Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes reveals secret battle with depression at the peak of his fame: “The music industry was extremely homophobic”

Savage Garden/ Darren Hayes Image: Redferns via Getty Images

Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes has opened up about his secret battle with depression.


The Savage Garden singer, 50, shared his experience in a piece for Huff Post, where he detailed how he was ‘masking rapidly increasing depression’ at the height of his fame.


Savage Garden produced several global hits, throwbacks like ‘To the Moon and Back’ and ‘Truly Madly Deeply’, but Hayes reveals there was a lot happening for him with regard his mental health behind the scenes.

‘I was beginning to experience the full force of a mental illness that had seeded itself when I was a child…¬†Nobody could have known any of this as they watched me,’ he wrote.

¬†‘Savage Garden was on the precipice of global fame and would go on to sell 26 million albums, have two Billboard No. 1 singles and tour the world, yet no one knew I was deeply unhappy, barely containing secrets that would soon devastate me emotionally and send me to the brink of suicide at the height of my fame.’

Hayes, in a separate interview this year, revealed his American record company once told him he ‘looked gay’ in one of his music videos. Speaking to the¬†Herald Sun he said his U.S. label dropped all support for his debut solo album, Spin, after they saw the video for its first single, Insatiable.

‘It came from the top in New York and the message was, ‘He looks gay when he moves, so we have to reshoot that video, and don’t let him dance… we don’t know what to do with this’,’ Hayes said.¬†


Spin was eventually released in 2002 and sold two million copies worldwide.


Darren and Richard in 2007 ( Image: Pacific Coast News)

Hayes started coming out as gay to friends and the head of his label, Sony, in the early 2000s. He entered into a private marriage ceremony with his boyfriend of two years, Richard Cullen, on 23 July 2005 in London. On 19 June 2006, also in London, they entered into a formal civil partnership.


In his piece for Huff Post, Hayes touched on the impact his sexuality and the ‘secrecy’ of being in the closet had on his mental health:

“I remember the first person to ever call me a fa*got was my father”, he said. “Then it was other school children. I was called ‚Äúgay‚ÄĚ before I knew what the word meant.”

Rampant Homophobia surrounding the AIDS crisis during the 80s (Image: Gale Report)

“The ‚Äô80s were a horrible time to be a queer kid. We were inundated with warnings about a so-called ‚Äúgay plague,‚ÄĚ and popular culture was littered with negative stereotypes of what a gay person was.”

“I had no public role models I identified with. I saw nothing but death on the news, and although I‚Äôd never even told a soul about my crushes on boys, I had convinced myself that by sheer thought alone, I had contracted AIDS.”


Darren recalled attending a Michael Jackson concert in 1987, during his teen,s and how the existence of a “perfectly androgynous pop star” briefly gave him happiness, explaining “for the first time, looked how I felt.”

“Even though I was mocked for screaming his name ‚Äē even kicked and called gay slurs during the concert ‚Äē it was in that exact moment in time that I decided the way out of my own personal hell was to become a star, too.”

Discussing representation in media around the time he was to embark on a solo career, Hayes noted it was an era with far less representation than LGBTs in the industry now enjoy:

“This was pre-‚ÄúRuPaul‚Äôs Drag Race‚ÄĚ and before Ellen DeGeneres had her hugely popular talk show. The music industry was extremely homophobic then (and in many ways, remains so), and the idea that I would have to continue as a solo artist competing with the likes of teen idols like Justin Timberlake felt near impossible.”


Savage Garden’s two studio albums, Savage Garden¬†and¬†Affirmation, reached No.¬†1 in Australia and peaked in the top ten in both the United Kingdom and United States.


Combined, the albums sold 23 million copies worldwide and the group won numerous awards for their debut album and its related singles, before disbanding at the end of 2001, with Hayes continuing as a solo artist.


Following a decade-long hiatus, Hayes returned with new music in 2022 and headlined the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade as well as announcing an Australian and UK tour for 2023.

Read the full piece for HuffPost here.