Entertainment

Ready to rock at Echuca Riverboats Music Festival

By Kimberley Price

In the ever-changing music world, the melodies and lyrics of Mark Seymour remain constant, catchy and classic.

Thrusting into the sphere of fame as lead singer of Hunters and Collectors, the singer was not only the frontman, but the brains behind classics such as Holy Grail and Throw Your Arms Around Me.

Originally from Benalla, Seymour’s writing has manifested into so much more since the disbandment of Hunters and Collectors.

From his own successful solo career to composing musical theatre pieces, there are few pies Seymour does not have his fingers in.

Seymour will be joined by his band The Undertow on the Friday night of the Riverboats Music Festival in Echuca.

And while we all know his name and his creations, music was not the initial path Seymour took.

‘‘The decision to become a musician was very quick,’’ he said.

‘‘I was already teaching and I just made a decision very fast.

‘‘It was like ‘I do not want to be a teacher’ and I had to do something else.

‘‘I felt a lot of pressure to invent something I could justify and so I just made the decision that this was something I was going to do.

‘‘I think the idea of seeing myself as a singer must’ve been in the background of my mind for a long time.

‘‘I just had a gut feeling I could pull it off — as simple as that.

‘‘I think if you’ve got a strong feeling about your own identity as an artist, it basically erupts at certain points in your life and you go, this isn’t what I want to do.’’

While it definitely was not smooth sailing into the music industry, the hard years proved to be a pivotal foundation into what was to come.

Seymour first started in a band called The Jetsonnes, but not as the singer.

After a year, the punk-rock group split and cleared the way for their new project, Hunters and Collectors.

This time as the lead singer, Seymour was not only able to tap into his desire to perform, he composed some of the greatest songs that are still popular today.

‘‘I spend a lot of time alone with the guitar and that’s always been the case,’’ he said.

‘‘I can’t control what people think songs are about and that’s the way it should be.

‘‘If a song has a sense of this real emotional traction in the story and you can sense the character — that there’s a human character in the song who’s grappling with some kind of struggle with their own sense of worth or survival — if the story feels right in its inception then it’ll generally turn into a really strong song because you know people will engage.

‘‘There’s a basic level of feeling in the song that people will engage with.

‘‘There’s basic human issues that underpin all experience and I come at them from different angles.

‘‘A song like Throw Your Arms Around Me for example, has that level of traction because it becomes part of the public consciousness.

‘‘There’s a general consciousness that that song has appealed to, which you really have to embrace and it stops being yours.

‘‘I really believe that’s an important place to get to in song writing.

‘‘A song like Holy Grail has no chorus, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

‘‘The story behind that song is just really weird.

‘‘It wasn’t rated by the record company or the band and there were arguments within the band about it not being very good for whatever reason.

‘‘I just stuck to my guns about it because I just thought the story was great and it ended up becoming this massive song.

‘‘You’ve got to trust your own judgement with that stuff.

‘‘There a bunch of songs from back in those days that are a part of my character and my identity and I’m not going to let them go.’’

Seymour does not shy away from his days in Hunters and Collectors.

The band achieved international success, legions of fans, multitudes of certifications and awards.

‘‘It’s always been challenging to rise above the reputation of the band,’’ he said.

‘‘But I am a songwriter and I have to be true to myself in that regard.

‘‘I mean my priorities and how I operate as an artist now are in a different musical landscape completely.

‘‘The line between being a solo guy and a band guy has always been a bit of a mystery to me.’’

After the band, Seymour has paved a solo career and has extended his work into other areas of the music industry.

Through composition, Seymour has his names on numerous theatre pieces that have graced metropolitan and regional stages.

‘‘I have a new theatre piece, which has my songs in it called Lamb,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s run under the umbrella of RedStitch Theatre in Melbourne and it looks like it will be doing a regional tour.

‘‘All my theatre stuff is driven by other people. Donna Jackson pretty much wrote Dust (a prominent theatre production about the dangers of asbestos, which toured across Australia), I just wrote the songs and I basically came up with material that attached to the story she was writing.’’

In reflection of his career, which professionally has spanned almost 40 years, one thing remains outstanding to the legacy of Seymour — his songs.

‘‘I remember back in the ’90s when this whole issue about whether or not my songs were getting played on the radio and I remember at the time getting all bent out of shape about it,’’ he said.

‘‘I look back and go why? Why would I ever assume I have control over that?

‘‘A lot of that has to do with your success.

‘‘When you’ve played in front of thousands and thousands of people and I’ve had people screaming and yelling for more and you think it’s all about you but it actually isn’t — it has a lot to do with the songs.

‘‘As time’s gone by and I’ve gotten older and the concerts have changed you become more aware of the importance of the songs.’’

Mark Seymour and The Undertow will take to the Riverboats stage performing a collection of old, new and famous songs on Friday, February 15.

For details, visit www.riverboatsmusic.com.au

—Benalla Ensign