Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply. Photo courtesy of the artist

Every time I told anyone I was going to write about Air Supply this week, they’d respond by breaking into one of their songs, usually “Lost In Love” or “I’m All Out of Love,”  and I’d join them, of course. Such is the staying power of the early ’80s hits by the Australian-English soft rock duo comprising singer-songwriter and guitarist Graham Russell and lead singer Russell Hitchcock.

Air Supply will be playing all those hits at the State Theatre on Feb. 6.

There was a time when it was easy to mock the kind of power ballads Air Supply puts out. As a kid, I would tell myself they were big slices of musical cheese when I heard Casey Kasem play them on the radio during American Top 40. Years later, it occurred to me that I actually love these songs because they’re really great, gorgeous tunes with knock-your-socks-off vocals and timeless sentiment.

It was this thought that led me to pursue an interview with the band, and the next thing you know, I was on a video call with Russell raving about the music of Air Supply while also digging into some backstory and hearing about his other musical endeavors.

The conversation started so easy, and yes, we wanted to carry on. Carry on …

Born in England, Russell moved to Australia when he was 18. It was there, in 1975, that he met and struck up an immediate friendship with Hitchcock as they were both in a long-running Australian production of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Advertisement

It didn’t take long for them to realize they wanted to make music together, and before the end of their two-year stint in the show, Air Supply formed and hit the Australian charts in a big way with the single “Love and Other Bruises” in 1977.

They successfully toured their gigantic country and also opened some shows for Rod Stewart while his tour was there. Stewart, in turn, invited Air Supply to support him on his North American tour. They spent six months with him.

“Rod really took us under his wing. We watched him every night, his every move and how he handled the audience,” said Russell. “We learned from the best.”

The trouble is, when that tour ended and the band returned to Australia, Russell said they’d been forgotten about. “We had to start again,” he recalled.

At this point, Russell was broke, living in Adelaide. He called Hitchcock, who was living nearly 1,000 miles away in Sydney to tell him he’d written a few songs. It took 23 hours for Hitchcock to get there on the bus, and when he did, he was in for quite a surprise. Along with “All Out of Love” and “Chances,” Russell played “Lost In Love.” Hitchcock heard it and told him “that’s the one right there, that will be the first big hit for us.” He was right. The song, released in 1980 on the album “Life Support,” reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Russell explained his songwriting process. His first step doesn’t involve putting pen to paper or sitting with his guitar or at the piano. Instead, he thinks about it for a few days.

Advertisement

“But I won’t pick up an instrument because I want all the information in my brain,” he said.

When he does finally pick up an instrument, the song reveals itself within a few minutes, as it did with “Lost In Love.”

But, after all this time, does Russell still love playing that and other hits, like “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” “The One That You Love,” “Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You),” “Sweet Dreams” and “Every Woman in the World?”

He sure does, especially when fans react when they hear the first few bars of these songs. “It’s incredible. That’s the reason we keep playing. we just love to play them,” he said.

Air Supply songs transcend nostalgia and seem to be known and appreciated by generations of fans, as evidenced by a funny thing that happened to Russell just a few days before I spoke with him. He was at a shop in his home state of Utah and a young woman working there asked if he was in a band. It’s not that she recognized him, but rather got a band vibe from his 6-foot-5 stature and, as Russell described, “hair all over the place.” When he revealed who he was, she said she wasn’t familiar with Air Supply. Then he sang the line, “I’m all out of love.” The woman gasped and sang back, “I’m so lost without you!”

Russell recently started another band with the Air Supply bass player and pianist called G and The Jolly Cucumbers, in which he sings and plays acoustic guitar. He describes the sound as “really romantic music without all the thunder.” The first single, “Wrap My Arms Around You,” was released in December. In fact, during the Air Supply show at the State Theatre, Russell said they’ll be playing a Cucumbers song as a trio.

Advertisement

Russell told me that he loves to play all the Air Supply hits during their live shows, but “All Out Of Love” is a standout for a few reasons.

“It’s really been our most famous song. It’s been played on the radio seven million times in America alone,” he said. But there’s more to it than that. “I know the song touches people, and they’re waiting for it and I just have to play two notes on the guitar and boom, they go off.”

“I’m all out of love, I’m so lost without you” is the refrain of the song, and I can’t imagine a single person at the show, myself included, won’t be singing right along with the Russell and Hitchcock.

But you’ll be all out of luck, if you don’t jump on tickets soon.

Air Supply
8 p.m. Feb. 6. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $50 to $80 reserved seating. statetheatreportland.com


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.