Air Supply performs at Harrah’s Southern California Resort
In the mid-1970s, an aspiring British songwriter and musician, in search of a new start for himself and his young family, traveled the country to pursue his dream of someday recording the one of his original works. Needing to pay the bills and feed his children, he auditioned for the production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Sydney; quickly scoring a role in the popular new musical. On a rehearsal day, the songwriter is surprised by a modest little performer from Melbourne who, despite being chosen for a minor, non-musical role, has been invited to sing in front of the group. As fate would have it, he had a voice as big as his curly brown afro (it was the ’70s, after all) and our hero songwriter knew he had found the perfect singer to bring his song to life. music.
This is not the plot of an opening film at Sundance; it is the moment of the creation of one of the most emblematic groups of the 1980s; a duo whose music would help define the romantic struggles of an entire generation. This is when Air Supply was born.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with this songwriter, Graham Russell, about how he maintains a forty-year friendship with singer, Russell Hitchcock; a relationship that would anchor a life of music.
“Our [friendship] is the only thing we’ve really known, ”said Russell. “We are not in competition with each other, so there is no ego involved. He doesn’t write songs and I don’t want to be the singing guy up front, so it always worked. “
Appearing on stage at Harrah’s Southern California Resort on February 16, Air Supply members can boast of seventeen studio albums, which spawned dozens of Billboard hits like “Lost in Love,” “Here I Am ( The One That You Love) “and” Making love out of nothing at all. ” Their cohesive touring schedule has drawn legions of fans from all over the world and in 2013 they were even inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. Each of these accomplishments is all the more impressive if you know their humble beginnings.
“We did it against all odds. Russel [Hitchcock] and I both come from very modest working class backgrounds and we are both very proud of where we’ve come from and our success, ”said Russell. “When we first came to the US we were this really funny talking Australian group and we assumed we wouldn’t be staying there very long. But we’ve proven them wrong and we’re sitting here now looking back and saying we did it by writing, playing, and recording great songs. This is what we do and this is how we got to where we are.
And who they are is a band whose music is now a staple of contemporary adult radio, where it would be nearly impossible for anyone to listen to the genre on Pandora for an hour and not hear at least one song. of Air Supply.
But there was a time when Air Supply was a pair of unknown musicians from across the globe, struggling to make their debut. Fast forward to 1980 and it was (I imagine) somewhere between Studio City and Sherman Oaks where they realized their lives had changed forever.
“Russell and I were being driven on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles and we were very new to the States and everything was so different and so great,” Russell said. “We were those two innocent young guys – one from Australia and one from England – with our eyes and jaws wide open. We knew that a radio station had agreed to play ‘Lost in Love’ but we didn’t know when or how much so we waited. And as soon as I heard it, it sounded so good and it was so different and so fresh that we knew then it was going to burst, as they say. Everyone adopted it and I knew it was going to happen for us.
But how have things changed in the four decades since their first serenade in the San Fernando Valley?
“We’ve had ups and downs all the time, but now we’ve gotten to a point where everyone knows who we are and we don’t have to prove ourselves anymore,” said Russell. “We’re just doing our thing and while we know some people don’t care and that’s okay, we still sell all the shows. People come to an Air Supply show because they want to hear our music. We are no longer an unknown entity.
Continuing to write every day, be it song, poem, or other prose, Russell is inspired by the simple act of waking up each morning and enjoying the blessings in his life. As he spoke about the fact that he would never stop writing new songs, I asked him what it was like to know that Air Supply’s musical legacy will live on long after the lethal version is downsized. to silence.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about this issue and I think the 40th anniversary has made me particularly reflect,” he said. “We’ve been here for so long in an industry known to devour people and make them disappear into oblivion. My advice to anyone who is just starting out is that you have to have good songs and a great singer and in my opinion we had both so we had a lot of ammo on our side.
While there is always more music to be made and countless new, younger bands trying to find their way into the business, it is the enduring friendship of Russell and Hitchcock that has always been the bonding element in the fabric of Air Supply’s musical longevity. Their mutual appreciation for the talent of the other half allows them to share the fruits of this partnership with the past, the present as well as the inevitable future fan, always waiting to discover their timelessness.
“We would love to have another number one record, or five more # 1 records and I don’t know if those things are going to happen, but we’re very happy with where we are in our career right now,” said Russell said. . “We love our job very much and the fact that we can go all over the world and bring a lot of joy to people after all these years, I think that is the biggest reward.”
* A version of this story was originally posted on June 18, 2015.