Don't Call It Soft Rock
Australian Hit-Machine Air Supply is a Rock and Roll Band
At this point in their history, Air
Supply has nothing to prove. Since forming in Australia in May of 1975, singer Russell Hitchcock and singer-songwriter-guitarist Graham Russell have sold millions of records, including eight top ten singles in the United States.
In the '80s, they were an inescapable presence on radio and television and their concert tours continue to draw fans of all ages. The duo's songs (including "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All," "All Out Of Love," and "Here I Am") continue to be included in tv and film, including a clever placement in the recent Deadpool 2. Their latest album, The Lost In Love Experience, is an orchestral treatment of their greatest hits.
Calling from his home in Cobb County, Hitchcock spoke with INsite about his four-plus decades of harmonious success, while basking in the afterglow of Air Supply's surprise cameo on the season finale of The Bachelor.
Your home in Georgia is a long way from Melbourne, but I know you've had several stops along the way.
Yeah when I first got to the United States, the obvious place to go was Los Angeles. I was there for thirty years. Then I lived in Arizona for six and then I came here.
What brought you here?
My wife is from here. Six or seven years ago, she said, 'Why don't you come here and see if you like it.' I love it. If you need to travel anywhere, this is one of the best places you can be. We've got a close circle of friends and it's most delightful for me, I gotta tell you.
Congratulations on The Bachelor appearance.
Yeah, we filmed it last Tuesday. We were asked to do it, probably about three or four months ago. But we couldn't tell anybody and we were so excited about it. It went over well for us and the day after, we were actually number 83 on iTunes, which was quite amazing to us.
When I saw Air Supply trending on Twitter I thought, 'Oh no, what happened?'
(Laughs) Right! Like, did somebody die or something? But we're all in good health. My father, who was never in show business, when I'd read bad reviews he'd say, 'As long as they're talkin' about you, it doesn't matter what they say.' I don't agree with that, incidentally. But it was a great boost for us and a thrill to be on the show. At the hotel we were staying in, my wife and I went down to the bar after the shoot to have a snack. We stayed later than we should've. Then all of a sudden, some of the girls from the show came along as well as some of the ex-bachelors and they hung out with us for a couple of hours. The whole thing was just a great experience.
On the heels of that appearance, The Lost In Love Experience is poised for release. Is that an orchestral¬†compilation?
It is. A while back we had a CD called The Singer and The Song which was an acoustic version of a bunch of our songs, just with Graham and myself and one guitar. When you pair it down to just that, you can really tell how good the songs are. But we've recorded a few live performances, two or three with symphonies, so we just had a bug to do it this way. It's a two-disc set. One was recorded with the Prague Symphony and that's the disc with all the songs and the band and the symphony. The other cd is the same arrangements but with guest instrumentalists and it sounds amazing to me. I was blown out of the water by it when I heard the mixes. I think if you're an Air Supply fan you'll love it and if you're not a fan, you should buy it and give yourself a treat.
Do you still have your own label?
No, there's just no point. Radio won't play us anymore. They haven't done so in probably 30 years now. They'll play the hits - which we're grateful for - but we cater to our fans now via social media and internet outlets.
After being a huge major-label act, it must be artistically freeing to be completely independent.
It is. We had a great relationship with Arista and of course Clive Davis, who I have the utmost respect for. I think he's still the most influential guy in recorded music in my lifetime. But in the end, we weren't kids and we didn't like being told what to do and how to do it. Now it's great to know that when you go into a studio to do a project, it's all yours. If it's a success you can take all the credit, and if it's not, you can just move on to the next one.
Is there new music on the horizon? A new full-length or some singles?
We're not sure. We actually discussed this a couple of weeks ago, Graham and I. With the climate being what it is, especially for us, we're more inclined to do something smaller. We're working on a few songs for a limited EP or something, but I don't think there'll be a new full-length recording. Certainly not this year, that's for sure.
With your back catalog, you have the luxury to do one new song every decade at this point if you want.
I think at this point, we have nothing to prove. We've sold probably 40 or 50 million recordings and we've toured successfully for 44 years plus. We were inducted into the Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I think we've kind of done what we originally set out to do. The only thing that's missing from our resume is the fact that Graham Russell's never been nominated or won a Grammy for his songwriting. I think that's a great travesty because he's a brilliant songwriter. He writes every day. A lot of people don't know that we've released, I think, 25 albums of original material. That goes by-the-by for exposure except the hits. I don't use the word genius too many times, but as far as pop music is concerned, I don't think there's too many people better than him at what he does.
He certainly has a knack for incredible pop melodies.
He's just great. To give you an example of how good he is, years ago we were recording and the actress Cheryl Ladd came to the studio to say hello and have a listen. She was doing a movie called Now and Forever. She said to Graham, 'How would you feel about writing a song for the movie?' He said, 'Well, we're doing this project right now, but I'll certainly think about it.' The next day, he got to the studio before me. He was at the piano and I said, 'What's that?' He said, 'I wrote a song called Now and Forever last night. Do you think it's any good?' Since I can't write songs, I wanted to slap him!
It's surprising that you say you've never really had an argument with him.
It's the truth. We came into the music world and we weren't kids. We've never wanted to step on each other's toes. I can't write songs and he doesn't want to be the lead singer. He's tall and blond and I'm 5 foot seven and not! I've said from day one that Air Supply was his band and I'm the singer. I don't think anybody else could do it, don't get me wrong. But as far as the musical vision, he's the guy who writes 'em, so I have no problem with going along with that. I don't do it blindly, but life's too short. You're on the road so much together, you'd better get along or you won't last.
It definitely shows onstage.
We have a lot of fun and we have a great band. Every day, every guy comes to work with a solid, positive attitude. We do joke around a lot with each other and nobody gets offended. But playing in front of audiences who enjoy to the music to the extent they do is a definite plus for us. So why not accept that energy and use it?
The show is a rock and roll performance of so-called Adult Contemporary hits, but there's nothing 'soft rock' about it.
No! We're playing great songs and the band is on fire. It's just a rock and roll show that people should come see. It's not a string quartet. It's loud, it's aggressive and it's definitely an experience for us as well as the audience. People are bringing their children and grandchildren to the shows now and we love it.
Air Supply will perform on Saturday, April 13 at Federick Brown, Jr. Amphitheater. For more information, please visit amphitheater.org.