The one thing in the music business that you can’t fake is sincerity. Fortunately Mark Seymour has that particular attribute in spades. His new release Roll Back The Stone proves it.
The 24-song live recording chronicles Seymour’s 30 plus years as an Aussie music icon, spanning his time with Hunters and Collectors, his solo years and his most recent collaboration with his band, The Undertow.
The album showcases unpretentious and earnest song writing that confirms his ability to remain true to his musical and lyrical values. Those of us who remember his early days with “the Hunters” may wonder how those 30 years have flown by, but one listen to the record leaves the listener in no doubt that the quality of his songwriting over that period has never diminished.
He writes with heart and with instinct, leaving his audience in no doubt that this is a man with an unstoppable belief in his craft and a determination to tell stories passionately.
For Seymour the writing process is the engine that drives everything. “I have the iPhone ready to record any idea wherever and whenever the inspiration strikes me,” he muses. “If I wasn’t writing all the time I would probably give the game away. It’s just something I feel driven to do.”
Mark Seymour's solo career continued a record of impressive songwriting
“In the early years, before the Hunters really took off, we were quite arty and experimental. It wasn’t until I wrote ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ that things changed. It was the first time I had written a straight pop ballad and the Human Frailty album in 1986 was when I really found my songwriting groove,” he says.
So how has his writing changed over the years? “As you get older you know what burrows not to go down. I know if I try to experiment too far outside of what I am good at, it only creates unnecessary angst, so I have learned to avoid that and to play to my strengths.”
“My writing is always driven by the lyrics and the ideas just seem to subconsciously bubble up from the things I am interested in, or the books I read and even just from my own cultural background and upbringing. I love just exploring language. It’s something I do intuitively.”
His affinity with folk music has also emerged in his writing, beautifully showcased in his recent appearance on ABC TV’s Q&A program, where he performed ‘Master of Spin’; a gritty folk tale that Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie or Neil Young would have been proud of.
“The show’s producers picked that track thinking it was about Donald Trump, but I actually wrote the song in 2007 after I had been reading some history on the Russian cold war leader, Nikita Khrushchev. I guess it fits the current situation just as well.”
Seymour is generous in his admiration of his band, The Undertow. “I didn’t want the new record to just be a collection of remasters of the back catalogue that would perhaps sound a bit fragmented. So we made the decision to take a different angle and do it live.”
“Fortunately the band are all serious musicians who weren’t intimidated doing the old Hunter’s tracks. They slipped into them effortlessly and really owned them. I think they brought freshness to the sound because they were doing it for the right reasons.”
Roll Back The Stone is sprinkled with his familiar rock anthems, such as ‘Holy Grail’, ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’, ‘When The River Runs Dry’, ‘True Tears of Joy’ and ‘Say Goodbye’.
Classics like 'Holy Grail' get a revamp on Roll Back The Stone
Those of us less familiar with his post-Hunters and Collectors work will be richly rewarded with the selection of solo and Undertow songs that complement those classics and reflect a consistent depth of writing and compelling musicality.
Audiences are still enthusiastic about Seymour’s live performances and will be able to sample this during his tour between June and August this year to support the new release.
So how does he characterise the audiences of today? “We get a range of audience types and ages, dependent on the venue. It can be anything from retired couples to kids,” he laughs.
“I am fairly relaxed about the vibe at gigs and just focus on playing, but people seem to be enjoying the shows. Sometimes we can go into smaller towns where you might think people are not going to be familiar with the material, but they end up going wild, so it must be working.”
For tour dates and album details, visit markseymour.com.au.
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