely. But I chose happiness before it found me. I woke up one day and said, ‘I am so tired of being a victim, I’ve got everything to live for so I’m going to be happy’. It’s cheesy but you’re reminded that every second counts, you have to embrace every moment because it could be your last. I spent all my life blaming my parents for everything that had happened to me and my partner Richard’s parents had died when he was in his early 20s. He didn’t have the luxury of blaming them for all his problems. Instantly, mine paled to insignificance and I thought ‘I need to start embracing life and choose happiness.’

What’s next for Darren Hayes? Head to Brisbane for the video shooting of Me Myself And I then an album launch in London playing a gig at The Astoria. Then I’m going into rehearsal for the tour which starts here in October.

This Delicate Thing We’ve Made is out through Darren’s own label Powdered Sugar.

Creator of Pen To Paper, Lara Antonelli with the remarkably talented and downright amazing, Darren Hayes back in 2007.
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4 thoughts on “DARREN HAYES – Interview with the acclaimed singer + songwriter

  1. Yes, thank you. It was the perfect venue, with a superb backdrop of my town Melbourne. 🙂
    I hope to visit again soon, and add more about the sensational Langham Hotel to this Blog.

  2. Amazing interview Even though it’s already an oldie, i just stumbled upon this, and you really got some amazing quotes about attitudes after crisis, dealing with your own vulnerability and the symbolism of his record from him! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your interview!

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