Ten years on from Australian Idol, Anthony Callea chats about performing the songs of the ultimate pop star
Anthony Callea’s been a busy lad this year, performing in Grease, recording podcasts with Tim Campbell and co-hosting Monday breakfasts with Campbell on JOY 94.9. But he's still found time to put together a show paying homage to one of the biggest names in gay – and mainstream – pop.
Hey Anthony, you’re pretty busy right now – how are you coping?
I’m good. It’s good to be home; we’re winding up on Grease here in Melbourne. But yes, the last six months have been very busy, which is good. I’m not complaining, because in this industry when you’ve got work, appreciate it. In the ten years I’ve been doing this since Australian Idol I’ve learnt there’s always going to be ups and downs and your busy times and your slow times.
Putting this George Michael concert together, I didn’t expect it to take off so well. The concept of celebrating George Michael’s music is really exciting to a lot of people, especially for those hitting their 30s and 40s, his music has been part of our lives growing up. I classify him as one of the finest male vocalists; you can’t compare anyone to him. I’m not going out there trying to sound like George Michael; I’m going to celebrate these songs that have been part of our lives for song, and hopefully, I can do them justice – in a Callea way.
So how did the whole concept come about?
I was reading something about it being 30 years since he released ‘Careless Whisper’, his first solo single away from Wham! So I thought that was interesting, and with this being my 10th year since Australian Idol as well, I thought it’d be a really nice thing to do in my home town to put on a concert and celebrate the music that I’ve grown up loving, and have a bit of fun. I want to do it properly, and I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so I’ve got eight musicians this time around. I don’t want anything recorded or any sequences. Everything is going to be performed totally live, and for me, that’s the best way to perform, and it keeps you on edge. With three backing vocalists as well, it’s the biggest line-up I’ve had on stage with me – that I’ve paid for.
I have to say that when I heard about this concert, it made sense. I could see you singing George Michael and doing it really well.
I hope I can. If I had to do a show like this five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. I think you have to go through a few life experiences and grow up a bit, because these are not songs to mess around with; they’re beautifully crafted songs that have meaningful lyrics and have come from a deep place where George has written them, and you have to be able to do them justice. I think – now – I’m in a good spot, vocally and personally, to put my stamp on these songs.
What’s your favourite George? Wham George, Careless George, Sexy George, Dirty George?
It’s hard to choose your favourite. I’m not one of these people that have a favourite song or artist. I suppose it reflects the mood you’re in at the time. And like Whitney and other timeless artists, these songs will live on forever. We will have these songs as part of our musical landscape. They will never date, and it’s an honour to sing these songs.
Even ‘Club Tropicana’?
No, I’m not going to do ‘Club Tropicana’. You know what the hardest thing was? Trying to come up with a set list, because you go, "I have to do that one, and I have to do that one", and by the end of it, I had 30 songs in front of me. I’m doing a one-night concert, I had to cull quite a few songs. Hopefully, I’ve put one together that will please everyone. Being my 10th year since Idol, I am going to touch on that too. And I may have a surprise up my sleeve.
Anthony Callea’s top five George Michael songs
"It’s one of my favourite songs. I listen to his delivery and it draws me in."
"It’s a brilliant pop song."
As with Mary J. Blige (1998)
"I can’t wait to sing that one."
"I do like a bit of fast love."
Careless Whisper (1984)
"You have to put it in there. It’s a timeless classic."