Anthony Callea On Being “Together Again”

After a very different and challenging 2020 that has affected the entire country and the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony Callea is beyond excited to be finally hitting the stage once again in 2021 with the TOGETHER AGAIN Tour which hits Adelaide this Saturday at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Having filmed the Celebrity Apprentice in Sydney last year finally makes its way to television screens this Sunday. The ARIA Award winner is undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest entertainers and will take to the stage with his full band and deliver a truly spectacular LIVE music experience. With a career spanning sixteen years, seven albums, TV Concert Specials and yearly concert tours, Anthony sits in a very exclusive club with Keith Urban, John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes enjoying similar success with three or more ARIA #1 records. Showcasing his incomparable voice that the country has fallen in love with, Anthony and his band will deliver a show filled with hits and will be a night to remember. Anthony speaks to Hi Fi Way about the tour.

It must be great news to be back on the road touring?
Yeah, to be honest, it’s one of those feelings that I’ve never felt before, to be quite frank. The last concert, with a paying audience in front of you that want to be there was last January. That was at The Palms at Crown, so that’s where I’m kicking off this tour but to walk out on stage again for the first time after so long, you realise how, not that I’ve ever taken what I do for granted as a job, but you do have a new found, I suppose, love and respect for it and just appreciate it more because when something is taken away from you and you can’t do anything about it, you just realise how much you absolutely miss it and how it is part of your DNA. Without it, it’s like someone’s taken something out of my body. I’m just like, “What do you mean I can’t come and work? What do you mean I can’t go and walk on stage with an audience and perform?” It just doesn’t make any sense. It would not have made sense to any of us, like a year and a half ago, two years ago.

Do you feel slightly nervous leading up to these shows?
Anxious? Absolutely! There is definitely an element of anxiousness that has been floating around the last couple of days, especially. I suppose it is good to be nervous, but to be honest, it’s more of an excitement and an emotional feeling to be able to go and do your thing again after so long. I’m actually excited about it.

Is the “Together Again” tour basically all the hits and memories, maybe a few new ones that you might’ve been working on?
Yeah, well, in COVID, as much as I sat on my arse for a very long time. Most of the time, and living in Victoria as well, we had a double whammy in terms of the lockdown. I ended up releasing three, four songs last year while we were in lock down, because I’m just like, “I’ve got these tracks, I’ve been working on them”. Instead of just sitting on my arse doing nothing, let’s start sharing them. I even did a little video clip at home. I got my partner to film it on his iPhone because we couldn’t go out and film a video clip because it wasn’t an essential service. I’m just like, “let’s put a visual together for one of the tracks”. Then, I did some at-home acoustic things. Once some of the restrictions were lifted we could have five people come over, I got some of my musos to come over and we recorded some live versions of the new tracks that are released.

To be able to bring these new songs as well, that I’ve shared over the past year to the stage, as well as pulling songs from the past seven albums… Putting a set list together is always the one of the most difficult things to do, I think when you’re putting a show together because the stuff that I obviously really, really want to do, and then there’s songs that I know that my audience wants to hear. It’s a bit of a balancing act and sharing new sides too, as well, like these new tracks I wrote in just before COVID hit. That was the head space or the feelings that I wanted to hone into at that time and to share them through COVID, and now to bring them to life for the first time. That’s always scary, as well. The first time you actually perform a song that you’ve written live in front of an audience. It’s great. We’ve had rehearsals and I can’t wait to actually get together with the band again.

Nothing having toured for a while do you start thinking more about the production and the visual elements? Maybe pyros?
My hands highly flammable, there’s no pyros! Obviously, the thing we’ve putting these tour together, it’s been no other because we’ve had to move dates, we’ve had to change things and there’s constantly moving parts because unfortunately, border restrictions and so forth is totally out of my hands. For instance, in Melbourne, the ratio is totally locked in and sold out and then, the Victorian government is like, “No, you have to move fifteen percent” and they’re saying, “Oh, it’s not going to be a hundred percent capacity until September, October”. As soon as we moved the fifteen percent to a new date on the Thursday, all of a sudden they’ve gone, “oh no, you can have one hundred percent capacity”. It’s like, “Okay, you’ve given us fucking three to four weeks’ notice,” since right now, I’m doing four shows and my Victorian audiences are always good to me. I’m very grateful but now, I’m literally doing four nights straight in Melbourne because of that sort of stuff up with the restrictions but that’s okay. There’s just the stuff that you can’t control and I’m not the only one going through it. So many other musos, promoters and artists are going through the same stuff. You just have to roll with the punches.

Four nights straight? Any special preparation required for that?
I’m older and I’m not match fit as I used to be but once the adrenaline kicks in, it’s going to be fine. I’m actually doing full shows back to back, as well when I come to New South Wales. I think I’m doing Penrith and Wyong, and then two back to backs, a matinee and an evening in Newcastle, as well. You know what? I’ve just got to get the pipes in order. That’s why I’ve been swimming every day. I must say, I’ve been jumping in the pool most mornings, or if I can’t get there in the morning, I go there in the afternoon and I literally just swim laps because I feel as that’s the best thing for me. I’ve worked out over the years, that’s the best warmup, and to get my lungs at maximum capacity and feel healthy and fit. I have literally been in the pool for a month preparing for this tour.

Beyond the tour are you focusing on finishing off the album?
I’m definitely going to release some more tracks, most likely in the second half of the year. I feel as though, I just want to get this tour up and going and have a bit of fun with that. Once I’m comfortable and everything’s in place, then I’m definitely going to release some new music. I’ve got them already ready to go and I’ve been writing and so forth. I’m looking forward to sharing some more material. I’m doing Celebrity Apprentice and they’ve started the promos for that which was filmed last year in September, October. I feel as though, obviously being people’s faces as well for the second half of the year, it will be good to bring some music to the foreground when something like that’s on TV.

Judging by your facial expressions in the promo I thinking it will be an interesting show?
I’m sure! For the amount of Botox that I’ve put in my face, I’ve still got facial expressions. I got to talk to my doctor about that!!!

How was the whole experience of Celebrity Apprentice? I know you probably can’t say much specifically but was it as fun and stretching you in a different direction?
What can I say about it? It was interesting. I don’t know, I didn’t really go in there with a game plan but then I realised very quickly that there were a few participants that were being very strategic and I was like, “Okay, I was a bit blindsided by that,” but it’s a TV show. At the end of the day, they want those moments and they want those rifts with people and let’s say, when you throw that many egos into one room together, yeah, it can get fiery.

One of the things great singles you released was with Bonnie Anderson recently. Do you think she might make a guest cameo somewhere on tour?
I’m not going to confirm or deny it but yeah, she might be getting onstage for a few shows here and there. I love that chick. We’ve known each other for so long. We’ve performed together on stage a handful of times. I did a couple of corporates and so forth and they wanted some George Michael stuff in there as well. I just called her and I said, “Hey, do you want to come and sing with me? We did I Knew You Were Waiting, and a few things like that. She’s got one of the most phenomenal voices, and she’s just one of those chicks that when you’re in her presence, she just makes you feel good because she’s so optimistic, beautiful, young, and she’s so talented.

I just called her and I said, “Hey, I’ve always loved the track Together Again,” and I feel as though, especially now more than ever, that it resonates with not only our country, but the entire world and this country, Australia, we’re very lucky that we’re much more fortunate than a lot of the other countries, even though that all of our borders are closed. The premise of coming together again and supporting each other and having each other’s back. I feel as though, it means a lot now more than ever.

I just wanted to put our stamp on that track and do a fresh take on it. That’s why I called Liam Quinn in Sydney, and I said, “We want to do this track,” and so he produced it. We ended up going into a studio in Melbourne together and recorded our vocals together with an engineer that I use here. We sent our vocals over to Liam in Sydney and he produced it all and mixed it all. I love that track. I feel as though it’s still got the essence of what Janet produced all those years ago in the 90s but we’ve put our little fresh take on it.

You must be looking forward to getting back to Adelaide, it feels like it has been a while?
I’ve got family in Adelaide too. I’m going to end up staying, I think for an extra two, three days after that show, to stay at the in-laws and spend some time with them. I’ve got a sister-in-law there, a niece and nephew. The last time I came to Adelaide was quickly when they lifted the restrictions between Melbourne and Adelaide and we quickly came to Adelaide to see Tim’s parents. This is another great opportunity to get to Adelaide and I haven’t played in the new Her Majesty’s Theatre at all. It looks stunning! I haven’t performed at Her Maj since the renos but my mate Matt Gilbertson says it’s just phenomenal. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Anthony Callea on the following tour dates…

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