It’s hard to believe Mark Seymour has been a mainstay on the Australian music scene for nearly 35 years. Since forming Hunters and Collectors in 1981, Seymour’s voice has dominated Australian music, with the band releasing a score of unforgettable tunes including ‘Do You See What I See?’, ‘Holy Grail’, and ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. They were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame by none other than Peter Garrett in 2005 and their music is covered by everyone from pub bands to Crowded House to Pearl Jam.
In the late 1990’s, the Aussie music world was rocked by the news that the band was breaking up, with Seymour setting out on a solo career. “The band had pretty much run its course,” he explained.
“We were struggling to get songs played on the radio even though the live and touring side was still solid right up to when we finished – but that, combined with the fact that I just wanted to write songs in a different environment pushed me over the line I suppose. I decided that I wanted to play my own records.”
“When I first went solo it was a completely new thing. I don’t think I was really prepared for it because basically I had to start from scratch but as the years have gone by I’ve realised that it’s all part of one story for me and it all revolves around the songwriting so it’s been a gradual evolution but you have to be flexible in this game and adapt which I’ve done and now it’s pretty solid. We’re touring all the time and booked to the end of the year so things are going pretty well.”
After so many years fronting a large scale (in terms of members as well as music) rock band, you would think that going back to solo would take some of the effect off your personal enjoyment, but Seymour says it wasn’t as difficult a transition as you would think. “I suppose musically it’s a different thing,” he agreed. “You’re playing with other people in a band and you’re negotiating space but it doesn’t really feel that different to me. At the end of the day I’m getting up and singing and the same things are going through my mind. I do quite alot of work just on my own but we mix and match it so much that it all merges together.”
With a relatively new album, ‘Seventh Heaven Club’ out and doing the rounds, Seymour returns to Cairns to play at the Tanks on Friday, July 4, bringing with him an album of other artists tunes, namely love songs. “The last couple of original albums I’ve done have had a cover song on them,” he explained.
“I try to pinpoint a song that I think has some of the ideas that I’m trying to get out of my own work on each album. When I started working on ‘Seventh Heaven Club’ it was initially going to be a new record, which I am actually working on now. There’s a song by Dave Dobbyn, a New Zealand writer, that I’ve always liked called ‘Beside You’ and I always wanted to record it so I finally did with a view to putting it on the new record and someone said ‘why don’t you release Loralei’, which is an old Pogues song I do and when I got asked that question it just sort of hit me. All the way through my career there have been songs that I have had in my set that have come and gone and they all happen to have been love songs and I just decided ‘let’s go look at that and see what it actually means to me as an artist’. So all the songs on this record have been in my set at one time or another. Some of them have been alot more popular than others so I ended up collating about 18 songs and deleted some that didn’t work out as well as others and I ended up with this record.”
Fans can expect to see a diverse selection of songs from Seymour’s career to date in his performance, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “There’s a smattering of old songs in the set,” he said.
“Our shows are tailored to what the audience wants us to play really and I’ve got a pretty substantial catalogue of material to gleen from.
The last three solo albums are featured pretty heavily but I’ve got songs on it going right back to 1981 from the early days of Hunters and Collectors and it’s all in there. I change the set list every night to try and keep it as fresh as possible. There are a couple of songs in the set from the upcoming record but we haven’t recorded it yet. We’re still in the process of demoing and I’m still writing for it actually. It’s going to be called Mayday and hopefully will be out early next year.”
Mark Seymour and the Undertow play at The Tanks on Friday July 4.
Tickets are $35 and can be bought through www.ticketlink.com.au or phone 1300 855 835