New Approach Pays Dividends

Mark Seymour talks about life, recording and surfing.

Author: Ara Jansen, The West Australian.

Date: 20 May 2011.

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A long-time surfer, Mark Seymour was paddling his board off the coast of Melbourne. A strong front was about 150m away and he was in 3m of water.

“I’m thinking ‘this is madness’,” Seymour recounts. “At the same time there was something about the utter exposure which got me as well as the power of all the water underneath me. The way it’s always moving struck me as being just like life.

“I thought of the undertow as the life force, both in the water and in relation to the band.”

As a result, Seymour’s 11 new songs are collectively titled Undertow, subtly and often bobbing their head in homage to the surf, the beach and coastal strips.

The album started last year when the singer, writer, guitarist and one-time Hunters & Collectors frontman wrote a bunch of new songs.

When he stepped back, they just didn’t seem to be working.

Seymour decided he wasn’t going to force a collection through in a fixed period of time and decided to let them bubble up as naturally as possible.

“It was much more intuitive than I have been in recent years,” he admits. “We recorded it in three days even though I spent the year writing.

“It’s never easy. Making records is always difficult because I tend to think unless you are challenging or pushing yourself you just don’t get good results.”

One of the 54-year-old’s goals was to make these rock songs simple enough and able to translate easily into a variety of live formats, whether he wanted to play with a band, as a duo or solo.

“I’ve been working with the same group for the past four years and we have developed an understanding for each other’s idiosyncrasies,” he says.

“A lot of things that emerged from the songs were about how they approached them. Collectively the band also found an immediate connection to the songs.”

As his sixth album came about differently to the previous ones, Seymour also took the songwriting year as an opportunity to consider his purpose in continuing to record. His conclusion was clear.

“My wife says I don’t need to make any more records. It’s true. I could just do the odd corporate show and some solo shows. But I’m just not wired that way. I like documenting things and I feel my songs have that capacity. I love stories, simple as that and I need to pay my intuition its due.”