Mum had the ability to unravel knots in balls of wool – she loved to knit. She had incredible patience and I always related that to her ability to calm everyone down. At home, Mum was the boss. She was the still point in the family and I learnt a lot from her as I got older, especially when it came to my own career and dealing with others.
I spent a lot of time with Mum as she approached death; that affected me and shifted my view of the world. She died from Alzheimer’s in 2015.
I have two sisters, Hilary [six years older] and Helen [two years older]. I always admired Hilary. She was the first to leave the nest and did an arts degree at Monash University. She was immersed in a culture that looked exciting to me. I was also obsessed with her collection of Bob Dylan records. When she moved into a share house in St Kilda, that hit all the wrong buttons for Dad but looked exciting to me.
Helen towed the line; she became a very effective schoolteacher at an elite level and is retired now. She is all I am not. She has a very focused mind. When we make family decisions, she’s always the first one I go to.
Mum’s first loyalty was to Dad. On some level, she might have understood my decision not to be a schoolteacher – which destroyed my father – and to become a musician. She maybe knew why I was rebelling, but was conflicted and gave Dad emotional support.
My first kiss was with a girl in year 10 in Heidelberg [in suburban Melbourne]. We had been to see a movie and I was walking her home. It happened out the front of her house on a cold, rainy winter afternoon.
I had a few strong relationships in my younger life. One of those, with a woman called May, spawned an album Hunters & Collectors are well known for, Human Frailty. In retrospect I would never conduct my artistic life in that way again and write about the events as closely as that, no matter how deeply in love. But then I wouldn’t have written [the band’s hit single] Throw Your Arms Around Me, either.
I am a big admirer of country singer Felicity Urquhart. She’s a good friend. It’s hard to find people who are grounded and aren’t pissing in your pocket in this narcissistic industry. She is one of those rare people who is strong and knows her sense of identity.
I met my wife, Jo Vautier, in 1981 at a cafe in Auckland after a Hunters & Collectors gig. We kept meeting over a long period of time and didn’t date until many years later. We married in New Zealand in 1994 and have two daughters, Eva, 26, and Hannah 23. Jo now works as a counsellor. I married for love and a lot of people don’t.
I have written many songs about Jo. There’s a song on Slow Dawn, my new album, called Joanna. It’s about us driving in New Zealand around the time Eva was conceived in her Ford Anglia, a dangerous car that was always losing brake fluid.
I never thought I’d marry. I never imagined it in my youth. The thing is, I never ruled anything out, either. Life has a capacity to cough stuff up and you’re confronted with situations. And yes, marriage felt right.
Mark Seymour and the Undertow’s album Slow Dawn is out on May 29
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale May 24.
Jane Rocca is a regular contributor to Sunday Life Magazine, Executive Style, The Age EG, columnist and features writer at Domain Review, Domain Living’s Personal Space page. She is a published author of four books.