Vivid Tales of Everyday Heroes
A “Westgate” era interview with Mark Seymour, about his direction.
Author: Nui Te Koha.
Date: 24 June 2007.
Original URL: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21950665-5006024,00.html
Mark Seymour turned 50 last July.
“I didn’t feel anything particularly apocalyptic,” he says. “But I’m definitely aware of becoming a more serious person. My outlook is changing.
“I think my music has to service a purpose rather than my own personal feelings or angst.”
That is an understatement.
His personal and professional rethink now extends to a facet of the industry that took Seymour and his anthems to the masses.
Seymour, the former Hunters and Collectors frontman, has quit writing for commercial radio.
“I’ve closed that door,” he says.
“I’m going to please myself now.
“I’m going to make music that goes right out on a spiral. I’ll make music I want to hear.”
Seymour’s new album, Westgate, is a tasty start to this new agenda. Lyrically, it’s about everyday heroes.
The title track is a sincere narrative of a real-life worker who was on duty when the West Gate Bridge collapsed on October 15, 1970. Thirty-five construction workers were killed.
As Seymour researched for the song, he became open to digging deeper for other stories.
These include the rousing Year of the Dog, initially a football song for the Western Bulldogs, that became the saga of a friend with a drink problem.
Westgate rolls like a country record: vivid tales and simple song structures.
Yet, as Seymour kisses off commercial radio, he still writes very likable tunes with massive hooks.
“I always considered my music had a commercial dimension and I’m always interested in reaching as wide an audience as possible.
“But radio controls the marketplace and once that door closed for me and for my new material, I had to grapple with the whole question of — what’s the reason? Why am I doing this?
Was Seymour bitter about this?
“Absolutely,” he laughs. “But if you want to stay in this game and grow as an artist, you have to accept the whole package of who you are emotionally.
“It’s a tough business. It’s more important to really focus on why I’m making music, accept the fact I have all these feelings and move forward, rather than do some self-help program or drop out of the music industry.
“That happens to a lot of people like me. They get to a certain point and think: ‘I can’t do this any more. There is nowhere to park my ego’.”
But Seymour’s character studies for Westgate allude to those new priorities.
“I’m trying to draw attention to the strength of human character,” he says.
“I’ve told a series of stories about people who are confronting great adversity in their lives and describing how they come to grips with those challenges.
“Storytelling is becoming important to me. I think songs need to point to critical emotional issues that everybody can share.”
Westgate is out now.