Darren Hayes enjoyed an outstanding run as one half of the enormously commercially successful pop group, Savage Garden. Hits like “Truly Madly Deeply,” “I Knew I Loved You,” and “The Animal Song” burned up the charts for countless months at a time. The duo, made up of Darren and keyboardist Daniel Jones, was a virtual hit making machine. Australian bred Hayes embarked on a solo career after the group went their separate ways, selling out arenas and albums in Asia, Europe, and Australia. Darren Hayes’ latest solo effort, This Delicate Thing We’ve Made, is full of pop/electronic sounds that teeter in between fast paced and ballad style with unique story lines and cutting edge production. Hayes takes a maverick approach to writing, producing and distributing his music, bucking the major record label system as of late, and launching his own independent label, Powdered Sugar Records.
PR.com: How did you get started with Savage Garden?
Darren Hayes: It was a really quick trajectory. Essentially, I answered an ad in a paper for a band that needed a singer. That’s how I met the other member of Savage Garden, Daniel Jones. He and I met and we were only a band together for about a year. We sent out demo tapes and got a record deal. It was sort of unheard of, and ten years later I look back and think, “God that was really easy!” But at the time it just seemed like a natural progression. Our first record had a Billboard #1 on it. It was just very fortunate timing.
PR.com: I never knew that Savage Garden was just two guys. I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought it was a group.
Darren Hayes: Bad marketing (laughs). To me it was honestly like a nineties version of The Eurythmics or Hall & Oates. It was definitely an equal songwriting partnership, but just one person who sang, which was me. So it was the singer and the guy on the keyboards, which is quite an eighties thing to do.
PR.com: You guys had a lot of really big hits. Why did you split up when you were having so much success?
Darren Hayes: We had two albums and sold twenty million of them. At the inception of the second record, Daniel sort of had a change of heart in his life and decided he didn’t want to be a public person. At the time it seemed like a crazy decision, but I kind of knew, so when we were at the peak of our success we knew the band was ending. It’s not like the band faded out or became a contestant on The Surreal Life or something (laughs). We just made two very big records and he went off to become a studio owner, and I continued on making records.
PR.com: Do you mind the constant travel from city to city and country to country and the packed schedules?
Darren Hayes: I don’t think there is any other job in the entertainment industry that is as physically demanding as music. Actors, they’re in one place; they’re on location or they’re in the studio. Whether its two years or two days making a film, they’re always going to the same place. Whereas with musicians, you physically have to take yourself to every city that you want people to listen to you in. And physically it is tough. I’m kind of lucky now. I married my boyfriend last year in England and I have a wonderful stable home life, so it’s kind of nice to be away and miss each other a bit and know that someone’s there. Before I had a great relationship it was hard.
PR.com: Is yours the second same sex marriage in The UK, or the second same sex celebrity marriage in The UK?
Darren Hayes: (Laughs) Well, certainly not the former. It may be the latter. I’m friends with Elton John and I know Elton was the first person in the country to be granted civil partnership. To be honest I have no idea. I know that I proposed to Richard and we had a private ceremony a year before the law passed. Then it was June 19th of last year that we officially had our marriage recognized.
PR.com: Are you married in the same way that every other couple in The UK is married, with all of the same rights?
Darren Hayes: Yes, it’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s an incredible civil right. It’s called a Civil Partnership Agreement. Not just gay people, but any two people, if they enter into this union they have exactly the same civil liberties as a heterosexual couple who are married. So I can apply for British citizenship, I can get a pension, and I could get shared medical benefits. If he was ill I would be his next of kin… all of those things. It was a social pressure that just became an eventuality that British citizens who were gay want to be recognized. It’s something I feel very passionately about. I lived in America for seven years and I adore America, but having said that, I absolutely believe that you guys have got a long way to go.
PR.com: I’m sure you can see that our current government [in the United States] does not speak for all of the people. They don’t speak for me.
Darren Hayes: And I adore America! The reason I became a performer is because of America. I was a little kid who looked to distant shores and I idolized my American superstars. I still believe in that dream and I think it’s a shame because I think that George Bush has tarnished the view of America internationally. I think Americans are quite aware of just how bad a PR job he’s done on this wonderful country. Some of my best friends are American and it gave me my career. At the same time, it’s true what you said. [George Bush] isn’t the America I fell in love with.
PR.com: What’s the current British consensus regarding The United States?
Darren Hayes: When people have a criticism of foreign policy, it’s not of America. People separate America from George Bush. I think the perception internationally is that he’s a mad man, and that he is running a boy’s club, like a team of bullies. I think the world has wised up to that, but his term is about to come up, so the damage has been done. But people will always love America and I think it’s a testament to the people and the culture.
PR.com: And is it true that The Queen sanctioned your marriage?
Darren Hayes: No! This is hilarious. A journalist said to me the other day, “You’re the second person to be married by The Queen.” It’s not true (laughs). I think the confusion lies because England is a monarchy, so the royal family is involved in parliament. So all laws ultimately have to get passed by or have the agreeance of the monarchy. So maybe that’s where it came from. But no, The Queen wasn’t at my wedding and she didn’t bestow gayhood upon me.
PR.com (Laughs) Ok. What is her role in this whole thing? Did she agree to the legalizing of gay marriage?
Darren Hayes: I have no idea. I know that Tony Blair really pushed it through.
PR.com: When did you put out your first solo album after Savage Garden?
Darren Hayes: Let me just say that I forgive most Americans for thinking that I just disappeared, (laughs) because my first song kind of made a ripple, but it didn’t set the charts on fire here (in the United States). Columbia Records, at the time, kind of very politely stepped away and that was in 2002. And I’ve just concentrated on The UK, Australia, Asia and Europe.
PR.com: So you parted ways with Columbia Records and instead of shopping around to another major, you started your own label?
Darren Hayes: Yeah, the idea was that I would shop it around, and I started to. I had some meetings in England with a major record company who were great, and I kind of panicked. For me, I had ten years of being in the major label system and I’ve had experiences where if someone doesn’t like your record, and it could just be one guy in the mailroom, but it becomes this cancer and it grows. And if one radio station doesn’t play the song then word gets out that this record is “difficult” and it just sits on a shelf. I think for me the idea of that happening to this album was unthinkable. Some of my idols like Peter Gabriel and even Paul McCartney have made a standard, and they’re actually putting records out independently. Every day I read the trades and there’s another label that’s merging with someone else, and there’s another artist that’s been dropped and you think, “My God, there’s not a lot of loyalty anymore.” Record companies are terrified of the fact that they can’t control how people buy music, whereas I’ve embraced that. I haven’t played here (in the United States) for years. It’s been six or seven years since I’ve played in the U.S. and the first couple shows I put on sale, I was quite emotional actually, when they sold out so quickly. I just presumed people would have completely forgotten about me.
PR.com: With your indie record label, Powdered Sugar… what are the advantages and disadvantages of an indie label? How do you get your distribution, especially in the United States?
Darren Hayes: My distribution network is not unlike any other major artist in that, I own the music, I pay for the recording of it, I pay for all of the materials, the music videos, the photography, the artwork…
PR.com: Out of your own pocket?
Darren Hayes: Yeah, I do. And then I do a distribution deal, just like someone who makes handbags or whatever. I’ve gone around the world and done these small distribution deals where basically I go into a business agreement with someone who will then put my records in stores, put them online and they take a percentage for their trouble. But the amount that I can possibly make is six or seven times more then I ever would have been paid at a record label! I’m someone who sold 25 million records. I could probably afford to make videos, take photographs and take promotional tours because the chances are, fingers crossed, I’ll at least re-coup the money that I’m spending. I think for a young artist it’s difficult because you need that money up front to spend on the very basic tools. That’s why I’m not anti-labels. I think that Interscope’s amazing. I think Universal is amazing. I think that EMI Records is stunning. There are some amazing record labels that really do support bands and break bands.
PR.com: Do people in the United States know that you were one half of Savage Garden?
Darren Hayes: If you hum [Savage Garden] songs to people, the songs are instantly recognizable. But I think it was partly a marketing misstep that we never really paid attention to marketing the name Darren Hayes, because I never really thought the band would end. And then the other part of that is that I’m really not a celebrity. I’m not somebody who has celebrity friends. I don’t hang out at celebrity parties. I find that whole scene kind of vile. I’m a singer, I’m an artist, and I’m a performer in a fame inhibiting way in some ways, because I’m just not desperate for that kind of attention.
PR.com: I listened to your latest CD and there’s one song that I love! I listen to it over and over again. It’s called “Who Would Have Thought.”
Darren Hayes: Yeah, I adore that song.
PR.com: It sounds half pop, half techno…
Darren Hayes: It’s definitely electronic. It would be from the same school as people like producer, William Orbit, who did Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” I guess you’d call it Electonica because its adult oriented, it’s serious. I think it’s sort of sophisticated in the arrangement. I’m not saying I’m sophisticated (laughs)… and yet it has elements of dance music.
PR.com: Had Savage Garden stayed together, do you think that’s where the music would have evolved to?
Darren Hayes: I think it’s where I was always going. If you listen to the album tracks of Savage Garden, it was very electronic and very pop. It’s just that the two biggest hits we had were A/C ballads. I grew up a massive fan of Prince, New Order, Madonna. I’m a Madonna slut! I absolutely love a good electronic pop song.
PR.com: Did you write all of the music on this latest album, This Delicate Thing We’ve Made?
Darren Hayes: Wrote or co-wrote, yeah. I’ve never done a cover unless it was for charity, but I’m a very bad piano player, so usually I work with another musician and they’ll come up with a chord structure or a pallet of music and then I will write melodies on top of that.
PR.com: And what about the lyrical content?
Darren Hayes: Oh that’s always me, but that’s always the last thing I do. It’s usually a melody first. There’s got to be a melodic structure, and then it becomes a story, and the story tells me what the song is about. It’s almost like a dream. You throw ideas out and drum beats and chords and melodies and then it sounds like something. I just see a picture or I feel an emotion and then I know what the song is about.
“This Delicate Thing We’ve Made,” a Double CD, is available now through Powdered Sugar Records and at www.darrenhayes.com and www.myspace.com/darrenhayes.