The Aussie Pop Star Came Out On His Own Terms, Letting Fans Know He'd Married His Boyfriend In London This Summer.
“Do you know this is the only interview I have done since I released the news about getting married?” Darren Hayes tells me over the phone from London. “I had more press requests that week than I’ve had in my entire career. Had I wanted to be a media whore, I could have been, but releasing that info was a really personal thing that I’d wanted to do without the fanfare.”
Darren has just arrived home late from the studio to his husband, Richard, and their English cocker spaniel. It’s a seemingly normal life but for the hitch of him being a newly openly-gay recording star. Now a solo artist whose work includes last year’s #1 Billboard Dance hit “Pop!ular,” Hayes was formerly the leading half of Savage Garden. The band released only two albums but sold more than 25 million copies on the strength of hits like “I Want You,” “Truly Madly Deeply,” “I Knew I Loved You” and “Crash And Burn.”
Darren tied the knot this past June in London, where the government recognizes same-sex civil unions. He says he’s “proud of who I am and very proud to live in this era and in a country where having your relationship validated is a possibility. That’s a pretty amazing thing.”
Though public speculation on his sexuality has been present throughout his career, the singer is famous for keeping his personal life private. “Sometimes the media would portray that they knew something about me that no one else did,” he says, “and it was like, of course I’m gay! Have you been to my shows? Have you followed my hairstyles for the last 10 years?”
Usually, it seems pop stars are forced to come out, as was the case with George Michael after his infamous arrest. More recently, Lance Bass said he was outed by a gossip column. Until this year, Hayes neither confi rmed nor denied the question of his sexuality. “The one thing I was always proud of was that I never lied about who I was,” he says. “I always tried to have some dignity about it. For one, it took me years to work out who I was. I’m the kid from Brisbane, Australia. It’s such a hardworking, blue-collar, hetero town. I didn’t know I was gay. The only gay person I saw as a kid was the evil home-wrecker character from Dynasty. It wasn't an option for me."
Hayes was still married to his wife, a childhood sweetheart, when Savage Garden skyrocketed to fame around the globe in the late ’90s. Much of the lyrics for the band’s second album, Affirmation, dealt with his divorce. But while those wounds were healing, more were about to be inflicted.
Just weeks before the album’s highly anticipated release, his bandmate, Daniel Jones, wanted out of the spotlight and out of Savage Garden. Darren enjoyed recording Affirmation in San Francisco, and eventually he bought a house there and settled in. He tried to find himself, both as a single person and a solo artist.
“Moving to San Francisco was amazing for me,” he says, “because there were all different types who just happened to be something other than heterosexual: indie, rockers, trannies, bisexuals. I thought, Okay, I can live in this skin.”
Article continues below...
Hayes came out to those in his circle, including the head of his label, Sony. He also began to deal with the many stages one goes through while coming out. “I talk to my friends about this a lot,” he says. “When do you stop coming out? Like, when you go buy flowers and the person says, ‘Oh, is this for your girlfriend?’ do you say, ‘No, actually, I’m gay’?”
But while he wanted to share this with his fans, he also wanted to wait until he’d finished growing. He explains, “Because you’re a celebrity, you’re expected to suddenly hold a press conference and tell the world who you sleep with. I think that’s really unfortunate, selling off this intimate part of your life for fame.” As he settled into married life with Richard, Hayes shared the news of the wedding on his website this past July, writing, “I can honestly say it was the happiest day of my life.”
Hayes’ solo work, especially the 2004 album The Tension And The Spark, received the best reviews of his career but sold far less than the phenomenally successful Savage Garden records. “I had a couple of years where I was a little confused as to where I fit into the music scene,” he readily admits. “I’m not cynical or bitter about where I am commercially, but I’m sometimes puzzled. I definitely feel like I’ve had a pretty amazing run up front, and you can work your whole career and never achieve those things. Getting older, I’m excited because I’ve realized there is a whole part two to all of this.”
Part two includes working on a new double album, which he envisions as his Sign O' The Times. “I spent the morning shopping for fairy lights and disco balls to decorate the recording studio so that it would have the right vibe,” he says. “I was with my assistant and said, ‘This is a pretty great job!’”
He’s also planning to play more live dates, like the one he did to great reviews at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival and the recent mini-tour he played through Asia and Europe. The latter included a headlining gig at Sweden’s Gay Pride. “I was a bit nervous, because it was the first time I’d played as an openly gay man, but it was wonderful. I think I was probably less gay than I’ve ever been [onstage]! I obviously felt really comfortable.”
As someone who has commanded audiences around the world, the concept of what a leading man is causes Hayes some consternation. “It has so many connotations, doesn’t it?” he asks. “I think of Clive Owen. He’s obviously very handsome, but before he was successful he wouldn’t have gotten as much attention. I went to a premiere of one of his films, and at the after-party all of the women were looking at him like, 'I want you!' He could have had sex with anybody in that room that night, and he went home with his wife, and I thought, That is power.”
Of course, speaking about power gets us talking, naturally, about The Devil Wears Prada. “Meryl Streep never raises her voice, yet she’s terrifying,” Darren laughs. “She deserves an Oscar for this one!”