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Darren Hayes took America by storm with hits like “Truly, Madly, Deeply” and “I Knew I Loved You,” in the late '90s as one-half of the duo Savage Garden. In the new millennium, Hayes has seen a successful solo career that will bring him back into the realm of pop next year. We caught up with the soft-spoken Brit and 2006 Out 100 honoree to chat about the development of his sound, his coming out, and the cause he’s most passionate about right now.

Out: Tell us about your new record.
Darren Hayes: Well, first of all, it’s way too early to even talk about it [laughs]. But it’s finished. It’s coming out next year. So I’ve spent three years working on the album. I haven’t released any of the details in terms of the title or any of that stuff. But I have a YouTube video of the making of it.

How is it going to be different from what we’ve heard from you in the past?
Well, it’s interesting. I can only tell you what other people have said about it. It’s a pop record, and I don’t know that I’ve ever made a pop record really since my first solo album, Spin. I’ve had two really wonderful experimentations, I would call them. My last two records were two of the favorite things I’ve ever done in my life. But they were absolute deviations from the path. The first was a record called The Tension and the Spark. It was pretty dark, to say the least. Critically praised, but commercially perhaps a little confusing [laughs]. Then the last record that I did was the first time I ever did a record independently. I think I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, in a good way. I had just come out publicly and I had just gotten married to my partner, so I felt like I was in a very celebratory phase, where I just didn’t want to take no for an answer. I broke all the commercial rules. I made a double album when no one was even selling records. I went on tour with a stage production that was probably too extravagant and too expensive for the amount of records I was selling. It was a really fun period for me. But I wasn’t really thinking about that being played on the radio or any of that stuff. It’s taken me three years to make this record, and this record is me kind of rolling up my sleeves as a songwriter and really saying "I’ve been associated with some really successful pop music in the past, and maybe I’ve been a little hard on myself." This record is just me being comfortable in my own skin.



Do you wish people would forget about Savage Garden?
No. It’s so funny -- I totally understand you asking that question, because I’m so comfortable with it and so grateful for Savage Garden. I’m very honest that I wouldn’t be speaking to you if it wasn’t for the success I had as Savage Garden. It was only two albums. I literally just had dinner with Daniel Jones, the other part, when I was in L.A. earlier this year. We still look at that period and feel so lucky and can’t believe it. We really went out on the top of our game. Both records I think sold about 11 million copies each. Both had a number one [single] in the U.S. They changed our lives completely. I’ve never stopped performing the songs in my set. My reaction to the past is that I’m a huge fan of artists like Prince, U2, Madonna who have had very long careers -- who, I’m sure, want to be acknowledged for the music that they’re making today -- and they always play the hits live. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because that’s what brings people together and that’s what makes people connect. I’m very grateful for it.

So you still perform songs like “Truly, Madly, Deeply”?
Yeah, I do. I think there’s only one tour where I didn’t sing [it]. We laughed about this. It was my last show, and I didn’t sing “Truly, Madly, Deeply” for the first time ever. But in general, I do. I change them up a little bit. I always find a way to mash the songs up into a different arrangement. But I’m always very aware of the fact that I’m a fan first. I grew up as a fan of musical artists, and when I went to see their show, I wanted to hear the songs that had brought me to them. I think there’s a certain musical snobbery when an artist decides that an audience has finished with a song. I sort of feel like I don’t own those songs, they belong to the general public. I was in a taxi last week, and the song “I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You” was on the radio, and the taxi driver was singing the song, and he didn’t realize who I was. I look completely different, and I’ve never looked like that airbrushed, dark-haired version of myself on those albums since that period. I had just had a really great meeting about my new album, so I was kind of excited.

Why the three year break since your last record?
Oh gosh. To find something to say, really. I’ve never worked on a timeline, and I think most of my favorite artists have a similar approach to work as me. Every time I finish a record, I’m not sure there will be another after it. It’s like a pregnancy. You write the songs, and then the record is released into the world, and you have no idea how it will perform commercially. That really should never be an indicator of what you should do. You hope it will sell, but ultimately you hope it was worthwhile. And then there’s a period of years of promoting and touring. The truth is, I kind of get burned out. I think I definitely hit a crossroads in my life around 2007 where I didn’t like the state of the music industry, and I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in as an artist at that point. I didn’t want to become a parody of myself. I didn’t want to just put music out for the sake of it to just keep up with the game. Or the worst thing, I didn’t want to just make a desperately trendy record. I’ll be 39 when this album comes out, and I’m not trying to be Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake -- artists that I love, but, you know, they’re a decade younger than me or more, and what they’re doing is the sound of youth today. I’m about to be a 40-year-old man, so I had to really absorb that and work out who I was as a person and how I could find something to say that was worthwhile and worth your attention really. It took a long time to find my groove again.

You kept your private life private for quite awhile, but you eventually came out. Do you think since then, the rules of celebrities coming out has changed?
I do. I mean, I was never actively in the closet. But I actually never spoke about my sexuality, the truth is, mostly because I was suffering from all kinds of depression. I really struggled in coming to terms with who I was, and I’m lucky that the media gave me a bit of a wide berth in that regard. Because until I met Richard, I was failing miserably in my romantic life. I was in bad relationships and I was getting hurt. In a lot of ways, I was like a babe in the woods. I’d grown up in the kind of town that would be reminiscent of say, the Midwest and American conservative views, and I didn’t have a gay role model. It took me a long time to even realize that I was gay. I thought that I had attractions to men, but I found a way to justify that and explain it away. The truth of it is, I’m a monogamous person, I’m a romantic person, I’m a traditionalist. I wanted to have kids, I wanted to get married, I wanted to have that happily ever after that you see in Hollywood films, which of course isn’t real even for straight people. But it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my path was a different path, and that I was actually trying to be somebody that I wasn’t. When I met Richard, I fell in love. It was my first really true adult relationship -- I knew I was going to marry him. He became such a huge part of my life, I wanted the people who bought my records to know. So my coming out was a breeze. I wrote a blog when we had our civil partnership. I said, “I married my boyfriend,” and the reaction was incredible. I think it’s very different -- I think when you’re outed that’s a whole other area. It’s a very strange period that we exist in.

What made you decide to make a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign?
Perez Hilton asked me -- he tweeted to me. I’ve never met Perez, and I’m not someone who is really immersed in tabloid pop culture, but he tweeted me, and I looked at the link and I just couldn’t say no. I saw one or two videos and it really affected me. I’ve always been very honest with my fan base. I’m very confessional on stage or in interviews or my blog. I’ve been very honest about my upbringing. I came from a very alcoholic family -- I had a very violent father. I suffered from depression, and I’ve always spoken about these things and how it relates to self-esteem. It was a no-brainer to make the video. I had to tape it three or four times because I kept crying at the end of it. Because when I got to the part where I was saying “If there’s anyone out there who is struggling…” it brought back all those memories. I realized that a huge part of why I became an entertainer was because I believed so badly that I needed to create a persona. The persona was this indestructible superhero called a pop star. I had a survival mechanism that kicked in. I wasn’t a wallflower. The thing about me that made me stand out -- I managed to turn that into my strength, but, one can say, with a lot of scars. I managed to have an entire career and be a famous person and be on the radio as a protective mechanism for being picked on. But at the same time, it took me years to even forgive myself for being gay. The whole project really hit home and it made realize that I didn’t have any point of reference growing up -- not one. There were two gay people I knew: There was Boy George and Rock Hudson, who was dying from AIDS. So the message that I got from the media was that gay people don’t exist, on that they’re comic characters, or they are dying. It was horrible, so for me it was a no-brainer to get involved.

In the media we don’t see many successful, long-term gay couples. Do you feel like that puts any pressure on your relationship?
No. Oh God, I don’t take that into account at all. To be honest, I don’t think of that stuff because I don’t think of myself as a celebrity. I adore Richard. I have an amazing marriage. I’m not perfect. But I’m with somebody who is my equal. I’m with somebody who I’m glad I waited for. When I met Richard, I felt almost this duty to tell any of my jaded friends that there is your equal opposite out there somewhere. Just wait for them. I didn’t think I’d meet him, and when I found him, it felt like I’d come home. And it feels like that every day. I’m happy to be an example of a happily ever after.

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