Aria Award-winning singer and songwriter Anthony Callea recently released a new album, Thirty, and is performing concerts in Sydney starting late this month. He will return to the stage when he plays Johnny Casino in Grease from next month in Brisbane before it reaches Sydney in mid-October. I caught up with the 30-year-old to talk about releasing an album, how his partner – House Husbands star Tim Campbell – helps him prepare for his stage roles, and his fear of flying.
What are you up to at the moment?
I released the new album in April and I have Sydney shows [in] July and August, then I go into Grease. It’s a good year. I won’t lie: turning 30 [in December], I nearly had a mini freak-out, but you just have to slap yourself in the face and get over it. I’m really excited about this album. I knew exactly what I wanted it to be like, so it was the easiest and most enjoyable process, putting it together. I was excited to release it but also really nervous.
Why were you nervous?
Because when you haven’t had an album out for so long you just don’t know how it’s going to be received, and I get that you have to switch your brain off from that, but we are all humans and we are going to worry about it. But I was really stoked when the album debuted in the top 20. I was out that night and we were all just sitting by our phones waiting for the chart to come through.
Does songwriting come naturally to you?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. The thing I’ve learnt now is that it’s OK to walk away from a session not accomplishing anything. You should write because you want to write … It’s like a relationship: if you try and make something happen, usually it doesn’t work. You [need to] let it organically find its own feet. I wrote My All over a cheese platter and champagne with Tim. It was a really great writing experience because it was just easy.
You and Tim are both in the media spotlight. Is it good being in a relationship with someone who can relate to what you do?
It’s great. We have an understanding of what each other does but as much as we love doing what we do, we don’t let it consume our lives. I think that is the key. But it is good to have that sounding board to throw ideas off. When I do those musical-theatre roles, it’s great to be living with an actor because you can ask, ”How do I approach this?” I get free acting classes and he gets free singing lessons! I’m always helping him with lines; sometimes I forget that he is acting. We will be reading lines together and I’ll be like, ”Are you OK?” and he goes, ”Yes, it’s part of the scene.” It’s bizarre.
Tell me about the audition process for Grease.
They asked me if I would be interested in doing it. The thing is that I don’t audition for musicals all the time – my first love is going into the studio, recording an album and then touring it. But I think it’s really important to challenge yourself in all different mediums of entertainment. It comes down to the role as well. Grease is one of those musicals that everyone loves, so it’s going to be a lot of fun … Also, my decision was so much easier knowing Bert Newton was in the cast because I shared a dressing room with Bert when I was in [the musical] Wicked … He is really a great person.
Your career started with Australian Idol. Do you think you could have made it without that platform to launch off?
Who knows? Definitely singing and recording would have always been a part of my life, but to what extent I don’t know. I did it when I was 21, so I was young and naive. It was a lot of fun but at the same time totally a roller-coaster of emotions – not in a bad way as such, but it was a lot to take in as a 21-year-old.
There are so many talent shows out there. What are their pros and cons?
The pros, at the end of the day, are it gives singers an opportunity and a platform, and there are not many these days. The con to it, I suppose, is not to get lost in the whole hype of the show.
What do you do for fun?
It’s all about throwing a house party for us.
What’s your secret to a good house party?
Yering Station chardonnay and espresso martinis.
Tell me something no one knows about you.
I’m afraid of flying. I hate it. I’ve cried on planes. I’ve grabbed on to random people’s arms and legs on flights when you hit the first bump. I will never get in a propeller plane or a helicopter. What it comes down to is that I’m a control freak.
WE WENT TO The Bourbon, Potts Point.
WE ATE Blackened tuna steak with Cajun spices, apple, fennel and watercress; wedge salad with iceberg lettuce, fontina, ranch dressing and pear.
WE DRANK Vodka and soda; NV Laurent-Perrier Brut.
ANTHONY WORE Zara pants, Topman top, Emporio Armani scarf.
Photography: Edwina Pickles