Bob Evans: It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary
Bob Evans, front man of Perth indie band Jebediah, speaks with Ashlea Maher ahead of his Shepherd’s Bush gig this week.
"Isn’t it funny how life imitates art sometimes?”
Simply speaking the wise words of Oscar Wilde, Australian singer-songwriter Kevin Mitchell is every bit the man playing the part of a musical evolutionist.
The front man of Perth indie band Jebediah has been writing, recording and performing his unique brand of alternate country pop under the name Bob Evans for a decade.
Suburban Kid (2003) and Suburban Songbook (2006) were released to the delight of fans and critics alike, and have created a place for Bob Evans in the hearts and history books of Australian music culture.
Being scooped up by a major recording label, earning an ARIA as ‘Best Contemporary Male Artist’ following the release of his second album, Mitchell said the pressure was on to deliver with the recent release of his third LP, Goodnight, Bull Creek! (GNBC).
Leaving his childhood suburban landscape of naivety and innocence behind, Mitchell pondered some serious subjects to differentiate from the “love letter” songwriting style of Suburban Songbook.
“I guess things changed with the last album because it was moderately successful, so this album came out on that small wave of new found popularity I was experiencing meaning people actually expected something this time, which was a terrifying feeling,” Mitchell said.
Fuelled by a sense of being lost at sea during a bout of depression, the leading single Pasha Bulker compares Mitchell’s feelings of isolation to the infamous grounding of the massive bulk carrier on Nobbys Beach in Newcastle Australia in 2007.
Further, Brother O Brother began as his thoughts on Sorry Day 2008 and grew into a song about inequality in the world.
“I think I was tentatively figuring things out on the first album but on the second one I was far more confident about trying new ideas and taking risks…the new album is a little less thematic that the last one. There are more unusual left turns stylistically because I didn’t want to repeat myself,” he said.
“The three albums are very much the kid, the adult and the old man.”
However he said it is strictly evolution, not revolution. “I write about how I feel and what I think about things. If you really wanted to ‘make a difference’ as an artist on some kind of political or social level you would be better of being much more obvious about your message and really driving it home, like John Lennon or John Butler,” Mitchell said.
“I’m not ready to start preaching…I like to think that by expressing all these good feelings about love in my songs it might promote something positive amongst the people listening to them.”
GNBC debuted at #22 in the national charts in April, with Mitchell nominated for ‘Best Male Artist’ and ‘Best Male Contemporary Album’ in this year’s ARIA awards.
“One guy said online “Kevin Mitchell can fuck off and die” but I don’t think that was really about the record,” he said, seeming to shy away from gloating about his accomplishments.
“I think he was talking about me in general and about all my work over the years. Still, it was pretty matter of fact and certainly the most straight up, to the point criticism I’ve ever read about myself.”
Mitchell is currently in Europe supporting contemporary rock pals Eskimo Joe as they tour their latest album Inshalla, and has made time to include a special solo showcase in London before heading home for his first ever arena-style gigs supporting Keith Urban.
Mitchell’s last London gig in 2007 was in the underground Heavenly Social club.
“It was a tiny room but totally packed out,” Mitchell recalled. “It was like playing in a lounge room, so much fun. People sang along and requested songs which meant they actually knew who I was.”
He hoped to have the same experience this time. “Last time I had so much fun, it was honestly one of my favourite shows of all time so I just want to make sure it’s intimate and fun, like a good date.”
Kevin Mitchell aka Bob Evans plays the Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush on October 20.