GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ANTHONY AND THE MELBOURNE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Why he’s mad at the government (a little thing called marriage rights) and all about his adventure with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. By Marc Andrews.
Once-upon-a-time, a handsome Italian-Australian was runner-up on a little show called Australian Idol. Since 2004, Anthony Callea has scored the fastest selling single by an Australian artist (The Prayer), met his future husband during a production of RENT and was accidentally outed by a traffic reporter.
A decade on, Anthony and Tim have married (in New Zealand), he’s re-signed to his original record company, who dropped him after the outing, and with ARIA #1
Hits In Symphony, is aiming to repeat the chart-topping performance of 2016’s Backbone album.
Anthony’s also mad as hell about his homeland’s shameful refusal to recognise gay marriage and is not prepared to play nice anymore. Marc Andrews reports.
DNA: Gay marriage in Australia – the postal survey, the hate campaign, the waste of money – how are you feeling about it all?
Anthony Callea: I’m more embarrassed, and disappointed, than angry. That marriage equality is still even a topic of discussion in this country… Our government, people who have been put in these positions to represent all Australians and the welfare of human rights, they should be ashamed of themselves. When marriage becomes legal in Australia, will you and Tim get re-hitched here?
Tim and I were married in New Zealand and to us, our friends, family and peers, our marriage is just as legitimate and honest and truthful as any heterosexual married couple’s marriage. We have been together for nearly 10 years and married for nearly three years and no one, including our government, will take that away from us and make us feel unworthy of celebrating that love. Our government just needs to catch up and stop these political games; their poor leadership is damaging. Would we remarry? No, but it would be nice for our marriage to be legally recognised in this country as it already is in many countries around the world.
Is your family comfortable now with you being gay and having a partner?
They have always been comfortable, and Tim is not seen as my partner, but is treated as my husband. I’m lucky. Me being me, and my relationship with Tim, has never been seen any differently to my family and friends. Education, understanding, love and respect allows this to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take this for granted. I owe a lot of my happiness and the growing tolerance and understanding of LGBTI–plus people to the pioneering advocates and crusaders who, for decades, have been fighting for equality. So many beautiful and selfless individuals and groups who, not only then but still today, constantly stand up and fight for equality and love. I know it’s not easy for some, and people struggle everyday with just wanting to be accepted and loved, but we are all certainly heading in the right direction. No one is born a hater or with prejudice. The younger generation will have the greater power and strength in years to come. How’s family life for you at the moment?
Could not be better. My brother has taken the limelight, even though I know he’s always been the favorite but don’t tell him that, as he and his wife are expecting
their first child in November. I absolutely adore my brother and I was the first person he told. It’s the first for our side of the family and I’m going to be a kickass uncle. I have already bought gifts and don’t even know if it’s a boy or girl! My first role as gay uncle will be to teach it how to make up a mean espresso martini [laughs]. Yep, priorities!
Has the subject of kids come up with Tim yet? Yes, we get asked all the time. At this point in our lives, we don’t want kids. We’re happy to be fabulous uncles and we are to four kids on Tim’s side, even though we constantly miss their birthdays and try to make up for it with vouchers or cash! Yes, I had to teach Tim that it’s not insulting to give cash as a gift. Italians do it all the time. In fact, we prefer it!
What advice would you give to an LGBTI performer starting out now in showbiz who is unsure whether to come out?
I don’t think the question is “whether to come out”. We should be encouraging and allowing people to be comfortable, happy and love themselves first and foremost. When you are 100 percent comfortable in your own skin, it’s a beautiful thing and naturally you are you. I don’t like the pressure of coming out that is put on so many people. My straight friends didn’t have to come out being straight. Love and accept yourself and the important people will follow suit!
When you look back on your career what do you wish you had done differently?
Not listen to certain people but, hey, I was young and never had botox… yes, botox fixes everything! Seriously, I wouldn’t change anything, as such, because it allowed me to get to where I am. Young artists starting out need to be mentored and nurtured, not only from a career perspective but in life.
You’re up to album number seven. Who says you can’t forge a proper career out of a reality TV? There’s two types of reality TV. There’s the likes of Dancing With The Stars or I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and there’s Australian Idol; an iconic show that uncovered the talents of many brilliant artists who are still kicking goals today. It had heart, soul and integrity and many of the people behind the scenes had the right intention, a rarity in TV. It’s a shame Australian Idol is not on our screens today. I’ve experienced both types of reality TV but let’s just say I won’t be jumping out of a helicopter or sharing a campsite with Fev [footballer Brendan Fevola] or Shane Warne [cricketer] again anytime soon. I bloody loved that experience but, man, roughing it in the African jungle is not in my DNA!
Thirteen years later and you’re still going strong. What has that process been like?
Thank you… It’s been a unique 13 years since I walked out onto that Idol stage. I definitely haven’t loved every minute but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wake up everyday and remind myself that I’m extremely lucky, my job is not really a job, it’s what I love and was born to do.
What inspired the new Symphony album?
As a singer who loves live performance more than anything else, and thrives on it, recording an album with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in one of the finest concert halls in the country is something I have been wanting to do for years. Not to mention the concert to launch the album. Not many people can say they have recorded an album with a worldclass symphony orchestra, but it was on my bucket list and I wasn’t going to give up until it happened. I feel extremely honoured and it’s a privilege to have my hometown symphony orchestra collaborate with me. I can’t wait to bring it to life in concert.
What was the process of picking the songs? Basically, Australia helped me put these songs together as these songs have all hit #1 on the Australian music charts. They’re songs that have played a part in our lives over the years and I wanted to deliver them in a way that was unique, epic and soaring. This album is truly special and I could not be more in love with it.
A George Michael track made the cut. You’ve previously done a whole album of his songs. The tribute continues?
Yes, George Michael and his music have greatly influenced me from the beginning. His vocals, music, lyrics and interpretations were brilliant – his was a talent we will never see again, but one that will always be celebrated and respected. I had to include Jesus To A Child on this album. It would have been wrong not to.
Do any of the songs have sentimental significance for you?
I recorded Rain 13 years ago. It was my second #1 and I have always loved it, but 13 years ago I was a different person. I was young, didn’t have as much life experience under my belt and probably didn’t appreciate the essence of music as much as I do now. I needed to bring this song to the foreground again, but from a 34-year-old, married gay man’s perspective. Were any of the songs played at your wedding ?
I don’t think I would be playing my own music at my wedding – that would be a little self-indulgent, don’t you think [laughs]? However, feel free to go full throttle and overkill my music at my funeral. I want it to be all about me, me, me – music, a symphony orchestra, an after-party with espresso martinis on tap.
Are you planning on kicking the bucket?
No, I’m not!
Does hubby Tim know about these plans? [Laughs] Yep, Tim knows the brief and my expectations…!
Who’s been the person who’s guided you the most through the last decade of success?
There have been a few people in my life who challenge the way I think in a great, healthy way and I know they have my back and best interests. I rely on my parents, Tim, and a couple friends to bounce ideas off and ask for their advice.
We met you through TV, we’ve seen you succeed, come out, get married… but what’s something that might still surprise people about you?
I hate flying. I’ve become better over the years but still need a scotch to knock the edge off. I’m also an absolute clean-freak, which drives Tim crazy. I also don’t eat lamb and I have never eaten peanut butter in my life. Random, I know!
Tim and I were married in New Zealand but it would be nice for our marriage to be legally recognised in this country, as it already is in many countries.”
ANT’S COLLABORATION WITH THE MELBOURNE SYMPHONY. ORCHESTRAL CALLEA