AU ABROAD

the AU interview: Anthony Callea (Melbourne)

Anthony Callea is soon to be out on the road, bringing his new album Thirty to a fan base that has been hanging out for some new material to sink their teeth into. The vocal powerhouse and recent ABC Music label member, chats with me about making the album, how personal it was for him to be releasing the selected originals in amongst some covers of songs that have personal significance for him and touring the material in a brand new live show!

Thanks for taking some time out to have a bit of a chat!

Oh all good, thank you!

The tour is going to be kicking off relatively soon – how exciting is it to be taking this new album out?

Yeah, it’s a month until I kick it off in Melbourne with the first show. I suppose, for me, I can definitely say that this is the best part about what I do. You can coop me up in a studio for so long and as much as I love that process of putting an album together, I really do, I love it when you can just get out there and perform with your band in front of an audience that actually wants to be there. It’s not a corporate or it’s not an event where people are already going to be there; it’s pretty cool to think that you’re putting on a show and people are spending decent money to see you sing. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love and you know, have a great life. It’s good! [Laughs]

You’ve always been known as quite the dynamic and energetic performer and vocalist – with these shows coming up, was there any game plan set in stone for how you wanted these particular shows to be formed?

Definitely, I’ve been working on these shows for a few weeks now and just tightening it up and looking forward to getting into the rehearsal studio with my band, that’s going to be a lot of fun. Obviously, there’s definitely going to be some structure to these shows, but I want them to be live, vocals shows. I’ve got some great musicians and I’m taking Suzie [Ahern] out on the road too. I’ve known her for 15 years and she’s an amazing singer; there’s going to be a duet in there and she’s going to be doing all the backing vocals. These musicians I’m working with, I’ve known for quite a while now, so they know me inside and out. It’s just great to be able to work with musicians like that and hopefully, I want people to walk away and be like, ‘That was a really great vocal show’. There’s not going to be too many bells and whistles but at the same time, hopefully it’s going to be a lot of fun. For me it will be, so hopefully for them it will be the same!

I guess, for a performer like yourself, all the reviews that have come out from your shows are always praising your voice and they’ve frequently commented on the fact that the vocals have always been a massive part of the live show. In that sense, your voice is the ‘bells and whistles’ aspect – people go to hear that recognisable voice.

Well, if people go away saying that, then that means I’ve done my job well! That’s great! [Laughs]

Just on the new album, Thirty…it’s a great thing to be in a position where you can go ‘Okay, let’s make an album full of songs that I really admire, give them my own spin and also add some originals’. That must have been a pretty cool record to make.

This album didn’t come from a record company, there was no A&R person that said, ‘We want to do this and we want to put this album together’. Basically, I had the idea early last year and I wanted to put this album together myself; I was unsigned at the time and so I walked in to a few record companies and said, ‘This is what I want to do and this is my plan, this is how I want to put this album together’. I had this whole concept of what I wanted to do and I was really fortunate that ABC and their relationship with Universal took this project on board and we’ve been able to produce a really beautiful album. I’m so happy with it and when I put it on a listen to it, it’s something that I’m really proud of. Hopefully that comes through; when you listen to it, these songs have somehow meant something to me along the way, along the last 30 years.

It wasn’t about recreating these songs at all, because they’re beautiful, classic songs. Let’s not play with them too much, but let’s pay respect to these songs; whether it was the songwriter or the artist behind these songs, or even just the lyrics and the melody, somehow they had affected me. I wanted to go in the studio and just put my spin on these songs without changing them too much. A lot of the songs too, obviously there are your big, power ballad anthems, but there’s a song that I wrote called “I’ll Be The One”, which I really love and it’s quite sensitive and quite basic in terms of production. I think that is what makes that song work. Hopefully, when you listen to this album, it does take you on a little bit of a musical journey.

Totally. With “I’ll Be The One” and the other original track ("My All") featured on the record, what was it about these tracks that made you decided that it would be this album that fitted them specifically?

For me, I wrote both these songs probably about four years ago and I’ve done a lot of writing since then, but I’ve just been waiting for the right time to have these two songs a part of a body of work that actually complemented every song on the album. I didn’t want to just throw these two songs out there and just hope they stuck, I wanted them to be part of a body of work that worked well together. When I was putting these songs together I was like, ‘You know what? I want to put these two songs on the album because I think they would really work’! It was beautiful to have these two originals on there, plus the covers and then having some Italian on there as well because obviously, that is part of my heritage. I wanted to put this album together that was a good mix of songs that reflected me.

Definitely, I think that putting together a collection of material that is ultimately coming from quite a personal place…that must be a cool feeling to have as it gets out there.

Yeah, it’s just makes it real. You learn a lot; in the last nine years since I stepped off that Idol stage, obviously you learn a lot…

Has it really been nine years?

Yeah, it’s been nine years, don’t worry I’ve got the wrinkles to prove it! [Laughs] You go through a few obstacles along the way and I suppose that, when I was putting this album together, I didn’t want to fall in to any trap of putting an album together for any wrong reasons. I wanted to make sure it came from a good place and it was probably one of the most enjoyable recording experiences that I’ve ever had. Working with James [Kempster], I didn’t have to go and base myself in Sydney for this album; it was just nice to be able to wake up and go to bed in Melbourne and then just drive to the studio and work with James, who has known me for so long. It was a good experience.

That’s awesome to hear. Now, I see you’ve just done a run of in-store signings; I miss those days where you could actually rock up with your physical copy and meet the artist regularly!

[Laughs] Oh tell me about it! Kids probably don’t even know what a physical copy of a CD is today!

So with this run of appearances and now the tour coming up, it’s fair to say that you’re going to be kept pretty busy.

Totally, basically, the day after I finish my last show at Twin Towns, which I think is technically NSW although I think it’s more Gold Coast…the next day, I basically go straight into the theatre to start rehearsing for Grease, which is opening up in Brisbane. Until the end of March next year at least, I’m working. So that’s a good thing!

Well yeah, you’ll be in a job!

For a musician, that’s a good thing! [Laughs]

For sure – it’s great to see you, any musician really, being able to perform and produce music they enjoy on their own terms.

Oh thank you, I appreciate it.

Thanks for the chat Anthony, it’ll be great to see how the tour goes and everything that comes after it!

Oh thank you. Take care!

Anthony Callea will be performing along the east coast in July and August. Check out www.anthonycallea.com/shows.php for more information!