AKRON, Ohio – Back in 1975, two young singers auditioned for a staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Sydney. The two chorus singers and understudies Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell shared a name, the birth month of June and a deep love for the Beatles and music.
Hitchcock, 64, and Russell, 63, became fast and lasting friends. They began working together on songs written by Russell. They called their band Air Supply and after releasing four albums and finding some success in Australia, they took America by storm in 1980 with a little lullaby called “Lost in Love.”
The gentle heartfelt ballad peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and began a string of hits for singer Hitchcock and songwriter Russell that included two more top 5 hits “Every Woman in the World” and “All Out of Love.”
The band followed its debut with three consecutive platinum albums containing hits such as “Even the Nights Are Better,” “The One That You Love” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.”
For many music lovers in the United States, the band’s heyday was in the 1980s, but though its commercial fortunes waned stateside, Air Supply has continued to be a big draw around the globe, particularly in Southeast Asia, parts of the Middle East and Latin America.
The band has steadily released albums, some unavailable domestically, the most recent being 2010’s “Mumbo Jumbo.” The group is also working on a musical to be called “All Out of Love” based on its ’80s hits that will feature some new songs. It’s set to premiere in Perth next year.
Between the approximately 150 dates the duo performs around the globe, Air Supply is working on a new album to be called “Desert Sea Sky” that will feature some up-tempo dance tracks alongside the band’s classic soft-rock sound.
Recently, the band was welcomed into the Australian Recording Industry of Australia’s Hall of Fame.
From the road, Hitchcock talked about the band’s storied history, current success and plans.
Q: All these decades into your career and you guys are still finding new places to play. Is it still exciting at all to get up in front of new audiences?
A: The show part of the equation has always been great and the motivation to do it. But after being a band for as long as Graham and I have, this will be our 39th year, as with anybody no matter what you do travel, as you know, is a pain in the butt these days. ... But once you get up on stage and the house lights go down, all of that stuff goes away because we come to play, we come to have fun and hopefully entertain the audience as much as we can because that’s what is important to us.
Q: You have continued to sell quite a few records in other continents but there will probably be quite a few fans in the (U.S.) audience who aren’t aware that you guys have 17 albums. Are the set lists vastly different in the States and other territories?
A: We usually put a show together at the beginning of the year and then it’s modified as we go. But, obviously, we can’t play a show without playing “Lost in Love,” “Here I Am,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Every Woman in the World” because we’d get lynched on our way out. But we base the show around the songs people are familiar with, but there are new songs. Graham plays a great solo song and we’ll be playing “Desert Sea Sky,” the dance track.
Q: So there will be first-timers who have worn out their copies of the “Greatest Hits” probably expecting 90 minutes of ballads, will they be surprised by Air Supply live?
A: Well, a lot of people who come to see us the first time are surprised. There’s a lot of comments from people afterward, that say I didn’t realize that was your song, that was your song and that was your song, that’s the first thing. Also, we have a rock ‘n’ roll show, it’s not an evening of acoustic guitars and sitting around and doing nothing. We engage the audience as well as anybody does and it’s loud.