We Chat With Mark Seymour

Mark Seymour talks about the Seventh Heaven Club album and the path that led to it.

Author: Paul Busch, Tonedeaf.

Date: 23 April 2013.

Original URL: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/features/interviews/295881/mark-seymour.htm


Article Text

You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs, maybe? Or possibly because love drags you into every emotion possible, the songs that some consider love songs, others may not.

This simple four letter word has sparked songwriters for eons to capture the loss, the beauty, the absence of it, and put on display how it has impacted their lives. Love hurts and then it does not.

Mark Seymour has penned one of Australian’s most famous love songs, “Throw Your Arms Around Me”, from the Hunters And Collectors Human Frailty album.

For his latest solo release, Seymour has his grip on love once again, but not love that he has written about, but songs that express his feelings about that emotion today. The idea was one that was not totally accepted by his record company at first.

“It sort of surprised a few people. When I first went to the record company and said I wanted to record a collection of love songs,” explains the 56-year-old. “I did not really know that it was going to be all covers. When I put the idea to the them about recording a batch of love songs you could see this flicker on their faces that they were a bit put off by the thought,” Seymour says.

“People get this idea in their head when you refer to a love song as though it is going to have some affirmative energy within it that is going to reassure them that everything is OK and that we are all going to go to heaven,” he explains.

“The thing is, when songwriters actually compose love songs there is so much territory and information that just goes by the listener that they don’t absorb or they don’t put that song into that category.”

The artists he has chosen to cover here are not ones to hold back their emotions. With a roll call that includes Tom Petty, Johnette Napoletano, Neil Young, Lucinda Williams and Jackson Browne, you know that some of these renditions are going to contain fountains of sorrow, loss, anger, and angst.

Many of the numbers he’s chosen to record have been with Seymour for some time. They have not always entered his life as a fan or a follower of a band. They have seeped in or come around again through the years.

“A lot of the material I had heard peripherally and they were not necessarily songs or artists that I would have identified with at certain ages in my life,” he details, “particularly Jackson Browne for example.”

“The thing with “Late For The Sky”, I was living in a university share flat and someone else was into him. I used to think that all that West Coast Californian stuff was just shit and I was just this arrogant little knob who was into the Sex Pistols. Sensitivity and vulnerability and all that stuff was not for me,” Seymour recalls.

While watching the movie Taxi Driver one night, Seymour heard the song again in one of the classic scenes where Travis Bickle (Robert Deniro) is watching American Bandstand with a gun in his hand while the song is playing.

Seymour was galvanised by the sound of the melancholic electric guitar and discovered that sure enough it was Jackson Browne. He ‘got’ the song immediately and fell in love with it.

“I asked myself ‘why did I hate it when I was 18 and what has changed for me and why am I interested in this now?’ That got me thinking that there is a whole landscape of material I could step up to and sing at the age of 56 that would really be a marker in how I have developed as an artist and a person,” muses the songwriter.

“In many ways it would show people that this is where I am at and how I have evolved from that man who played in a band in front of thousands of people.”

The album, entitled The Seventh Heaven Club, is a soulful record – played by Seymour and The Undertow; a band that can evoke power without playing too many notes.

Along with Cameron Mckenzie on guitars, John Favaro on bass, and Peter Maslen on drums, Seymour has collected a group that has produced a powerful and warm sound throughout this collection.

Love is also about duets and there are a few on this record. Seymour’s teenaged daughter, Hannah, shares vocal duties on a charming cover of “Lorelei” initially done by The Pogues.”

“Getting Over You”, originally performed by Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt, gives Abby Dobson (Leonardo’s Bride) and Mark Seymour a chance to shine, their voices working so well together.

Lucinda Williams has written so many of her songs about the hard road of love. Her ability to snarl is equally matched with Seymour’s growl on the cover of “Come On”. The question is: how did he rope her into joining him on the record?

“That was pure chutzpah really,” he replies firmly. “We had already recorded it and the song was filled with anger and darkness and attitude. My manager and I thought this song needed to be a duet.”

“Having a woman interjecting within it could make it sound something, like a Sonny and Cher record or along those lines. So I just sort of wrote that in an email and we sent it off to her management, even though I had never met or spoken to her,” Seymour continues.

“We got a reply back and she just loved the idea and she recorded three takes in Nashville and we put them into the track.”

The other compositions featured – penned by Rick Danko, Dave Dobbyns, Otis Redding and others – aim to bring the listener closer to what love is all about.

Seymour may have evolved from the person he was but he is still the singer that he used to be and that voice will pull you in through each of these beautiful numbers.

The Seventh Heaven Club is out now through Liberation. Mark Seymour & The Undertow are on tour around the country through ’til August. Dates and details below.


Mark Seymour & The Undertow 2013 Australian Tour Dates

26/04/13 Caravan Music Club, VIC
27/04/13 Lardner Park Exhibition Centre, VIC
10/05/13 The Basement, NSW
11/05/13 Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, NSW
18/05/13 The Sphinx, VIC
30/05/13 Wellers of Kangaroo Ground, VIC
31/05/13 The Hawthorn Hotel, VIC
01/06/13 Ferntree Gully Hotel, VIC
20/06/13 Newport Hotel , VIC
22/06/13 Ravenswood Hotel, WA
22/06/13 Charles Hotel, WA
23/06/13 New Boab Tavern High Wycombe , VIC
19/07/13 Lizottes – Dee Why Sydney, NSW
20/07/13 Lizottes Kincumber – Live N Cookin @ Lizottes
21/07/13 Lizottes Newcastle – Live & Cookin @ Lizottes
08/08/13 Noosa Heads Surf Club, QLD
09/08/13 Hamilton Hotel , QLD
10/08/13 Racecourse Hotel , QLD

For tickets and details head to: markseymour.com.au