Mark Seymour Opens Up On Slow Dawn

An interview with Mark Seymour leading up to the release of the Slow Dawn album.

Author: Benjamin Lamb, Mixdown.

Date: 27 May 2020.

Original URL: http://www.mixdownmag.com.au/mark-seymour-opens-slow-dawn

 

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“We went on a ghost tour in Williamstown, and at midnight on the edge of the water, there are these dogs that people hear, and no one can see them or explain why. I thought that was great, I love hearing all those stories,” Mark Seymour says. The legendary musician is discussing ’The Dogs of Williamstown’, a track from his upcoming album Slow Dawn, which drops Friday, May 29.

“The guide was dressed up like a 19th century spiv, and he takes you on a tour through Williamstown, and then there’s just ghostly noises”, he laughs.

It’s clear Seymour, decades into a prosperous songwriting career, can find musical inspiration everywhere, and his travels led to the stories told on this record. “We went through South Africa, that was a huge journey for us, it’s a really powerful and exciting place. I also went through America without touring, that was pretty incredible as well.”

Tracks like ‘Kliptown Mud’ and ‘Applewood Road’ are tracks from Slow Dawn about those travels, and came to life while still in those countries. “It’s a lot of note taking. I didn’t take my guitar with me”.

Seymour is a man who loves to get out and experience the world: writing on the road has become a routine for him just as much as it is back home. “I’ve gotten into the habit now of not sitting down in a studio to write, I tend to just use my phone, I write really quickly in places like motel rooms, and I try to keep things really fresh and discard ideas really quickly if they don’t feel interesting to me.”

Mark’s most known for being the frontman of legendary Australian group Hunters and Collectors, where he penned arguably some of the greatest songs this country’s ever heard: ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. It’s amazing to hear a deeper insight towards how he goes about the art of songwriting, especially with Slow Dawn, which is overflowing with thought-provoking numbers that prove his talents have never waned. “I just write down ideas for songs, just lines, then I accumulate them and then try singing them, it’s all pretty random, the actual execution.”

When it comes time to pick songs for the album, however, it’s crunch time. “In the end, it comes down to being committed to a particular idea, If I believe in an idea strongly enough, it ends up becoming a song.” Mark can also offer an opposing view of his own work. “I’ve got a very strong critical voice about the work, I’m my own worst critic, and I think you have to be that way if you want to grow and change.”

A theme that has followed Mark’s songwriting for years is Australia. His home clearly holds a special place in his heart, and the title track of the album illustrates this, being all about his upbringing in rural Victoria. “I have lots of different thoughts about Australia, I do think of the nation as a collective place, and I feel very bonded to Australia. I’ve spent most of my life here and I have strong ideas about Australia. I see my songs connected to the Australian experience, it’s home.”

Another thing that’s followed Mark for years is his backing band, The Undertow, and it’s clear he has a lot of respect for the group. “It’s useful having people around you who aren’t afraid to tell you if you’re doing shit work” he laughs. “These boys, they’re all really mature and professional. We park our egos, and that’s critical, that’s why the band lasts, there’s a lot of mutual respect.”

When it comes to the writing and recording of Slow Dawn, Seymour says everyone brought something different to the table. “It’s all about performance for me, I’m most concerned about getting a great vocal, making sure I feel strong, and my voice and the song sound believable.Then with the boys, they each individually bring their A-Game to the experience, and you can hear it.”

After being a fronting various groups for so many years, anyone would expect Mark to go into these sessions and lead, but it’s quite the opposite. “I don’t go into a rehearsal room with a definite idea about how I think it’s gonna end up sounding by any stretch, otherwise why play in an ensemble? You may as well just do with a laptop” He laughs.

Slow Dawn marks the first time Mark has worked with world renowned producer Nick DiDia, who’s worked with legendary acts such as Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine. “[This relationship] started when I was just looking around for someone I could connect with, I’ve worked with Cameron McKenzie (guitarist of The Undertow) on my last few albums, so it was a big step to move into someone else’s environment.”

Since the producer’s move to Australia, he’s worked with countless Australian acts. “He’s worked with Kasey Chambers, I really admire her, and he’s also worked with Powderfinger, and those records are really good, so I thought I reckon I can do something with that guy.”

Mark’s also looking forward to getting on the road and playing again, detailing his upcoming tour plans behind the record, which goes down next year with fellow Australian legend James Reyne.

“Over the next few weeks we’re gonna get together and play for the hell of it,” he says, hinting at the uncertainty of the situation at hand. “We haven’t quite figured out how those shows are gonna go yet. But it’ll be different to what people have seen us do before!”

 

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