Now, Hayes delivered an effervescent synth-driven single – “Let’s Try Being in Love” – which heralds a new dawn for the former Savage Garden singer, who quit music in 2013.
“I didn’t have plans to make music, it just kind of happened in a really wonderful, organic way,” Hayes said. “This whole period of being away from the public eye, taking time out was a choice.”
His return was – in part, at least – sparked by the success of 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name”.
“I look at this world we live in now where someone like Lil Nas X can push forward his true self, full of pride and self-love and have the chance to be loved for who he truly is,” Hayes said.
“I was realising with great sadness that I didn’t get that experience. A lot of the time I was my most famous, I was deeply sad.”
That fame was driven by the success of Savage Garden, whose self-titled debut album was released 25 years ago.
That album went 12x Platinum in Australia, 7x Platinum in the US and started a career trajectory that led to Hayes receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to music as a songwriter and performer in 2019.
Hayes, who married husband Richard Cullen 17 years ago, said he’s in a “really comfortable place” in life now: “But at the same time at mid-life I’m grieving the fact I never got to celebrate who I really was at the period of my life where I was most famous.”
Hayes wrote and art directed the video for “Let’s Try Being in Love”, in which he stars alongside Madeleine Coghlan and Scott Evans (brother of Captain America star Chris Evans).
“In the music video I’m looking back on that first period of my life where I’m married to a woman,” Hayes explained. “I’m realising that in order to be free I have to destroy something beautiful and innocent. Scott’s character represents the freight train of my future sexuality and that’s gonna emerge no matter what.”
Hayes said he wanted to express his love for his feminine side; “be proud of the gay me”.
“There’s a dance scene [in the music video] that is so passionate, everything’s alive and thriving and blooming,” he said. “That’s how I feel in general about music. And that’s a hugely sharp contrast to how I felt 10 years ago.”
Along with new music, Hayes announced his return to the stage – and Australia – to headline the 2022 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on March 5th.
“Last year, I was in awe, along with the rest of the world, as Australians united and came together safely to celebrate our vibrant and resilient community,” he said. “I decided in that moment, if this could happen again in 2022, I was going to do everything within my power to come home and celebrate with you.”
Hayes has performed at the event once before, in 2005 – before he was open about his sexuality.
“You can imagine how thrilled I am, truly, to have been chosen to close what I know will be an unforgettable and necessary night of pride and joy,” he said. “I’m so looking forward to spending time together after so much time apart.”