Covering All The Bases

Friendly interview covering all bases of Mark’s career from West Australia.

Author: Simon Collins, The West Australian.

Date: 5 April 2013.

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Mark Seymour covered Jackson Browne’s 1974 tune Late for the Sky not because it’s a great song (which it is) nor because it suits his voice (which it does), but because he liked the way Martin Scorsese used the tune to accompany a particularly unsettling scene in the classic film Taxi Driver.

The romantic ballad plays while Robert De Niro’s outsider Travis Bickle toys with a gun soon after committing his first homicide.

“That’s what makes it so poignant, because he’s such a goose,” Seymour says of Bickle. “I just love that context.

“He’s obviously an incredibly twisted guy, incredibly vulnerable and he’s got this pistol in his hand. The context is jarring.”

Late for the Sky joins 11 other covers of songs penned by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Otis Redding and the National on Seventh Heaven Club, Seymour’s second album recorded with his band, the Undertow.

Most of the songs date back to the late 90s, when Seymour was embarking on a solo career after nearly two decades fronting Hunters and Collectors. At his gigs, he would often throw in a few covers, such as Redding’s These Arms of Mine or the Pogues’ Lorelei.

The latter is performed as a duet with Seymour’s 16-year-old daughter Hannah on Seventh Heaven Club.

“It’s a good step to take with her because she wants to sing,” he says. “She’s been singing for quite a while now and she’s emerging as a bit of an obsessive. She’s got the urge.”

The album also includes two other duets – one with former Leonardo’s Bride singer Abby Dobson and the other with American country rock star Lucinda Williams on her caustic song, Come On.

“I couldn’t believe that happened,” Seymour explains. “I had recorded it and it was just me on my own. Someone in the food chain said ‘It would be great to have another duet’, because we had the other two down.”

The Hunnas’ frontman shot off an email to Williams’ management, with the singer quickly agreeing to sing fresh vocals for the track, which was completed via email.

Seventh Heaven Club is definitely not your typical collection of love songs – most have a dark element to them, such as Tom Petty’s Counting On You, which first appeared on his post-divorce album of 1999, Echo.

“It was really big at the same time as a Dave Dobbyn album (The Islander), which also didn’t get any attention in Australia,” explains Seymour, who covers Dobbyn’s Beside You on the new album. “I was in New Zealand at the time and I was listening to those two albums all the time.”

Seymour had no shortage of material – he shelved a few original songs once he decided to record the covers collection – and says recording Seventh Heaven Club was no different to making his previous albums.

“We went in, got more than half of it done and then made a cold appraisal of what we were doing, what it was sounding like and what the record needed,” he says of the two studio sessions in September.

Meanwhile, a host of Australian artists are recording covers of Hunters and Collectors classics for an upcoming tribute album similar to recent efforts honouring the songs of Paul Kelly and Neil and Tim Finn.

In fact, Kelly is among the contributors, recently revealing via Facebook that he has covered 1992 number True Tears of Joy.

With the likes of Crowded House and Cold Chisel doing very good business in their second comings, surely a return from Hunters and Collectors is imminent? The band has reunited for one-off shows, such as Soundwave in 2009, but a fully fledged comeback must be in the wind.

“They’re lurking around, they’re around those guys. I can’t avoid them,” Seymour laughs. “I can’t put it any more succinctly than that. They’re floating around in my world.”

The chief Hunter will continue to tour, performing at the Perth Zoo with Icehouse tonight and then alongside Guy Sebastian, Gurrumul and his old mate James Reyne at the Kimberley Moon Experience next month.

Seymour is particularly looking forward to playing in Kununurra but isn’t sure how many of the new songs might find their way into his set.

“I’ve got more material than I can shake a stick at,” he says. “You have to play songs people know, especially at those big events. There’ll be a couple. I’d like to do more but I don’t know.”

Mark Seymour plays at the Perth Zoo with Icehouse tonight (tickets from Ticketek) and the Kimberley Moon Experience in Kununurra on May 25 (Ticketmaster).