Fans of Colin Hay may just find themselves asking “who can THIS be now?” when they hear “I’m Walking Here,” a track from the Men At Work frontman’s upcoming solo album, Fierce Mercy.
The grooving, socially conscious song, debuting below, finds Hay delving into hip-hop, with rapped vocals by Joe Manuel “Deploi” Lopez, who co-wrote the song with Hay, his wife Cecilia Noel and partner Jonathan Eric “Swift” Piazza. “I don’t know anything about the hip-hop world,” Hay admits to Billboard. “I don’t know Snoop. I don’t know any of those guys. But my wife worked with Deploi & Swift on her record. So I had this idea on tour and got home and they were at the house hanging out, doing something with Cecilia. I said, ‘I’ve got this idea.’ They said, ‘Play it,’ so I played it for them and they came up with it straightaway and we just recorded it that afternoon.
“It was pretty cool, I thought. I wasn’t sure about whether to put it on a record of mine, but then I played it for people and it seemed to get quite a positive response, so I just kept it on there.”
While “I’m Walking Here” is lively, its inspiration comes from a dark event. “It was when Trayvon (Martin) got killed by that clown (George Zimmerman),” Hay says. “I kept on thinking about him when I was on tour, that whole idea of somebody walking home and having this maniac kind of follow you in a car and that moment of ‘Why can’t people just walk home,’ you know? That really stayed with me.”
Fierce Mercy, Hay’s 13th solo album, comes out March 3 and was written primarily by Hay and Michael Georgiades, who’s been a collaborator since 2009’s American Sunshine. The set was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville, the latter at the suggestion of Hay’s label chief, Garry West of Compass Records, who also played bass on a few tracks.
“When I ended up listening to the finished record it sounded like a really good mix of California and Nashville, a really good blend of environmental influences, if you like,” Hay says. “I always want to make the next record better than the one before — otherwise why would you bother making another record. Better may be the wrong word — you want to do something different, something that is in some way, shape or form different from what you’ve done before. You want to take some kind of leap from the last record that you made.”
The Fierce Mercy title, meanwhile, makes reference to climate change. “It always seems really obvious to me and obvious to a lot of people that we’re going to suffer enormously from climate change,” Hay explains. “We keep getting these signs from the environment and from climatic and weather conditions, but it’s still somewhat merciful. It’s saying, ‘Listen, you’ve got to take care of this. The storms are gonna be stronger. The fires are gonna be more intense, but you can still do something about it.’ But it’s getting pretty dire, you know?”
Hay is hoping the reception to Fierce Mercy will keep him on the road steadily. He’s currently out, with dates booked until April 10 in the U.K. “Hopefully the record creates demand. That’s what you want,” Hay says. “You want people to play the record and buy the record and then you go out and play the record as many places as you can. So it’s a little bit up in the air until it comes out. You plan for a record to be successful and you’re hoping it’s going to be. So I’m just looking forward with as much wonder and optimism as we can.”