Air Supply returns to Seneca Niagara Casino
The trademark sound of Air Supply, one of music’s most recognizable duos, will fill the Event Center at Seneca Niagara Casino on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Graham Russell, the duo’s songwriter, and Russell Hitchcock, who puts life to the songs with his unmistakable voice, have been together for more than 35 years, crisscrossing the globe and still performing 150 shows a year.
With songs such as “All Out of Love,” “Lost in Love” and “The One That You Love,” it is not hard to understand their continued popularity and huge fan base.
Adding to the list of more than 25 studio albums is “Mumbo Jumbo,” which was released last year and is garnering the duo new fans as well as great reviews.
Their impact on music history is astonishing, having received not one, but four BMI Million- Air certificates, which recognizes three million performances of one song.
I caught up with Graham recently and talked about the latest album—a new live DVD that is set to be released anytime now—and one of the duo’s most treasured moments in their career.
Being a longtime fan, I was thrilled when I got to tell the singer-songwriter of a recent experience I had that solidifies the impact Air Supply has had on people’s lives, when after a Daughtry concert this past summer at Seneca Niagara Casino, the music of choice as the audience was exiting the venue was none other than their song “Lost In Love,” to which everyone was singing out loud to together.
“You’re kidding,” chuckled Graham. “How cool is that?”
For ticket information, visit Seneca Niagara Casion.
A Conversation with Graham Russell of Air Supply by Melanie Hulick
HULICK: Your newest album, “Mumbo Jumbo,” which was released last year, is your first studio album in eight years and is also a story-telling album. Styx had done that with their album, “Kilroy Was Here.” Is it harder to write an album like this versus one where you have tracks that don’t develop into a story?
RUSSELL: For me it’s much easier to write around a concept. But I’m a storyteller. With “Mumbo Jumbo” we did it in such a way where we left it up to the people if they wanted to go deeper into the songs to get the story, allowing the songs to stand on their own as well.
HULICK: I read you just finished recording a live DVD in Israel.
RUSSELL: Yes, in Jerusalem. It is just beautiful there. We’ve been to Israel once before, but this time around we went to four different places, which was nice.
HULICK: You’ve been all over the world throughout your career and are still playing around the world today.
RUSSELL: Yes, we are a well traveled band. We’ve gone to the people instead of waiting for the people to come to us. In the 1980s, we even went to places that no other Western band had ever gone before. Places like China, Vietnam and Taiwan, which allowed us to have groundbreaking performances as well.
HULICK: You and Russell have been a music duo for more than 35 years. Is it tougher than marriage?
RUSSELL: (Laughs). Well Russell’s been married four times and he’s getting close to his fifth now (laughs). You know, we’ve never had an argument in our career.
HULICK: Any secrets you want to share?
RUSSELL: I think one of the reasons why it’s been very successful, and continues to be, is we’re not competing against each other. I write the songs and he’s the singer. I have encouraged him to write but he never has. So there’s no competition there. We do what both of us think is right as far as our part in the group, and it’s worked for almost 37 years. It’s quite amazing actually.
HULICK: In the music industry in some of the earlier decades, like the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, it seemed like you had to pay your dues to make it. Today it’s more geared toward being an overnight success. Do you think that hurts artists today?
RUSSELL: I really do, yes. I come from the old school where you’ve got to get in the trenches and you’ve got to learn your craft. You can’t learn a craft overnight. If you do that, it’s going to backfire in the end. You’ve got to have the knowledge, you’ve got to have the wisdom to know what to do and not just be told what to do. Just because you can dance a little bit doesn’t make you a successful artist. A successful artist, in my opinion, is one who lasts a long time. Someone like Rod Stewart or Pink Floyd, people like that.
HULICK: I think you need those “life lessons” that you have behind you.
RUSSELL: Oh, absolutely! I’m very proud of where I came from and what I had to do to succeed. Russell and I started out performing in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” for two years. Then we had success in Australia and then we opened for Rod Stewart for six months and we thought we’d made it. But we didn’t. We had to start from scratch again. We ended up broke. We had to dig a hole and get in it, then we clawed our way out and we came back. Then I wrote the songs “All Out of Love” and “Lost in Love,” and we were on our way. That’s what it takes for a real artist; you’ve got to dig in and know your stuff and know what to do, how to entertain an audience and how to create something out of nothing.
HULICK: Did Rod Stewart have any advice for you when you toured with him?
RUSSELL: Oh, yes! We learned our craft from him. We opened for him across the U.S. and Canada, playing the biggest venues in the world, and we were as green as grass (laughs). We watched him every night and took in how he worked the stage and interacted with the audience. And we spent a lot of time with him. We’d sit and have tea; you know, Rod always loves a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat candy bar about four in the afternoon we discovered (laughs). He would tell us stories. He was incredible, and I can’t speak highly enough about him. He’s a great artist.
HULICK: You’ve had some amazing experiences in your lives because of music, including one in particular that I read about that was a highlight of your career, which was playing for Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
RUSSELL: Yes, that was 1988 for Australia’s bicentennial celebration. I actually got to have lunch with them the next day. There were about six other people there as well.
HULICK: Was she as captivating as she seemed to be?
RUSSELL: Even more. She was so gentle. Some people have this aura around them when you meet them, and it almost knocks you over, and she was one of those people. Although when you sit down with them all the la-de-da stuff goes away and they become regular people.
HULICK: You have quite a variety of fans, from Ozzy Osbourne, Al Pacino and even members of the Hells Angels.
RUSSELL: (laughs) Yes. Al Pacino’s a funny one.
HULICK: And your fans are called Airheads?
RUSSELL: Yes! (Laughs).
HULICK: (Laughs). I love it! What would you say was your best year or decade career-wise?
RUSSELL: I must say that I think this decade is going to be our best career-wise, I really do. I think it is because we seem to be getting the respect that we’ve longed for all these years.
HULICK: I read something I would like you to clarify for me. You received a BMI Million-Air Certificate, which recognizes three million performances of your hit “All Out of Love.” Does “performances” mean radio airplay?
RUSSELL: Yes. I’ve actually gotten four of these now. It’s the amount of radio play in the U.S. It means that one song, if you played it continuously, would play for 17 years non-stop. So since I have received four certificates, it means four songs would add up to play nonstop for 68 years! Isn’t that ridiculous? (Laughs).
HULICK: That is incredible. It’s hard to even fathom that. Are you satisfied with where you guys have been and the future ahead?
RUSSELL: You know, Russell and I are so thankful and grateful for the life we lead. We even talk about that on the plane to wherever we are off to next. We’re thankful for the life we have and the lifestyle we lead, which is doing what we absolutely love to do and that we are alive and have been together for all these years. I mean, what a great life; it’s like living a dream.