In 2003, Colin Hay began touring with Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. The beginning of a life-long friendship, Hay, at one point became part of the band and even wrote the title track to Starr’s 20th album What’s My Name in 2019. Coming full circle, when Hay began working on his 15th album, Now and The Evermore (Lazy Eye/Compass Records), he began tapping back into his love of The Beatles’ music, and then Starr returned some musical favors by playing drums on the title track.
Now and The Evermorea follow up to the 2017 release Fierce Mercy and I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself In 2021, is a culmination of Hay’s own notions of mortality coupled with the observations of grief and loss during the pandemic and the lifelong interconnectedness of love and the hereafter.
Fitting around the bittersweet end, Now and The Evermore opens with the Starr-fused title track and “Love Is Everywhere,” another track featuring Starr, both adding some levity to the darker rings around death and the evermore.
“’Now And The Evermore’ is a reminder to myself, to make the most of what time I have left walking around on the top of the planet,” says Hay of the track. “When I listen to it, it transports me back to when I thought I had all the time in the world. It is a song that is unashamedly inspired by the majesty of The Beatles, and the gift they gave us all. Having Ringo Starr play on the track is more than icing on the cake. Ring playing drums just added a real beautiful symmetry for me.”
Co-written with Hay’s longtime collaborator Michael George Alice, who lives up the road from him in Los Angeles, Now and The Evermore is Hay’s missive on life and love and the ultimate end with levity and weight of “A Man Without A Name” and “All I See Is You” and questioning the future and if we are past the tipping point on a more gentle testament to troubled times on “When Does the End Begin?”
The more somber Americana twang of “Into the Bright Lights” explores the end and finding paradise in Hay’s refraining from verse My shadow is cast on the ground/ But I’m flying too fast to look down / At the rooftops and trees / And my family waving at me.
“I’m deeply grateful for the life I have, and I think my natural tendency has always been towards optimism and humor,” adds Hay. “Lately, though, I’ve had to be more intentional about it. I’ve had to actively seek out the positive, to let new rays of hope shine on some seemingly dark situations.”
Ruminating on what is happening externally and in his own life, Now and The Evermore also mirrors Hay’s own frustrations with the present state of the world and the inevitability of missing the most important moments, and people. “We’re not young anymore, so there’s always a sense of sense of frustration and not helplessness in a way,” says Hay. “There is such idiocy at a high level, and malevolence, as can be seen now with what’s happening. I feel like nothing really, in my life or in the world is really clear. Everything is in a constant state of unclarity, but the one thing that keeps on coming back to me is as you get older, you start thinking about mortality, and start thinking ‘can visualize the next 20 years?’ The last 10 years went by really quickly.”
He adds, “I want to get a certain amount of time walking around, and what do I want to do with that time, so it becomes a little more precious. You tend to polish it a little more and try and do more with it.”
Death has always been a subject floating around Hay’s mind. Growing up in what he calls a very rarefied upbringing before the Hay family relocated to Melbourne, Australia when he was 14, the west coast of Scotland in Saltcoats, is where Hay connected with music, and the reality of the “evermore.” Hay’s parents James and Isabella owned a little music shop, which left him constantly surrounded by music. “It was quite a glorious way to grow up,” he says. Admittedly obsessed with the past, Hay remembers when he first became aware of the fact that people die when he was younger and would opt for the shortcut home from school by walking through a graveyard.
“I would walk through the graves and think ‘oh, that’s what happens when you die, and it was quite terrifying,’ says Hay, who would pick up his pace at first with the imaginings of witches and ghosts chasing him. Eventually, Hay looked at the names on the gravestones and found a certain peace and acceptance at the end. “In this life, I am constantly reminded to endeavor to fill it with compassion and kindness, right now,” Hay says in his descriptor of the song, “for tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
Everything began coming into more focus for Now and The Evermore during the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Reflecting on the fear of the virus before vaccines were available, Hay came up with the title Now and The Evermore, Capturing the sense of loss and loving people in one’s life, because everything could be gone tomorrow. “Every day you seem to be dealing with death and mayhem, so it gave everything an immediacy,” says Hay. “The idea of Lady [La] Catrina from Day of the Dead… Mexicans had this great idea of dancing and singing and celebrating in the face of death as a way of dealing with it. It’s almost a way to yourself distract from the fact that you’re not gonna be around anymore.”
There’s an immediacy to Now and The Evermore, an album Hay says may just be his last. As much as Now and The Evermore explored death, and the hereafter, there are uplifting glimpses of hope, regardless of the external noise on uptempo “The Sea of Always”—No one will come and save the day / You are your own forgiver / There’s really nothing in my way / Why do I shake and shiver? / And the planes they keep flying / The politicians they’re still lying / And I can hear that baby crying.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with human beings on the planet,” says Hay. “The planet will probably be okay for as long as the sun is shining, and there’s photosynthesis and plants growing and so forth—we’ll be a part of it.
The universe as it stands is unknowable in a way,” says Hay. “There’s the wonder of that and the fear of death, which no one talks about too much, but it’s one of the things that we all share. It’s just finding the joy or being curious, being inquisitive.”
Hay adds, “I don’t know about you, but I’m still amazed that we’re on this loop saying this idling around the sun, flying off the surface of the earth. I’m still amazed that I’m able to write songs, record them, and put them out there.”
For Hay, 68, Now and The Evermore is a pinnacle point in his career. Hay relocated from his native Scotland to Australia in his teens and found fame in the 1980s with Men At Work and iconic hits “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?” before the band parted ways, marking the beginning of his solo career—working through music and comedy, including a regular gig at the Largo Club in Los Angeles, and starring in a number of US and Australia films from 1985, as well as his own documentary Waiting For My Real Life in 2015.
whether Now and The Evermore is Hay’s final musical opus is unknown. He’s still trying to figure it all out.
“I really liked this one,” says Hay of the album. “If this was the last one, I’d be quite happy with that.” He laughs, “You always want to make them as if it’s gonna be the last.”
Photo: Paul Mobley Studio