Air Supply lyricist-guitarist talks about his hit songs and 40th anniversary tour

GREENSBURG – Air supply? Do you mean this band singing about love that affirms life and breaks hearts?

With so many richly orchestrated and emotional songs passionate about the heartstrings, should we still describe Air Supply’s music as “soft rock?”

“This soft-rock idiom is a real abuse of language,” said Air Supply guitarist and lyricist Graham Russell. “If you’ve seen us live, you know we’re serious, loud and rock and roll.

“The songs are very powerful and epic and have strings and all of that is going on. When you hear one of our songs, turn it up and it’s pretty powerful,” Russell said. “If someone thinks we’re soft rock, they have to come to one of our shows. If they want us to be soft, they’ll be disappointed.”

You can accept this challenge, assuming you get a ticket in time for Air Supply’s 2021 tour which includes a date of August 7 at the Palace Theater in Greensburg. Tickets are $ 49.75 to $ 79.75 atthepalaceheatre.org/

Sidelined last year, like the rest of the concert industry, by coronavirus shutdowns, Air Supply will belatedly celebrate 40 years of success, including “Lost In Love”, “All Out of” radio staples. Love “,” The One That You Love “and” All the Women in the World “.

With the exception of “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” written by Jim Steinman, Air Supply’s hits were written by Graham Russell. Fellow Aussie Russell Hitchcock sings the songs in his imposing tenor voice.

(Yes, the first name of one of the co-founders is Russell; the last name of the other is Russell.)

Together as a duo since the late 1970s, Russell and Hitchcock say they have never quarreled.

Not even a fight over something as mundane as where they should be having lunch.

“I know it’s weird,” Russell said. I think it’s because we’re two different types of people. I am a songwriter who plays guitar and sings. Russell is not a songwriter. He just wants to sing, and he is. of the greatest of our generation to do so. So we are the perfect marriage of two people in a group. And we don’t live next to each other. Russell lives in California, I live in Utah. We don’t see each other other than when it’s time to go on tour and we’re all motivated to go back, especially after COVID. There is therefore no competition between us and the egos do not bother us. “

Russell lived in the mountains of Utah for many years, married to American actress Jodi Varble, who was his principal wife in the video for “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”. They appreciate the natural serenity there.

“The mountains of Utah are intoxicating. It’s a lovely place. I miss those mountains when I’m on the road, the height and the grandeur.

“But I’m very excited to be back on tour. It looks like things are getting back to normal.”

Air Supply won’t slowly come out of the door, “but we have to get our mojo back. We’ve been in rehearsals,” Russell said last week in a phone interview.

Tour dates will find Russell and Hitchcock supported by a four-piece group.

“They’re permanent members. Some have been with us for many, many years. It’s a great band. We can’t wait to see everyone singing, laughing, crying.

“People always ask, ‘Are you tired of playing these same songs for so many years? We really are not. Because the audience loves these songs as much as we do. These are such classic songs and it’s a privilege to sing them, and see the faces of the audience light up, which is kind of weird because these songs are up to 40 years old, but it still looks fresh, ”said Russell.“ Plus, we continue to have new fans. Some bring their grandchildren and they’ve become big fans. There is a big reaction every night. “

At each stop of the tour. Air Supply organizes one or sometimes two meetings with the fans.

(The VIP Lost in Love experience at the Palace show for $ 159 includes a reserved seat in the first 12 rows, an invitation to the soundcheck with meet & greet, and photoshoots to follow.)

At these backstage gatherings, fans often share how a particular Air Supply song helped them reconcile or break up with a romantic partner.

“It inspires us to keep writing songs,” Russell said.

One fan insisted that an Air Supply video be shown in her delivery room as she gave birth to her baby, “which was really cool and reflects what these songs mean to everyone,” Russell said.

In January 2020, The Herald Sun in Sydney, Australia named Air Supply in the Top 5 Greatest Australian Groups of All Time, behind AC / DC, the Bee Gees, INXS and the Seekers.

Air Supply performs at the Palace Theater in Greensburg.

“The Top 5 is a great honor. There are a lot of bands from Australia. We used to play in pubs and not in the top venues with three or four other bands including AC / DC and INXS when these groups have risen through the ranks, “said Russell.

You mean you could have walked into an Australian club one night and seen Air Supply with AC / DC and INXS on the bill?

“Many, many times in many places,” Russell said.

This posed significant challenges, especially with avid AC / DC fans in the house.

“They would see us singing our epic ballads and booing us off the stage – well, no, they actually threw beer bottles at us. But we persisted and became good friends with the other bands. And it’s like. That you learn your trade We collapsed and went into the trenches and learned to rock and roll.

“These first few years were tough,” said Russell. “We have shared rooms in horrible hotels. But we never gave up and our persistence paid off.”

Russell admits he’s a little surprised that Men at Work or Little River Band missed the top five.

“I’ll see Little River Band on Friday. We’re really good friends.”

Russell and Hitchcock were instant friends the day they met on May 12, 1975, the first day of rehearsals for “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Sydney. They instantly bonded with their love for the Beatles.

When the performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar” ended around 10:30 pm, they were scrambling to find pizzerias or nightclubs where they could perform with just one guitar and two voices.

Their soulful harmonies and Russell’s emotional originals generated a buzz, although many major labels rejected their demo tape, with the exception of CBS Records, which in 1976 recorded Air Supply’s first single, “Love and Other Bruises ”, which quickly reached the top of the Australian pop charts. .

Months later, Air Supply hit the road supporting Rod Stewart across Australia and all of North America, where they found new fans but didn’t rock the American singles charts.

Their second album featured “Lost in Love” which entered Australia’s Top 10 and found its way into New York-based music industry executive Clive Davis, who soon signed Air Supply to Arista Records. In 1980, “Lost in Love” became the world’s best-selling single, rising to number three on Billboard, soon followed by the duo “All Out of Love”, which remained at number two for four weeks (pushed back from # 1 first by “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, then “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. “)

Air Supply would perform to a bicentennial Australian crowd including Prince Charles and Princess Diana (both fans) and 175,000 spectators in Cuba.

The concert formula has remained the same: Hitchcock’s rising voice and Russell’s simple yet majestic songs.

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Russell doesn’t go out of his way to write intensely sentimental songs.

“Since I was 11, I’ve been writing songs and they’ve always been very emotional, and it’s the result of a very emotional upbringing,” said Russell, whose mother died as a child.

“I’ve honed this skill over the years and got pretty good. I spend several hours a day working on songs. It’s just a part of me. I’ve never lost that desire. Some people were born to be great mechanics or great lawyers or doctors.

Airheads celebrates his talents as a composer. This is the name of the group’s ardent fan club.

“This is our reason for being, to sing beautiful songs for beautiful people every night. It’s a celebration of love. What a way to make a living.”

With every show, Air Supply plays a brand new song – a long-standing wish from Graham Russell.

“We call it the G-spot, you don’t know. It’s my little place where I can try out a song. So it’s fun for me to experience a new work in progress.

“But even ‘All Out of Love’ is a big thrill for me,” he said. “This is one of the most successful songs I have written and I can sing it every night. This song has helped me afford the lifestyle that I love where I can meet so many. great people traveling the world, and living in the mountains and looking into the stars at night. “

There are no more bucket list goals for this group.

“Our goal is just to keep playing,” said Russell. “We love going on stage and seeing the audience. Performing makes us very happy.”

Scott Tady is the local entertainment reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He is easy to reach at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @scottady

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