Crowded House‘s new single, the perky “Oh Hi,” is an ode to the possibility in children, the band’s co-founder and leader, Neil Finn, tells Billboard’s Behind the Setlist podcast

Finn’s lyrics — they begin with “Every child is a mystic, having visions of a new dawn” — were inspired by his experience with the nonprofit organization So They Can, which provides education for thousands of children in East Africa. “It’s sort of about the joy of observing children, being part of their story, creating a good environment for them, then actually getting a lot back [in return] from that,” he says.

The band released an official charity video for “Oh Hi” that features children from one of those schools, Aberdare Ranges School, dancing and singing along to the song. It’s one of 51 schools supported by So They Can in Kenya and Tanzania. The organization aims to support 500 schools and 400,000 students, the video’s YouTube page explains, and hopes to get 1 million people to donate $1 per month.

“Oh Hi” also has a traditional, official video that’s quirky and equally joyous as the charity video. The video captures an anonymous child — with Finn’s singing head attached to his body — strutting and dancing around a New York City neighborhood. Finn got the idea watching his grandson’s “uncoordinated” dancing style. “It occurred to me that no adult would dance like that,” he says. “So there would be some good humor…to pop my head on [him].” 

Because Crowded House members reside across the globe, “Oh Hi” and the rest of Gravity Stairs (out May 31 through BMG) was recorded over the last few years during sessions fit into the band’s touring schedule. Bass player Nick Seymour lives on the west coast of Ireland. Finn’s son Elroy, the band’s drummer, lives in London. Guitarist and other son Liam Finn and keyboardist Mitchell Froom live in Los Angeles. Finn himself resides in his home country of New Zealand. “We’re testing the theory of how far apart you can be in a band and still be really united,” he says. 

In February, “Oh Hi” was transformed for a live performance, backed by an orchestra and background singers, on BBC 2’s Piano Room show. Rather than perform as a full band, only Finn and Seymour performed — with Finn on piano — to better complement the orchestra and the arrangement prepared by friend Victoria Kelly.

“It’s live and we only got to run through the thing with two rehearsals,” he says of the BBC 2 taping. “So you’re on the edge of your seat. But there was something really beautiful about it and I think it turned out well. Any song should be able to be redefined. That song is destined to be redefined quite a few times because I’m sure when we get on stage it’s going to be another transition.” 

Listen to the entire interview with Neil in the embedded player below or listen at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart or Amazon Music

Glenn Peoples
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