Now the Voice
Mark Seymour talks about forming The Undertow and the Seventh Heaven Club album.
Author: Michael Smith, themusic.com.au.
Date: 16 April 2013.
It’s been 15 years since Mark Seymour released anything under a collective band name, but with his latest release, he’s officially introducing The Undertow. He talks to Michael Smith.
The Undertow is guitarist Cameron McKenzie, bass player John Favaro and drummer Peter Maslen and, on Mark Seymour’s ninth post-Hunters & Collectors album, Seventh Heaven Club, his first covers album, he’s officially introducing with a co-credit in the artist name on the cover. It’s a collection of love songs about half of which he’s performed live over the last 14 years that have been, in his words, “signposts of honesty, eloquence and relevance”.
“My audiences are just so varied,” Seymour explains. “I’ve got two or three reasons why I made this record, but that’s kind of one of them. I sort of felt like I’d reached a stage in my career where my voice has become the most defining aspect of how people have recognised me. And even though I write songs, I just think my sound has become almost as significant for what I’m known for. I wanted to make a point about my voice – no one else is gonna do it,” he laughs. “My voice has just changed so dramatically over that time. It’s been the servant of many masters, my voice, you know. I can scream but, so what? There’s plenty of attitude in it, believe me.
“The other day [back in February when he conducted this interview] I did a show in South Australia – it was A Day On The Green – and it was just full of all these people sittin’ around in the sun scratching themselves. They were fine, but I mean really the set just contained material covering more than 30 years of work and there were a handful of people up the front who actually knew the last two albums [2007’s Titanic and 2011’s Undertow]. Two weeks before I was playing to 300 people in a pub in Queensland and they’re singing along to the last two albums and stuff, that’s it. And the Hunters material, which I keep playing, though I play some pretty obscure Hunters songs and they knew them as well. So, I just decided I’d go out on a limb and do something really different, and make it my own; just find these songs, park them in front of the band and say, ‘Have a go at this, see what happens’.”
While it’s very much a Seymour and band album, Seventh Heaven Club includes guest vocal appearances including American queen of alt.country Lucinda Williams joining in on his version of her song Come On, Abby Dobson on Getting Over You, and Seymour’s youngest daughter, Hannah, on opening track, Lorelei.
“I think that my starting point was the Dave Dobbyn song [Beside You]. I targeted that – that was gonna be on the next record. I do this thing where I look around for a song that kind of defines an aspect of what I’m gonna bring to the craft in my own work; I’ll do that, commit to that, just use it as a sort of jumping off point. So the Dave Dobbyn song was really critical to me, and then someone said to me why didn’t I do Lorelei – that’s been a longtime live track – and then I couldn’t decide and recorded them both and the next one was the Jackson Browne song [Late For The Sky]. I was actually watching the DVD of Taxi Driver and I just thought, ‘Shit I’d love to sing that’. I was really getting into the idea of just finding these fantastic torch songs and just singing them, and the fact that I’d recorded the other two made me think, ‘I actually really like doing this – I’m really enjoying it’.”
Mark Seymour will be playing the following dates:
Thursday 18 and Friday 19 April – Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
Sunday 21 April – Stone Music Festival, ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park NSW
Friday 26 April – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 18 May – Sphinx Hotel, Geelong VIC