The duo, Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell, who recently visited South Africa on their Greatest Hits tour, are masters of their craft. Entering 2014 with another chart success, their new single, a dance number, Desert Sea Sky reached number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart this week. Though known primarily for their sentimental ballads, even this shift in genre has proved triumphant.
What is the formula behind their success? According to Russell, the duo are friends first. They met in Sydney, Australia, in 1975 while auditioning for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s renowned musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.
“Theatre folks can be so clicky,” he says. “Russell and I were the only ones who didn’t know anybody. We both loved The Beatles and had the same name, so the foundation was there and naturally a lifelong friendship developed.”
Though the shared name can become confusing and Russell admits that the press have gotten it wrong many times, he also acknowledges that the two are so like-minded that they’re likely to give similar answers to questions asked. Additionally they have never had an argument in their staggering 39 year career as Air Supply.
“We each have our unique roles within the group and stick to it. I’m a songwriter and never want to be a lead singer. I don’t have what it takes, the charm, charisma, and I’m ok with that. Russell can get up on stage, just stand there and people love him.”
To this day, the group maintain an extensive touring schedule, performing approximately 140 shows a year worldwide.
“We have always placed emphasis on our live shows, because that’s what we’re good at,” says Russell. “People often ask us when we’re going to stop. I always say: ‘We’ll stop playing when people stop coming to our shows’,” he says. “We don’t need to do it for the money and fame, we already have that. We make music because it’s what we love doing and as long as there’s a demand, we’ll keep going.”
Air Supply are on the road for approximately 240 days a year, which can take it’s toll, but Russell insists that it keeps them young.
“No one wants to go to a concert and see an old man sitting on the stage strumming a guitar. They want entertainment and live energy. We make sure that we look good on stage, keeping ourselves both mentally and physically fit.
“I recently volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” he laughs. “People can go there and help out with whatever they need done – eight hours of manual labour. I left there thinking how privileged I am. I have such a great job. I will never complain again when waking at three in the morning to hit the road.”
When asked what impact touring has on his family life, Russell admits, “When you leave, you have to come back. Let’s just say, I have far more homecomings than your average person. I have a perpetual suitecase in my house that’s always in a state of readiness, because I never know when something is going to come up. It’s always fun to try and find a new and unique place to play.”