Mark Seymour High on Westgate
A “Westgate” era article on Mark’s music and direction.
Author: Pegg, FasterLouder.com.au.
Date: 5 July 2007.
Mark Seymour, front-man of now retired Hunters and Collectors, has recently completed his fifth solo album entitled Westgate This is a lyrically driven album about the suffering, dignity and triumph of ordinary people.
It’s an album that Mark says highlights the greatness within us as individuals. If there was a ‘Mark Seymour’ album that is most defining, this is probably it. ‘I’ve really taken my work to a place where it belongs; it’s earnest, direct and emotionally confronting. My voice lends itself well to that type of landscape and I’ve committed that to my music. There have always been some stand out songs throughout my career, but this record is the best solo I’ve made.”
Quite noticeable on the album are the many religious references. A song written by Steve Earl Jerusalem looks hopefully to the time when the children of Abraham will reside in peace in the land of Judah while Feel the Lord explores the business of Christianity. While Mark says he’s not religious, he’s always been curious as to why people are attracted to religion, why they need that reassurance, why belief is critical and how it is intertwined with faith and hope. ‘I’ve tried to investigate events in peoples lives that occur beyond their control and how they respond to them as in Westgate, a song that tells the tale of Eddy Halsall who narrowly escaped death during the collapse of the Westgate Bridge in 1970, “I try to explore what the strengths are that people draw on”.
Hunters & Collectors were hugely successful and there must be some factors involved in ending such an outfit. At what point did you, as an artist, say ‘enough of this, time to move on?’
“I think people gradually change with time. I didn’t have some sudden overwhelming moment of clarity, but I found that things were coming out of my mouth that were very negative and my band-mates would point it out to me, I didn’t even realise I was being like that. Things were getting to me, I was frustrated and angry so we all agreed to end H&C and when we did the band handled itself extremely well and we ended with a great lot of dignity.”
It’s a small step to go from a solo act into a full band, but to go from a fully fledged touring act to a solo career must have taken a huge leap of faith. How did Seymour make the leap from group frontman to solo artist…quite gradually it seems: “It’s hard to say because I’ve been going for quite a while as a solo now. But Hunters & Collectors were a hard working band. We were touring solidly until we retired in 1998 and thinking back I think I struggled initially. There were things like deciding what kind of music I wanted to play and the identity I wanted for myself. I was seriously questioning whether there was any point but there was something about the challenge of playing solo and looking back now, I didn’t think I’d stick with it, but something kept me interested.”
He fondly recalls his first solo gig: “‘It was this tiny little bar in north Melbourne, The Public Bar, it’s a backpacker’s pub and I remember just questioning myself, it was definitely hard at that time.”
Seymour’s latest album chronicles many of life’s challenges such as marriage woes, alcoholism, love under pressure, the party lifestyle and death but for Mark, he says that one of the greatest challenges for him has been raising his two children. “Being a parent is the biggest challenge, it’s the most important thing in my life and the issues of being a responsible father and providing for my family are enormous.”
Seymour easily picks out his favourite track from the album: “‘I really love Hell Break Free a duet with Lisa Miller, I’ve always wanted to do a duet and we’d written this song and it struck me when we were mixing it that it would be great to sing this with female backings and I chose Lisa because I’ve always like her style and voice.”
About the production on the album Mark says that production is critical and it should reflect the underlying intention of the songs. “It’s really important for these songs to sound-out the empathy. Cameron McKenzie is a highly underrated producer, he gets the best possible sound reflective of the songs themselves and there is a lot of empathy in the sound.”
Mark Seymour’s Westgate is out now.