While The Sun Shines

15 May 2013 | 5:45 am | Sam Fell

“I didn’t purposefully do it, but it’s always good to do something a little bit different to the last album.”

The first thing Claude Hay says when we settle in for a chat, is that things have been, “quite casual in the past couple of weeks.” Not particularly a groundbreaking statement, unless you know of Hay's touring ethic, the ground he's covered over the past few years, his want to get out and just play his music. Claude Hay taking it easy? What's the world coming to?

It's a well earned rest however, make no mistake. Since the release of his second solo record, Deep Fried Satisfied, in 2010, Hay probably hasn't had much time off at all. It was that record which got the ball rolling, both here in Australia, as well as overseas, particularly in Europe. Last year, Hay followed it up with I Love Hate You, and the roll continued. This is a man who's just leapt at every opportunity, hit it hard, and really cemented his name into the minds of roots music fans everywhere.

Despite the fact he's keeping things casual now though, it's a precursor to yet another tour, promoting the release of latest single from I Love Hate You, Good Times, an apt song title if you've ever been privy to one of Hay's shows. And it's a track off the record, released in September last year, which really highlights the direction change Hay has made with I Love Hate You.

Still based in the blues (all stemming from Hay's one-man-band set-up, incorporating his homemade guitars amongst many other bits and bobs), the record, and new single, see Hay looking back to his harder roots, and incorporating a lot more of a rock edge into this project. “It is a lot rockier than the last one, and I like getting out another side to what I do,” Hay smiles. “I didn't purposefully do it, but it's always good to do something a little bit different to the last album.”

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It's a harder album than Deep Fried Satisfied, and it's dirtier too, something audiences have been taking to with a fervor over the past six months. “Yeah, it's funny, even in some places where I didn't think [it'd work], like at festivals that are a bit more chilled festivals, it's still worked. It seems to be going all right, better than I expected actually.”

'Going all right' is somewhat of an understatement – earlier this year, Hay took out his third Chain Award (the awards, named after the legendary Australian blues/rock band, which are awarded as part of the Australian Blues Festival in Goulburn every year), and also had another song from I Love Hate You (Stone Face) reach the semi-finals of the International Songwriting Competition, a contest judged by the likes of Tom Waits, Derek Trucks and Bruce Iglauer (head of Alligator Records, the biggest blues label in the world). You'd be pretty stoked to have had Tom Waits listen to your tunes.

“Yeah, right, I didn't know Tom Waits [was a judge],” he laughs. “But that's really cool.” Cool indeed – and the fact Hay doesn't really know what's going on with such competitions, highlights his focus on his music and the playing of. As he's said to me in interviews past, he doesn't have any specific ambitions with his music, he just wants to keep playing, which is still the case today. “Well yeah, I just want to see as many places as possible,” he laughs.

And so to the future. First of all, a run of East Coast shows, followed by yet another sojourn overseas. “That's right, we're going back through Europe again, doing Belgium, Holland, Poland and Germany, that's coming up straight after this Australian tour,” he confirms.

The sky is the limit for Claude Hay, and to be honest, he seems as surprised as anyone. This is a man who just wants to play, whether Tom Waits is listening or not.