Australian life is a little upside down from America. Christmas happens during the summer, water swirls counterclockwise in a kitchen drain, and today’s date is represented 12 June 2019. Thus, it makes sense that two guys from the suburbs of Sydney — Tom Jordan and Mitch Thompson, of the RCA Nashville duo Seaforth — would write a little differently than Tennessee songwriters.
“In Nashville, it usually starts with the title and talking about a story first,” says Thompson. “Tom and I kind of write the music behind it first and then figure out what the emotion is and then mix it together, so [in Nashville], we’re working with people that write stories first and we are writing the opposite. It actually jells well because we can get it done a little quicker.”
That upside-down approach may become significant. Seaforth’s first U.S. single, “Love That,” is a melodic, hook-filled singalong about an uncertain relationship that is never quite resolved. The story overtly mixes emotional pleasure and pain, and it’s addictive in the same way that The Beatles’ seminal “She Loves You” hooked American listeners in another era: with a yeah, yeah, yeah.
The descending “yeah, yeah, yeah” in the “She Loves You” chorus created a playful signature for The Fab Four in their early conquest of the United States, and Seaforth’s more staccato take on the phrase — an add-on to the already-catchy “Love That” chorus — has quickly become a trademark for it, too.
“When we played it live, people would remember that song,” notes Jordan. “The whole ‘ah, yeah, yeah, yeah’ thing is a cool moment for the crowd. It’s just fun.”
That’s an ideal Seaforth has specifically chased. Jordan and Thompson were friends through their youth but worked separately until this decade when they decided to pursue Nashville, the adopted home of their longtime inspiration Keith Urban. Seaforth booked a songwriting trip to Music City in 2017, and it marked its first attempt at co-writing with anyone from outside the duo. The pair met up with Tree Vibez/Big Machine writer Daniel Ross and Riser House staff writer Michael Whitworth and turned out “Love That” in an afternoon of music-making and beer.
“Tom jumped on the keyboard on the computer and was just messing with some random, mucky synth sounds, and we just started jamming to that and riffing melodies over the top of that,” recalls Thompson.
One of the duo’s conversational catch phrases — “Love that!” — matched as a title. It led to some all-important questions: What do we love? And why? And those questions, in turn, led to an unequal romantic scenario surrounding a guy who’s completely infatuated with a woman who controls their undefined relationship: She stays over on weekends, but won’t commit and keeps their escapades hidden from her friends. From the outside, it sounds as if she’s playing him. But the guy is totally hooked — ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
“There’s something addictive about that stage where you don’t know what it is and it’s kind of fickle and it could be gone at any minute,” says Thompson. “But that’s why that chase is so addictive.”
Resolution isn’t only out of reach in the storyline; it’s likewise teased but undelivered in the musical components of “Love That.” The song plays with the four chord, the five chord and the six-minor — fairly standard building blocks in a typical key signature — but it never fully delivers a resounding one chord, which is where most progressions head. “It hits like a one over a three [in the bass],” allows Jordan, “but it never goes to the one. It dances around it.”
“The idea,” adds Thompson, “is like at the end of a phrase, the melody leads into the next part. It doesn’t sound like it’s resolved. We want to hear the next part, but then, ‘OK, that’s not finished either. Well, now I’m at the chorus.’ You want to keep people wanting more until the next section.”
The structure was a bit upside down, too. The two-line pre-chorus led nicely into a drop chorus — the energy actually receded instead of amping up, despite the sticky quality of the “You know I love that” hook — and they worked with it for a short time before the “aw, yeah, yeah, yeah” chant brought it home.
“One of us — I think it was me, but I don’t like claiming things — was just, ‘Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah’ in the middle, and everyone looked at each other like, ‘OK, that’s good,’ ” recalls Thompson. “And then we ended up making that kind of a gang vocal situation that hints that we want people to sing along.”
Within a few days, Ross finished a demo and sent it to Seaforth after the guys had returned to Australia. It turned out much more poppy than they had expected, and they initially thought it was better for someone else. But after living with it for a bit, the pair asked Ross to give it some country flavor. Once they got the second version back, they put even more real instruments on it.
Seaforth earned interest from several labels before signing with RCA, though it had to wait a good six months before it got its visas and moved to Nashville in October 2017. In the meantime, Sony Music Nashville chairman/CEO Randy Goodman hooked the act up with Urban’s producer, Dann Huff (Brett Young, Rascal Flatts), and he helped bring “Love That” all the way home.
One of the chief alterations was made to the vocals — even though Seaforth is a duo, so many voices had been layered onto the harmony sections that they sounded bigger than two guys. “When I heard their demos, I really couldn’t distinguish their personalities, so that was one of my focuses,” says Huff. “Mitch is the higher of the singers —it’s pretty obvious what he does. And Tom, I thought that’s their secret weapon because he has such a gravelly voice, and I think it’s astounding, two singers like that.”
Rock drummer Jerry Roe and bass player Jimmie Lee Sloas provided some attitude, playing along with a few stems from their demo. Jordan looped a complicated guitar pattern underneath, and he worked with studio player Derek Wells to create a layered, Southern rock-tinged guitar solo.
The final vocal performance had them singing with just two voices again on the chorus, but they stacked gang vocals to the ceiling when it came to the “ah, yeah, yeah, yeah” signature. “The technical term is it’s ‘a shit ton of vocals,’ ” says Huff with a laugh. “That’s their rock or pop influence. They knew exactly what they were going to do on their background vocals once we got their leads. I set them up with an engineer and said, ‘Go have at it.’ ”
Once audiences picked up on the “ah, yeah, yeah, yeah” singalong part, “Love That” seemed an obvious first single. RCA shipped it to country radio via PlayMPE on April 29. “It sounds like Seaforth to me,” says Jordan. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and the song doesn’t either, which I think is a cool way to introduce ourselves into the market.”
And it might just turn the duo’s world upside down again.