From releasing the biggest-selling single in Australian history at age 22, to myriad television appearances, hosting jags, an ARIA award (among a host of other accolades) and racing of musical theatre, Anthony Callea now offers us his most personal album of his career, FORTY LOVE. We asked the effervescent singer-songwriter a few questions about this moving collection of tracks.
In the opening of your album statement, you write, “Words really can’t explain how it feels to finally release MY album, FORTY LOVE.” Why did you capitalize the word “my” here?
It’s my eighth album, and it’s the first album I’ve released without a totally independent label. I co-wrote 11 of the songs; these are my words, my melodies, my stories, and I co-produced this album with the talented Liam Quinn.
Bringing this album to life has been very rewarding for many reasons. It was pleasant, moving and cathartic. There were tears, doubts and laughter. It’s raw, honest, [and] it’s me to the core, musically and emotionally. It’s music I’ve been sitting on for years that I’ve wanted to share for a while now, and new material that I’ve recently written. It’s a body of work that’s not just for me but for my fans; it sums me up as a singer-songwriter and I brought this album to life on my terms.
I didn’t want to rush this job. I wanted to live with it before sharing it with the world and I can honestly say that’s me through and through. I am proud of FORTY LOVE and excited to finally share it with all of you.
our new love is a fascinating song about the evolution of a relationship: it starts out so melancholy but is filled with hope. What prompted you to write about this?
Because it’s real. There are no rules in music, and there are no rules in love. Love and music come from the heart. They can both be complicated. They can both make you feel emotions that bring joy and pain at the same time. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album and I loved writing it with Andrew Lowden. It evolved naturally and honestly and captured the feelings of hope, love, pain and gratitude in one song.
We know you’re happily married at this point in your life, so where do you go in your mind to deliver such a compelling performance of a song with a message like Incomplete?
When I write music, I draw not only from my own experiences, but from those of my friends and family around me. These are real stories and real moments, moments many of us can relate to. Life and love are complicated. Our minds are complicated. People are complicated and we all have the ability to love and hurt each other. That’s what this song is about, and having to go to a really honest and deep place in my mind, I needed to feel comfortable writing it, and I was really happy that I was able to sharing this experience of writing this song with my friend, Jean Foreman.
You posted an Instagram story a few weeks ago where you were singing in the car, and you made a comment that you always wanted to be a backing vocalist for John Farnham. What do you like about John’s talent?
He’s a fucking brilliant singer, and I still have him and I always will! I love great singers – always have, always will! I like pure singers. I like singers who connect with their audience. He’s not trying to sing along with a gimmick, or put on a certain vocal/delivery sound. He sings in tune and it hits you in the face like no other! There will never be another Farnham, and I’m lucky to have grown up with him and his music has always been part of my life.
In your concerts, you like to perform classic covers of some of the most enduring artists in the world: Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, the Beatles, Boyz II Men. What’s your favorite cover to play right now?
I don’t think I have a favourite. Music makes you feel, and most of the time, we all feel different in some way. That’s why during my concerts, I could do 3-4 evenings in a row, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the set will be exactly the same. There have been times where I get to soundcheck and tell my band that we won’t be doing a certain song that night and I want to change it. Mainly because I don’t feel it.
It’s important that when you sing a song, whether you wrote it or not, you tell that story honestly. It’s not about replicating or trying to improve it, it’s about interpreting it in a way that you can relate to and that hopefully translates to your audience. For me, George Michael was an expert on the subject. He could cover another artist’s song and make you feel like it was his: his life, his experiences.
In the aforementioned Instagram Story, you also commented, “Yeah, I jump from melodies to harmonies.” Is it one of the pleasures of singing classics you’ve heard (and/or performed) 100 times? Do you explore your own songs this way for fun, looking for new harmonies or melodic lines?
Absolutely! I like to experiment vocally and musically. One of the greatest joys I had while recording this album was having total control over my vocals, my vocals and all the harmonies and layers. I felt so comfortable in the studio behind the mic, and Liam just let me do my thing.
Vocal production is one of my favorite activities. One day, I may even do it for other singers; I sincerely think that I would get a lot of pleasure out of it. The human voice is such a gift, and being able to use it not just to communicate in day-to-day relationships, but to use it to create music, is something that I feel very fortunate about and don’t take for granted.
This album includes a new version of Prayer. Looking at your very first performance of this song, it’s so strange to know that no one had ever seen you deliver this magnificent piece at the time. Do you remember it very well or has it become a hazy memory?
I remember it very well. That decision and that moment shaped my life, and to have it resonate and connect with so many people not just then, but to this day 18 years later, is something I am beyond grateful and proud of. It’s a stunning piece of music, and I love it as much now as I did then.
We all evolve and change, and this reinvented vision Prayer this is me now, at 40, performing the song as I feel and hear it today. To be able to re-record this song for the very first time after 18 years and have it incorporated into FORTY LOVE is really exciting for me. This is a thank you to all the fans who have been part of my life for the past 18 years.
The single clip heaven is gorgeous – where did the red leather outfit come from and how do you dance so seemingly effortlessly?
Effortlessly? Thanks, but that’s hilarious! I was glued to the max, and I don’t even have boobies! Ha!
It’s not leather either; they call it “vegan leather”, which is basically plastic, so I’m not sure what’s best for the environment? To be honest, it was an online purchase from a designer I met in Europe. I can’t be picky, as a little a-se; when something comes in the mail and it comes in, it’s like winning the lottery! I spend more money on alterations than on clothes!
Why did you decide to open the record with a child’s voice/words with the first track Only one?
This album is a retrospective of my life, and the child’s voice represents the innocence and purity of life. It represents hopes and dreams, where we all begin in life. I wanted to start my album encapsulating that feeling, and I love that song and what it represents.
FORTY LOVE by Anthony Callea will be released on October 21 via MGM.
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