ANTHONY Callea still remembers the first time he heard Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis.
“I was driving – I think I was about 18 or 19 – and I pulled the car over to the side of the road because it came on the radio,” the Australian singer-songwriter said.
“And I went ‘What’s this song? Where’s it from? Who sings it?’
“There’s something about that song that when you sit there and read those lyrics, they’re so deep.
“One of the first things I did when I got home was research it and I thought I would love to sing this song one day.”
Now, more than 15 years later, Callea has fulfilled that ambition with his latest album ARIA Number 1 Hits In Symphony – a collection of his favourite anthems that made it to the top spot on the ARIA charts, which he has recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
“I was just really self- indulgent putting this album together,” he said.
“I looked at the list of number ones and went ‘OK, which ones do I connect with and which ones trigger a memory for me?’
“It wasn’t about trying to recreate them, it was about presenting them in a really beautiful and unique way.
“The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra hasn’t recorded an album with anyone since 1987 with Elton (John) so it was definitely a huge privilege for me.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for years and it took us about two years to make it all happen, so I’m glad we actually were able to do it.
“It’s a really beautiful, special album for me because not everyone gets to record with a symphony orchestra – that was on my bucket list.”
Another favourite Callea said he enjoyed putting on the album was his own song Rain.
“I recorded that when I was 21 so to revisit my own song as a 35-year-old and to put a new spin on it I really loved.
“I just wanted to give it a little bit of a new meaning for me now as a 35-year-old.”
Callea is now preparing to hit the road with his band for a national tour.
“Obviously this is celebrating songs from the last album but we’re also going to be revisiting the last seven albums of the past 14 years,” he said.
“I’m going back to songs that I haven’t performed ever or I haven’t performed in a very long time, so to be able to rework these songs and experiment with them again with the band, that’s going to be a lot of fun as well.”
“There’s no rules and that’s what I love.
“It’s one of the hardest things to try and put a set list together for a tour but at the same time, it’s actually fun and exciting because I can do whatever I want really.
“I have a tendency just to keep talking and talking when I’m on tour so I have to really be conscious of that because at the moment, there’s about 18-20 songs on the set list.”
Callea said he was also spending plenty of time in the studio but this time, he was taking things slow.
“For the last two or three years, I’ve released an album every year,” he said.
“I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment but I don’t know where exactly that’s going to take me.
“I’m just taking it really slowly and organically and seeing where it takes me and having fun with it so I’m not going to pressure myself to put out an album this year.
“I’m just going to enjoy this tour and get back into the studio and just be creative once again and see where it takes us because you just never know where it takes you.
“I did the same thing in LA once and I ended up recording a dance EP.
“I never thought I would do that but I loved it.
“I was having so much fun over there and I ended up walking into a studio with DJ Poet who is from the Black Eyed Peas and we ended up writing a dance track together and I was like ‘who would have thought’, but sometimes you’ve just got to run with it and if it feels right, you do it.”
Who: Anthony Callea
What: ARIA Number 1 Hits – In Concert
When: July 7
Where: Astor Theatre