Darren Hayes Popular

After achieving his musical ambitions, Darren Hayes will return home to be a dad, writes Rodney Chester

FOR a man who has ridden the wave of pop stardom to international fame, former Savage Garden performer Darren Hayes's dreams are remarkably ordinary. ``My dream is I want to be a father,'' he says, speaking to The Courier-Mail from a hotel room in London to promote his new upcoming album The Tension and The Spark. ``I want to have kids and I would raise them in Australia.''

``I think I'm ready for a change now. I got myself out of my country at the peak of my celebrity, and I hate using that word, and I did that to keep my feet on the ground. ``I didn't really know how to cope with it. I'd spent all my life in Brisbane and suddenly I couldn't go to the mall without feeling like I was under a spotlight.

``The truth is I'm actually quite a shy person. I'm a performer, and when you put me on stage I'm someone else, I become the complete cliche of what you think an entertainer should be. I'm an egomaniac, I'm big and bright and bold and I want your attention. But that compensates for the other person. ``I get home to Australia more than you would know, but I just do it quietly. His long-term ambition sounds simple enough, but there is something he has to do before he leaves San Francisco, which has been his base for the past five years, and heads home to Queensland. ``That is ultimately where I want to be, I just think at the moment I can't even dream about that part of my life because I'm so married and committed to at least this record and really making a mark for myself in this part of my life.'' It is only 8am in London, but already Hayes is into his fifth hour of press interviews promoting his album and the single Popular, having only arrived in the city from Oslo just the day before. ``I don't think I've worked this hard since my first ever promo trip with Savage Garden,'' he admits. ``It's just been a blur.''

So, why do it, when the royalties from the songs he wrote with his Savage Garden partner Daniel Jones still ensure that he can lead a lifestyle that ``comfortable'' probably doesn't come close to describing? ``It's beyond money. I've made enough money,'' Hayes says. ``I'm proud of this and I'm proud of where I'm going and what I have to say. ``Without dissing my own past, my last album (Spin ) wasn't the high point in my life. I was so exhausted, I had come off the back of Savage Garden and literally ran straight into a studio. ``I was out promoting that record and I really wasn't that happy. I knew that I had an album like the one I've just made in me, and I knew that it was a much more personal record and a much more sincere album.

``This record is painfully autobiographical, and in terms of musically how much I've changed and evolved on this record, I'm proud of it. I would have no sleep tonight if it meant I could sit down and talk to people about it because I feel like I'm 18 again. ``And that feeling is like I have to fight for the music and fight for what I believe in.'' THE music he is fighting for is, in parts, pretty grim or at least gritty. One track, Unlovable, which details his response to the break-up of a relationship says ``you make me feel like my father never loved me, you make me feel like my mother abandoned me''. ``Popular is definitely the lightest track on the record, at first glance, because the rest of the album is quite moody and emotional,'' he says. ``It spans my life as a child all the way to relationships today, and it's not always in a happy light. I'm admitting that I've been sad before, I'm admitting that I have definitely had demons that I've dealt with in my life. ``But Popular was my way of saying `how do you get the most personal record of your life on the radio'. Look at the state of fame, the state of media, the state of our obsession with pop culture and how far we're willing to go as a culture to be famous. ``It's almost like killing off the pop star in many ways and saying `I applied for the job of hero and I took it not realising it's designed to self-destruct'. ``When you fall from that pedestal it really hurts, but it's also amazing to be on this side of the experience, and I would never apply for the job of hero again.

``In general Popular is really about our society. I meet kids these days, 18-year-olds, who ask me how to be famous. We have TV shows where anyone can juggle a carrot and suddenly they're famous for 10 minutes. It's a vocation now, that people train for, just to be a celebrity, and I think that people don't realise it's designed to self-destruct.'' Hayes felt that destruction when his first solo album, Spin, sold two million records but achieved greater success out of Australia than in his home market. He was plagued by stories that were not so concerned about his music as they were his hair colour. ``The experience of that album almost broke me,'' Hayes says candidly. ``It was likely a trial through fire, and I'm so proud of the fact that I just kept walking, I kept my head up high. ``On that record, I underestimated the general public, I underestimated myself because I thought I could skate through that experience unscathed. I thought I could just go through the motions, I could hit all the right notes, write the pop songs, do everything to the best because I'm a perfectionist but I didn't really open up. ``I learnt a big lesson. First of all, any bit of arrogance I had about myself was just completely whipped out of me. That's what you've got to love about Australia and the Australian media, you just get slapped right down to size if you think you're going to be Mr Big Shoes.''

While Hayes is seeking to connect with his audience in a new way, he does not want to shun his past, describing his Savage Garden years as ``such a happy and beautiful experience of my life''. ``I was so proud last week,'' Hayes says. ``I got an e-mail from Daniel who said `congrats on making the album you've always wanted to make'. '' When Savage Garden came to an end, Hayes says he gave up trying to explain to people that the creative boys from Logan were still friends. ``It's difficult when you leave a known entity. It's like a public divorce really, and the kids never want to see the parents apart,'' he says. ``But throughout it all, we have the utmost respect for each other. His opinion is still the one that makes my knees shake. If I don't know what Daniel thinks of my record, I don't know if it's good. ``He's just like my big brother in some ways.'' And there are some things that he can still learn from ``big brother'' Jones, who lives in Brisbane with his fiancee, Hi-5 star Kathleen de Leon, a performer who Hayes says is a far bigger celebrity than either Savage Garden member to many young Australians. ``I don't always want to be this busy. I think Daniel has the right idea,'' Hayes says. ``And when I'm ready to do that, I would want to come home.''