Lost & Found
Sean Sennett talks in the kind of pictures you feel. 'If I were to say to you,' he suggests, 'You know that feeling you get in your shoes when you walk down a gravel driveway?' You'd know exactly what I meant, wouldn't you? Well, that's kinda what I aim for in a song.' Lost and Found, his classic radio single of 2002, is a perfect example of the Brisbane singer-songwriter's gently evocative art. It paints a day, a place, someone you once knew. There's both nostalgia and mystery in the time-stopping tune. There's a wry smile in the middle and at the end of two minutes and 50 seconds, an emotion you can't quite describe. Lost and Found, Sean's first solo album, is the culmination of many years of honing his craft as a writer and performer, often in collaboration with some of Australia's finest: Stephen Cummings, Midnight Oil's Rob Hirst, Hunters and Collectors' Mark Seymour. 'I really loved the Beatles as a kid, that was my inspiration in a nutshell,' he says of his roots in song. 'When my dad first got a car with a cassette player we'd play Sergeant Pepper and hearing them and reading about their world was a big escape for me as a working class kid in Brisbane.' A series of university bands kept Sean's internal film projector rolling until his first single, A Girl Called Love, cracked the national airwaves in the early '90s. He hit the streets of Sydney to find "they weren't paved with gold". But they did yield some interesting friends. 'I gave Tim Finn an album's worth of stuff I'd recorded and he was very generous about it. He sat there like a schoolteacher and did a critique, then he said, 'Why don't you send it to my publisher?'' Publishing deal in hand, doors began to open. The next song Sean wrote was with Ross Wilson. The Daddy Cool/ Mondo Rock legend decided Same As Me was strong enough to include on his 30-year Greatest Hits retrospective, released in 2002. Happiness, co-written with Stephen Cummings, wound up on the debut album by Sean Sennett & Crush 76 in 1999. This Boy's Life won eager reviews and strong airplay for Sun King and Mrs John Henry but the corporate restructuring of the Festival/ Mushroom empire quickly rendered the album a collectors' item. 'It was very disheartening,' Sean says. 'I sorta realised, 'I love songs, I don't love the music business. I'm not gonna do another record'.' The funny thing about songwriters, though, is that they write songs. And if Lost and Found was any indication, some of them do it better every year. Released in (June 2002), Lost and Found quickly developed a life of it's own via high rotation airplay on Triple J, ABC and community stations nationwide. The video, taken from Robert Freedman footage of Jenny Boyd in London circa 1965, was a 'Rage' staple. Meanwhile, Sean's imagination was reeling. A trip to New York in early 2002 reignited his passion for recording and he began writing lists of titles for three distinct albums gestating in his head. The success of Lost and Found hastened their evolution into one, multi-textured reality. 'When I got back, I made an effort to get out there and work with people, to make a record I felt fit together really well, just as an exercise,' he says. 'I made a point of stepping out of my comfort zone, getting on a bus to Ballarat, calling up people like Katie Noonan (from chart-topping Brisbane band, George), working on interesting possibilities." The Ballarat connection, writer/ pianist Robert Parde, had already borne fruit with Lost and Found. He ended up co-writing four more songs, from the fast-lane screamer Bicycle to the wistful On Christmas Day, selected by Rolling Stone for their annual New Sounds CD in January. Inspiration came from farther afield in the shape of UK songwriter Nick Coler (KLF, Sugababes, Dido), who had a hand in the eerie whodunnit Sister Bright Light and the trip-hopping On A Bus or a Car or a Train. Inventive collaboration also produced the album's second single, the suitably airborne My Love Is a Kite, and the tough soul number Don't You Ever Hurt Me, both of which feature Katie Noonan's distinctive vocals and Massive Attack cohort Jeremy Allom behind the mixing desk. From the poignant, strings-enhanced balladry of Winter in August to the paranoid, spoken word closer, Saw It Like A Slow Right Hook, the result is an intriguing panorama of sounds, moods and textures underpinned by one of the finest unsung writers in Australia. 'The whole point of this record was the dream,' Sean reflects. ''Wouldn't it be great to open up my brain and come up with a record? It was the mental exercise as much as anything that attracted me. Now I listen to it and l know it's me, but I don't feel like I was there for the work. I feel like I'm just listening.'