Episode #154 — Air Supply’s Graham Russell

We spend so much time on this podcast thinking aloud, we worry we fell out of touch. It’s always good to take a step back and consider what you, our dear listeners, might be craving as July comes to a close. Do you like your podcasts like you want your pizza — two for the price of one? Then look no further, for this is an episode featured on both “Why?” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Grad School.” (If you’re not sure what “Rock ‘n’ Grad School” is, we’ll help you figure it out. All you need is someone to show you.) Do you desire sweet, beautiful pop songs to soothe your soul? Then listen closely to this week’s episode, and at the very least you’ll play our guest’s greatest hits on a loop through the rest of the summer. Do you like musical duos where one member’s first name is the same as the other member’s last name? Then look no further, because in your life when everything was wrong, something finally went right.

We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with legendary singer and songwriter Graham Russell, one half of the tour de force that is Air Supply. To say that we were excited to talk with Graham is a serious understatement. And to say that our blogger is worried she won’t do justice to the man who gave her song after song to slow dance to at summer camp is sad but true.

It’s almost impossible to find someone who hasn’t been affected in some way by the music of Air Supply. Graham was kind enough to fill us in on a bit of the band’s origin story and it’s clear why they’re still touring today, 45 years after they started making music together. “They” are Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, and while some might say their meeting was chance or coincidence, we agree with Graham that it was predestined.

Graham, originally from England, has been writing songs since he was a kid. After seeing the Beatles perform, he knew the path of music was the one for him. He eventually made his way to Australia and performed whenever he could. Graham filled us in on how he gigged around various pizza parlors, getting paid in money and food. (Side note: While we are not opposed to making money in the podcast game, we’d also be thrilled to be paid in pizza. But only supplementally and please, no pineapple.) Not surprisingly, the pizza parlor circuit wasn’t particularly fulfilling for Graham as an artist. But he eventually was cast in the Australian company of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and that’s where he met Russell.

At this point, we don’t want to give too much away, especially because Graham tells it much better than we could. Suffice it to say that their shared love of the Beatles, apostle pairing (not a typo), dressing room proximity, and fate had Graham and Russell singing together, performing together, and eventually starting a band. And the more we found out about their musical theater beginnings, the more we realized why Air Supply is so good at creating moods and conveying emotions. Between Graham’s songs and wonderful voice and Russell’s extraordinary tenor, the listener doesn’t stand a chance.

Graham shared with us how they began recording songs in Australia and how they scrambled to find a name for their band. (It’s a great story and emphasizes the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.) He talked about what it was like to have their songs skyrocket in the charts out of nowhere and suddenly play for thousands of people. There’s also an Air Supply/Rod Stewart connection you’ll want to hear about, along with lots of other great stories. You can even listen to the episode to finally come to a decision about which role in “Superstar” is the best. (We’re firmly on the side of Judas. As a character in the show, not because we’re into betrayal.)

Whether our talk with Graham makes you feel nostalgic or introduces you to Air Supply for the first time, you’re going to want to know more and maybe even become an Airhead. Check out Air Supply on their website, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They’re also on tour right now, so you can feed your Air Supply need live and in person. Hopefully after this week’s episode you’ll agree that Luke and Heidi are back on their feet and eager to be what you wanted.

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