He’s ready to throw his arms around Riverboats

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Kim­ber­ley Price

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

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

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

From his own suc­cess­ful solo ca­reer to com­pos­ing mu­si­cal the­atre pieces, there aren’t too many pies Mark doesn’t have his fin­gers in.

Mark 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 wasn’t the ini­tial path Mark 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 wasn’t smooth sail­ing into the mu­sic in­dus­try, the hard years proved to be a piv­otal foun­da­tion into what was to come.

Mark first started in a band called The Jet­sonnes — ex­cept not as the singer.

Af­ter a year, the punkrock group split and cleared the way for their new project, Hun­ters & Col­lec­tors.

This time as the lead singer, Mark 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.’’

Mark doesn’t shy away from his days in Hun­ters & Col­lec­tors.

To­gether with the band, they 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, Mark has paved a solo ca­reer and has ex­tended his work into other ar­eas of the mu­sic in­dus­try.

Through com­po­si­tion, Mark has his names on numer­ous the­atre pieces that have graced both 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 Mark 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 & The Un­der­tow will take to the Riverboats stage per­form­ing a col­lec­tion of old, new and very fa­mous songs on Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 15. For more de­tails, visit www.river­boatsmu­sic.com.au

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