Music Talk Stuff

Music Thursdays: Air Supply Interview

Post by Kelsey Butler from Calhoun County Insight

The iconic sounds of Air Supply are coming to town. The legendary soft rock group will take the stage at Oxford Performing Arts Center on January 18. Tickets are available now for the 7:30 show. Ticket prices range from $45 to $65.

Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell of Air Supply met in 1975 on the first day of rehearsals for “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Sydney, Australia, and they’ve been performing together ever since.

Russell’s talent for songwriting and Hitchcock’s trademark tenor sound was the perfect combination for producing some of the greatest love songs of their time. Their hits include “Lost In Love”, “Sweet Dreams”, “Love And Other Bruises”, and many others.

Hitchcock says he and Russell are looking forward to the show at OPAC as the band begins it’s 2019 tour. “It’s the beginning of a new year, so we’ll probably have a couple of surprises, but we just want to get back and play again.”

In a phone interview with Hitchcock, we talked about his career and a new album in which Air Supply teamed up with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Did you or Graham dream you would have so much success together when you started out?

No. I don’t think anyone could possibly envision that. We thought we would probably be good for three or four years in Australia and that would be the end of it. But as fate would have it we got one of our songs released worldwide in 1980, Lost in Love, and the rest of it was ‘off to the races’ after that, as they say.

Tell me about your relationship with Graham Russell.

You know he’s my best friend and neither of us has brothers so kinda figure that we were you know the brothers in arms. He writes the songs; I can’t write songs. And he doesn’t want to be the lead singer so there’s no conflict there, and really we don’t see much of each other when we’re not on the road or in the studio. He lives in Utah and I’m in Georgia so when you get back to see each other to play or perform in the studio it’s always a cool thing because you never get sick of each other. We have a great relationship, very close. We’ve been through probably four or five careers over the years ups and downs, as you say. But he’s been the one – there’s been a few occasions where I’ve been, in the early days when things weren’t going very well, I said ‘You know I don’t know if we can keep doing this’ and he was always the one to say ‘No no no we have the talent, we have the songs we’ve just go to stick with it.’ And so now I don’t second guess anything he thinks is the right thing to do because he’s been right every time. And we’ve just enjoyed this career tremendously. You know, we’re still the best of friends. We still have a great time on stage and we look forward to making it 50 years. If we can that would be great.

What is life on the road like for Air Supply?

Well the performing parts always fantastic even if we do multiple dates at one place from time to time. And it’s always different because the audience is different from each night. That part of the thing I love to death, but as you well know traveling now is just a giant pain. It’s necessary, but to have to go through security everywhere and there’s always delays always cancellations always going on to affect your travel. I actually like staying in hotels, if they’re nice. So I like somebody to make my bed every day and bring me food if I need it, and so I enjoy it. I really couldn’t do it if I didn’t want to be out there. We’ve had days, especially overseas sometimes, we’ve played in Latin American countries and the show is advertised to be on at 9:00 pm and typically it will go on at 10 or 10:30. And then the next place you play the only way to get there is a flight at 6:00 am in the morning so you get back to the hotel at 2:00 you know grab a couple of hours and then it’s up and running again. So those things are very hard, but I enjoy it a lot, and I’ve been doing it so long now you know I’ve been on the road for more than half my lifetime. So I’m pretty much used to everything and I’ve seen it all and done most of it.

Air Supply has performed more than 5,000 live shows. That is quite the accomplishment.

It’s amazing and I think as we get older – and no matter what life you’re living in fact my daughter when she was 14 or 15 she said I can’t wait to get out of school till school is over and finished and i said to her just wait until you get into the real world it’s going to go by quicker than you can imagine – and it does I can’t believe it’s already nearly 2019 and we have another year of shows under our belts. It just flies by at this point. At this point now in my career I couldn’t be happier. I’m happily married and have a beautiful wife and a gorgeous dog. Life is great.

How do you keep things fresh and exciting after so many live performances?

We love to play the songs that we play, first of all. And the fact that you can go anywhere in the world and play them and get the response that we do, you know “Lost In Love” and “Here I Am” and “Sweet Dreams” and etcetera, that’s really exciting because sometimes now in the audience there are fourth generation fans. You know people are bringing their young children to the shows to expose them to the music. We also play with great musicians. The current lineup of the band is from 7 years to about a year the latest guy has been with us. So every time somebody new comes in they bring in their – obviously their talents – but their perspective and their view on the songs. Graham is always fine-tuning everything, and we play, basically when we start a show for the year it’s basically the same one, but I don’t know how many times we’ll go into sound check – which we do before every concert – and he’ll say ‘I want to take a look at this part of the song’ or ‘I want to take a look at that’. And other guys in the band will say ‘I thought about doing this in this particular song’ So it never remains stagnant. It’s always changing just a little bit, not to the point where you can’t recognize the song. I’ve seen a lot of famous acts that I was two thirds into the song I was trying to think ‘What song is this?’ ‘I don’t know this song.’ Because they change it so much to their own benefit that nobody can recognize it, and I just think that people that come and see you, they want to hear songs the way they remember them as much as you can do that for them. You know we change things up and around, but I would hate to go to a band or an artist that I really love and be disappointed trying to figure out what they’re playing.

You’ve got a new album coming out. What can you tell me about it?

It’s in the process of being completed now. We’re doing the artwork for it and Brian flew to Prague and recorded with the Prague Symphony, and basically it’s a live show with string arrangements. Big ones. So it sounds spectacular I mean the songs in there “Lost In Love”, “Here I Am”, and “Sweet dreams” – songs I mentioned before – set to an orchestral background. First of all, the songs lend themselves to that kind of arrangements, and the early recordings that we made in Australia were all very lush string sounds, string oriented. So I think it’s going to be a very pleasant surprise to people. The ones who have heard us before in the past obviously will be thrilled with it I think, and I hope that the new record excites people because it will be something they’ve never heard before.

People all over the world have connected with your music. What’s it like to give your fans that opportunity to experience your music in a live setting?

It’s very gratifying. And even more deeply we get a lot of fan mail, and some of the mail has been very touching. We get the obvious ones like “We fell in love to your song.” “We got married to this song.” “During my breakup I played this song over and over.” We’ve had people written us saying they were contemplating ending their lives and our music was on in the background somehow. We had a lady that – we did a video of a concert in Hawaii in the 80s – and when she was giving birth to her first child she wanted the video played in the delivery room because she wanted her child to be exposed to our music when he came into the world. So those kind of things are really super touching.
We know that our songs are simple. We know that the melodies are memorable. We know that the lyrics are very heart felt. So the fact that they do touch so many people in every country in the world that we’ve played is quite amazing. We’ve had people in some Asian countries that they learned some basic English from listening to our music. So there’s so many great things that have happened because of the music that we’ve produced and continue to do so. I love it.

With full calendar of touring what do you do to relax?

We don’t have time on the road. I’m lazy and I watch a lot of television. And when the football season is on, if I’m home on a Sunday, I try to watch every game I can.

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