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AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB EVANS

Dearly loved Australian singer songwriter, Bob Evans recently announced his new single Born Yesterday, a gorgeous, nostalgia-soaked rambler of a track.  Born Yesterday is also accompanied by a beautiful, glowing video clip which serves as an ode to touring during a year where it was impossible.  Bob Evans, the ARIA-winning alter ego of Jebediah frontman Kevin Mitchell, has graced the Australian music scene for more than two decades and has written some of the country’s most beloved songs and Born Yesterday will not disappoint his loyal audience.

ASH LEE CHATS WITH BOB EVANS

Ash: We love your new single Born Yesterday; can you tell us more about recording it? Was it a song that came to you complete or a long time in the making?

Evans: It was a long time in the making, which is pretty standard for me.  I think the melodic ideas and song title all came pretty quickly and then it just took a little while to fill in the story.  I knew what the sentiment of the song needed to be.  I started thinking about my late teens and early twenties living in Perth and how intense that time of our lives can be.  They are formative years and I had a lot of fun during mine, but there was also a lot of other stuff happening that was kinda scary. Now I’m 43 and those years feel so far away in my history that they almost have a dream-like quality to them when I replay them in my mind.  I wanted the song to try and capture that feeling.

Ash: What is your creative process, and how has it changed over the years?

Evans: In some ways it has changed immensely, based mostly on my changing life circumstances.  Starting a family shifts your priorities and responsibilities around and so I had to find a way to still be creative and productive in and around parenting.  That’s easier now that both my children are of school age but for a good seven or eight years there when I wasn’t away on tour I was a “stay at home Dad”, for want of a better phrase.  In many ways my creative process hasn’t changed at all.  I always start with melody.  The music part has always come easily to me but the words are something I have to sit down and really spend a lot of time on to finish a song off.  I use my mobile phone to record voice memos as ideas come to me and then I demo them at home.  I demo as if I am making the actual album and will sometimes re-record songs many times over months and years.  I mainly do this because it’s fun to me but it also has the added benefit of making me really ready when I hit the studio.

Ash: Where do you get your inspirations, and have they changed over the years?

Evans: It’s all just imagination.  I think I just have always accessed what has proven to be since I was a little kid, a pretty vivid imagination.  Of course things like relationships and general life experience help give the idea’s some weight and substance.  In that sense I don’t think my inspirations have changed much at all over the years, I think I have just gotten a bit better at expressing them or working them in an interesting direction.  I generally take more care with it all than I used to.

Ash: With no tours in 2020, do you have plans for 2021 other than the Queenscliff shows in December? Will we be seeing you back on the road for a full tour?

Evans: Absolutely.  For me, like most of us, 2020 has been a terrible year but I’m starting to feel some hope and some optimism about what lies ahead.  The album will come out early next year and I will be touring that, plus playing on shows that were rescheduled from 2020, plus a bunch of Jebediah shows as well.  So I’m feeling quite positive about 2021 being a really great and busy year and I think there will be a celebratory mood, particularly for those of us here in Victoria, because we have been denied a sense of normalcy for such a long time, the things we love in our lives will be celebrated with so much more gratitude than they were previously.

Ash: The single artwork is very Dylan-esque, was this deliberate? If so, why?

Evans: No.  It’s just a photo of me playing a show in Melbourne in 2019.  The harmonica always draws people to the Dylan reference, which is understandable and perhaps a little bit of an inspiration when I first started playing it but mostly I started using the harmonica to fill in all the instrumental sections of songs when I was playing solo shows.  From there, as I got better at playing it, it became more of an actual instrument for me rather than a blanket of noise in between the singing bits.  The photographer’s name is Tajette O’Halloran and I’ve worked with her on everything I’ve done since 2016 and will continue to do so for as long as she is willing to keep turning up!  I just think she is the most incredibly talented person and I love everything she does, both with me and all of her other work.

Artwork credit: Carl Breitkreuz

Ash: Do you have a favourite venue to play in Australia? Where and why?

Evans: I’m not sure that I have a favourite.  There are many venues around the place I enjoy.  The Grace Emily in Adelaide is an absolutely charming pub, probably my dream local.  There are venues that have sentimental value because they represent 25 years of amazing memories.  The Corner Hotel in Melbourne and the Metro in Sydney have not changed since the 90’s and every time I walk into those places my mind is flooded with a hundred different memories from various stages of my adult life.  I kind of grew up in these places so they represent to me so much more than just a place to perform.

Ash: Can you pick out your most memorable moment onstage from your long career?

Evans: Again, it’s difficult because there are too many.  If I was to concentrate just on Bob Evans, for the purpose of narrowing it down a bit, I might suggest the handful of times I’ve managed to wangle my way on the stage at the Sydney Opera House.  It’s never been for a Bob show but as part of an ensemble performing tribute concerts for Bob Dylan or The Beatles.  There is something undeniably special about the Opera House.  For me, I think it’s just that feeling you get of being part of something much bigger than you.  It makes me feel very honored and privileged and it causes me to pause and check in with the little kid I used to be and think, “huh, look at where we’ve ended up!”

Ash: Who’s your favourite new artist?

Evans: Well, she’s not really new new but when you get to my age anything that’s happened in the last 5 years is still new – Stella Donnelly is fantastic.  When I saw the video for “Tricks” I was hooked and then finally getting to see her live at Laneway Festival earlier this year with her band was everything I hoped it would be.  I’m also really excited by T’kay Maidza and Sampa the Great because they are making music that sounds to me so completely on the edge and forward thinking and Australian in a way Australia has never been represented before.

Ash: What do you like to do during your downtime?

Evans: I just like to spend it with my kids doing whatever we happen to be doing at the time.

Ash: What’s next for Bob Evans, is there a new album on the horizon?

Evans: New album out early 2021!  We recorded it in March this year so the wait is agonizing but I still love all the songs and the way it sounds.  It’s different to any of my previous albums and just sounds kind of fresh.  We tracked it with my touring band in 6 days, minimal overdubs.  Then I spent the following week recording all my vocals and adding all the other instruments.  So there is an energy and a character to this album that no other record I have made before quite has, I think because it is less crafted and more the sound of a band playing together in a room.

Ash: Thanks for chatting with me Bob, hopefully we’ll see you in Perth soon!

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