Chances are good you’ve heard the voice of Darren Hayes, even if you don’t immediately recognize his name. Best known as the singing half of the popular Australian boy band Savage Garden, which scored a string of radio hits around the globe in the late 1990’s, Hayes has sold over 25 million records worldwide in the course of his decade-long career. In addition to Savage Garden’s eponymous 1997 debut and the duo’s second and final offering, Affirmation (1999), he has released three critically acclaimed solo albums: the retro-pop confection Spin (2002), a moodier techno-based outing titled The Tension and the Spark (2004), and a sweepingly ambitious new project, This Delicate Thing We’ve Made (2007).
This latest release is a powerful double CD in which Hayes plumbs the depths of his own history and hardscrabble youth through 25 eclectic, intricate songs. Hayes produced the album independently after amicably parting ways with Sony/Columbia Records, which had released his records up to that point. As he wryly sings in “On the Verge of Something Wonderful,” the album’s euphoric first single, “There’s a decent living to be made / in selling out of our deals.”
Born in a working-class suburb of Brisbane in 1972, Hayes faced an upbringing with few creative outlets (a subject that he rarely addresses in his music), though 80’s pop had saved him in many ways. While he was married to a woman when Savage Garden first achieved international stardom, he publicly came out as gay in 2006 when he married graphic designer Richard Cullen. He and his husband stood at the front of the line to be legally partnered in the United Kingdom, second in fame only to Elton John and David Furnish. Hayes’ new album explores this period of transition in his life: “My heart was in the attic/ like the picture of Dorian Gray,/ I was rescued by the enemy/ that dared not speak its name.” With references to everything from Oscar Wilde to quantum physics, This Delicate Thing We’ve Made finds him poised to follow in the footsteps of gay pop icons like George Michael.
I spoke by phone with Darren Hayes, who was at his home in the Notting Hill district of London just prior to leaving for his 2007 “Time Machine” concert tour.