Luxe Life Blog
Photo Gallery: Longtime friends Air Supply sign with new Las Vegas label
Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, who make up the hit-making duo Air Supply, are still going strong after 33 years of touring with their popular soft rock sounds. They’ve just completed touring Australia, Asia and Central America and arrived here yesterday for four nights of concerts at The Orleans.
Graham and Russell also have signed with the new record label Odds On headquartered here in Las Vegas, and their new single “Singer and the Song” will be released Sept. 15. Their debut Las Vegas single “Free Love” was released in July, and their 35th anniversary year album Mumbo Jumbo drops next month.
The tracks, including sessions with the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra, were recorded here at Odds On. It will be their first full commercial release in a decade. Air Supply has dominated the charts with such romantic winners as “All Out of Love” (Graham’s favorite) and “Lost in Love” (Russell’s favorite). Fans might disagree and pick “Every Woman in the World,” “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” “The One That You Love” or “Even the Nights Are Better.”
The statistics are staggering! They still perform 140 concerts each year and have released 32 albums since their 1976 debut after meeting a year earlier when they both performed in an Australian production of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Air Supply started out as a five-person group and opened for Rod Stewart’s Down Under tour, but by 1978, Graham and Russell struck out on their own, and the strategy worked -- and has continued working.
When I talked with Russell ahead of his flight here, I simply had to start our conversation with a brash question:
Robin Leach: Aren’t the two of you sick of each other after all these years?
Russell Hitchcock: That is funny. We just enjoy each other’s friendship. We have had a great career together. Obviously, we look forward to getting on the road and working with Graham in the studio.
RL: What is the secret of staying friends and business partners in the erratic showbiz world of music for close to four decades?
RH: We are both very lucky. We both have very distinctive roles in Air Supply: Graham writing the songs and the recordings, and I am lucky enough to get to sing them. There is a giant lack of ego between the both of us. We respect each other’s roles and opinions. When we got into the business, we weren’t kids. We were in our mid 20s. We have always thought we had a levelheaded approach. Bottom line is we have a great passion, and we have a lot of fun in what we do. We get to travel the world, and we are fortunate enough to have the catalog of successful songs that we have. Audiences from Beijing to New York respond to them. We connected on every level when we first met. He is English. We came from very similar backgrounds. We both worked in clubs as kids, neither of us has brothers, and we were both burdened with sisters. We have the same taste in music, we both like Indian food, had the same kind of English basic humor. A whole bunch of things just clicked, and we had never found any areas of disagreement. I have always given Graham the respect because Air Supply was his vision; he knows how he would like it to sound. I fit in that perfectly. I don’t think he would be happy with another singer, and I certainly don’t want to work with anybody else after all these years.
RL: So this is better than a marriage?
RH: Yes, it is, having done that myself four times, I can really say that!
RL: The other funny thing, with nearly 40 years under your belt, why do you keep going?
RH: I just can’t stay home. I love this. I have a 21-year-old daughter, Sydney Rose, and we had lunch last week. She said, “Where are you going?” and I told her the basic routine, and she said, “Do you realize that you have spent more time in a hotel room then you have been at home?” And I said, “You are probably right.”… I just enjoy being on the road. I don’t enjoy the physical travel because it has become a bit of a pain to get anywhere, but I enjoy seeing the United States and the world. We have been fortunate enough to play for the Sultan of Brunei, we met Princess Di and Prince Charles, the Australian bicentennial, and we had dinner with the Marcos family in the Philippines last year. We have been to Beirut, Dubai. It is a great life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am a high school dropout. I didn’t complete any type of education. I can’t do anything else.
RL: There are times when the two of you are not wedded at the hip?
RH: I think about our relationship, what makes it so successful is on the road you spend 24 hours together with people, including Graham, but when we are not working, we don’t see each other. I live in Orange County in California, and Graham lives in Utah. He is very outdoorsy, lives in the mountains and enjoys that environment. I like to be in a city that has some options. I do like to relax when I get home, but we are different in that regard. There is something cosmic and chemical that happens when we get in the studio together.
RL: You said that you started out as levelheaded people. Did you ever give into the temptations, as one would perceive with the life of a rock and roll troubadour touring the world?
RH: I don’t think we did. We have always managed to have a low profile. The most consistent comment is I didn’t know you guys sang that one and that one and that one … we weren’t involved in any scandals. We had our share of fun, and we have gone down the path of people that have tried different things. Way, way in the past. Plus, being English and Australian and having the families that we have, they don’t take any crap. … I respect people and what they have to say, and for the most part, I treat people the way that I would like to be treated. I think we have a great reputation in the business of being easy to work with, being very accommodating to press and fans, whatever we need to do, and I am very proud of that.
RL: The usual hijinx in the early days, but now you are two respectable people?
RH: Well, we always were. I think the biggest thing for me -- and I can only speak for myself -- but I always try to do things with discretion and not go over the top with anything. I never did that. I am very lucky to still be in the business and alive, I guess … still in good health and being able to do what we do. We have always thought of ourselves as a rock and roll band on the road, but on a much lighter scale than musicians that I really don’t want to name.
RL: If there was a secret not just for the longevity between the two of you, but a secret for the music that you haven’t changed ever on this ride, what would it be?
RH: It is because we do what we did. We have had very low periods because we didn’t change what we believed was right for us. Truthfully, we have had three careers where we’ve been at the top and then slipped away in popularity. But we always come back. Over the past three to four decades, we have ridden with the softer side of music when it was popular and actually stuck around when the kind of music being played on radio wasn’t what we played. We have an incredibly faithful number of fans that follow us and support us, which is why we still go out on the road to meet and play for them. Our perseverance is a great thing for anybody that wants to be in this business. You have got to stay out there.
RL: When you weren’t hot in those times, did you ever lose faith? Did you ever say we have to give up and get another job?
RH: Not at all. We did it very early in the piece. We toured with Rod Stewart in 1977. W thought that would be the beginning of a career for us worldwide. It didn’t happen. We went back to Australia and couldn’t get a gig. I remember having a conversation with Graham because I couldn’t work. We couldn’t even afford to be on the road because we were down to playing for $200 to $300 a night, and there were seven people in the band. I said, “I don’t think I can do this much longer.” He was the one that said, “You know what? It is going to happen, we just have to hang in there and stick to our guns. Something will happen for us, I feel it.” His words. I went from Melbourne to Adelaide in 1978, and he had written a bunch of songs, and some of the other guys in the band were there, and he played just one on acoustic guitar, and I said, “This is a hit, and this is going to put us in business worldwide.” And that is exactly what happened.
RL: So how many hits has it been over how many years?
RH: Well, out of the box, we had five songs in the Top Five or better. We had another two that were in the Top 10. We have sold in excess of 25 to 30 million recordings. It has just been great. We have been working on a CD that will be released in October, which when you tell people you have made that many recordings, they either think that we died in the ’80s, broke up or stopped recording, but we’ve continued to push forward with new projects. Graham is the poster boy for prolific songwriters. He writes something every day, whether it is a verse or a melody. We are very lucky to have that driving engine.
RL: This new album, is it the one that you recorded part of it at the Odds On studio here in Vegas?
RH: Correct. It is being mixed there right now as we speak. It’s called Mumbo Jumbo and will be released next month.
RL: You have a pretty extraordinary relationship with Vegas. You are always at The Orleans, and that is like a strong power base for you, but now with this recording in a Vegas studio, what’s your love of our city when neither of you live here?
RH: Actually, our drummer Mike Zerbe and our pianist Frankie Moreno and guitarist Russ Letizia all live in Vegas. Our bass player Johnny Ledfoot has been with us for about nine years, the drummer for seven. The pianist and the guitarist are just recent additions, about six months. They are great musicians. We have been playing Vegas since 1980, and we played all the big hotels and some are gone now. Vegas is just a great place for us to be.
RL: Is this Odds On studio a fairly new adventure for everybody?
RH: I am coming in the day before our concert run starts so we can do some last-minute vocals. I do know that technologically, the mixing board is one of only two in the world, so it is as good as you can get.
RL: So after 35 years together, what worlds are left to conquer? Where do you go from here? Do you just keep on doing this?
RH: Someone said, “Did you ever think you would have a career that would last this long?” We do have a beer or a glass of wine together and laugh because it kills us to think that a couple of sh*t kickers who got together for Jesus Christ Superstar wound up performing for so many years.
RL: How far are you booked out?
RH: We have dates through next August. Some stuff overseas, some things in America that we play regularly, but we are booked up through as long as I care to look at a schedule. So we’re together for a lot longer to come.
You can catch Air Supply in concert at The Orleans tonight through Sunday, and you might even catch me there humming and tapping along to “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” -- which is exactly what they’ve been doing so successfully for worldwide audiences for nearly four decades!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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