Anthony Callea returns to music this month with an infectious new club track, Oh Oh Oh Oh (or ‘Oh squared’, as he shorthanded it to the Star Observer in his umpteenth interview of the day), almost five years after his last album release.
But given he’d spent half a decade away from the fast-moving world of pop, did Callea ever worry his music career might be defunct rather than dormant?
“Not at all. Especially in this country, I think it’s so important to be versatile, so I did live TV, I was a mentor on a show for Foxtel [Ultimate School Musical], I toured with Whitney and Celine, I did Wicked and Rent,” he said.
“Then I got to the point within the last two years where I decided I wanted to get back into the studio, but take my time doing it.”
On first listen, Oh Oh Oh Oh sounds like a pretty standard pop song circa 2011 — autotune and all.
“Autotune has a bit of stigma, but if you use it in the right way, it can be great. Obviously you still have to sing in tune — I didn’t sing out of tune and use autotune to fix it!”
Listen closely, though, and you’ll notice a few individual quirks to the track. Firstly, the sweeping disco strings of the chorus, courtesy of producer (and Black Eyed Peas tour DJ) Poet.
“It does have that nostalgic ’70s feel with the strings. It makes me want to put on my rollerskates and wear flares.
“Actually, no — a shortarse should never wear flares. It’s all about a skinny leg jean and a point on the shoe — hence what I’m wearing today,” he said, pointing to his carefully selected outfit. “It’s all about elongation.”
Secondly, there are the lyrics — “You activate my soul, boy” among them — that acknowledge that the Callea of today is openly, happily gay, as opposed to the closeted pop star of his previous albums.
“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable in my own skin. I did Australian Idol in 2004, so you’d hope in the past eight years I’ve evolved both creatively and as a person.
“References to ‘boy’ are naturally what I’d say anyway, so why wouldn’t I put it in a lyric? I’ve got nothing to hide, I’m an open book.”
In keeping with that, he’s been plugging ‘Oh squared’ for predominantly queer crowds over the past few weeks, including a performance at Sydney’s Homesexual White party, opening for Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Fans were treated to the single and another new floor-filler called Last To Go, a track that’s been getting such a strong reception Callea said it had shot to the top of his pile of possible second single choices.
It’s one of a bank of almost 50 songs Callea will choose from when putting together his upcoming third album, the fruits of many successful writing sessions both here and in the US.
“In this country, there aren’t that many writers and producers, so basically within three weeks you’ve worked with everyone. You go over to LA and there are a shitload of people to work with — it’s so inspiring,” he said.
Oh Oh Oh Oh came about after a particularly relaxed three-hour recording session with DJ Poet.
“I sat there on the couch with a coffee in one hand and my mike in the other — that’s how casual and easy it was. I just had fun, and hopefully that comes through in the track.”
The fun extended to the song’s video, shot at swanky Sydney nightspot Beach Haus.
Now an independent artist, having left Sony BMG, Callea cheerfully admitted his video budgets had dropped (“My mum came to the video shoot and, God love her, she started helping out with the catering. When you’re doing it all yourself, Mum’s gotta help with the catering!”).
Fun though the video is, Callea said he still hadn’t quite got the hang of hamming it up for the camera.
“I enjoy doing clips to a certain extent, but I do get very self-conscious. Making love to a camera in a club for eight hours is not natural, particularly when you’re not a blonde with big tits. It’s harder than it looks.”
Perhaps it’s because Callea long since gave up clubbing for a happy, settled home life with partner Tim Campbell in Melbourne’s suburbs.
“We’re such nannas at times. Sometimes we’ll look at each other and go, ‘We should really leave the house, shouldn’t we?’
“But honestly, after a long day in the studio, by the time I get home, I just want to put my ugg boots on, sit on the couch with Tim and open a bottle of Yering Chardonnay.”
INFO: Oh Oh Oh Oh is out now on iTunes. www.anthonycallea.com