Q+A

Q + A With Bob Evans

Dearly loved Australian singer songwriter, Bob Evans has released 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. We caught up with Bob to learn more about his creative process and what he has been up to.

H2Z: Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
BE: Hi, thanks for having me.  Today was pretty quiet actually, staying home with my oldest daughter who has a cough so couldn’t go to school.  We played some X Box. I did some interviews like this one.  The vinyl test pressings for my new album arrived in the mail today so tonight I’ll go have a listen and make sure it’s all good to go.

H2Z: You’re set to play The Pelican this weekend, how long has it been since you’ve played a live show?  How are your excitement levels?
BE: The last time I played a Bob Evans gig was at the River Boats Festival in Echuca which was in February I think?  So the best part of a year.  I’m excited to be getting back up on the old horse again but also a little nervous as these first shows back will be my first step in to the world of live gigs post Coronavirus, so it’s going to be very different and strange.  I’m playing 3 sets in one day, which I’ve never done before.  They bring in an audience, everyone is seated at tables and socially distanced, I play and then they clear them all out and bring in the next lot and off we go again.  I’m relieved to be able to go back to work and I think in terms of the strangeness of it all, I think I will just lean in to it and embrace the novelty of it all.  I mean, it’s been a very challenging year, I hope we can all have a laugh about it still.

H2Z: Who are your greatest inspirations?  Why?
BE: Well, apart from the many hundreds of bands and songwriters over the years that have left an impression and given me something to aim towards, I’m probably most inspired by the people closest to me.  These days that’s my wife and kids.  In the old days it was my mates and girlfriends.  I suppose in more recent times I’ve become more interested in writing about the social and cultural environment that I’m in although I’m not terribly interested in protest songs as such.  I feel more confident these days with my ability to find the words to comment on things but in a less literal way.  I listen to a lot of great lyricists these days, which I didn’t care much about when I was younger and it was all about the energy and the melody.

H2Z:How do you create music?  Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first?  Explain your process. 
BE: Both?  The music and the melody does always come first and often words will fall out during that immediate dump of ideas, which often happens very quickly.  Song writing for me is almost like dropping a glass and then trying to pick up all the pieces and put them back together again, in that the initial inspiration comes almost as if by accident and then I need to try and make some sense of it and fashion it in to a song.  It can sometimes take me months or even years to finish a song with words.  The words are the labour part, the hard graft.  Everything before that still happens pretty easy.  It’s the lyrics that force me to sit and think and use my brain a bit more.

H2Z: What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
BE: Well certainly as far as performing goes, COVID is by the far the most challenging thing I’ve had to face. Nothing has ever wiped out nearly a year of gigs in the space of a few days.  The biggest challenge I’ve faced in creating music has probably been fatherhood because your priorities shift and your work habits are tested and it can be quite difficult to see a way through it all.  With time though, I guess like most things, it works itself out.  My kids are both at school now which makes things much easier as I have my days back again.

H2Z: Tell us about ‘BORN YESTERDAY’, how did it come about?
BE: Well, I think the melody and structure just fell out very quickly and I think I had the words for the title around the same time.  It was clear the kind of sentiment the song was mining.  It took a little while to fill in all the gaps lyrically but I feel like the song is more about expressing a feeling than it is about telling a story, although you could easily find one if you were looking for it.  The original demo recording had a guitar solo in it but when we were in the studio we kept putting it off and just leaving it empty.  I think Steve, the producer and I were both waiting for something better to come along.  That something became a saxophone solo, which was just the perfect final touch, it expresses the sentiment of the song with so much more depth and emotion that a guitar solo could have.

H2Z: What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out? 
BE: Advice is tricky because we are all on our own individual paths. The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum and what might be right for you may not be right for some, you know? It takes different strokes. So all I would say is, try not to be a dick. Build a community of like minded musicians who support each other and make your own scene. Treat everyone with respect and kindness and generosity as much as you can, (we are all allowed to have bad days, none of us are perfect). People remember when you’ve acted like a dick or been really nice and generous and you never know when that lady working behind the bar will become the manager of Australia’s biggest musical export, (true story). The point is, try your best to treat everyone the way you would like to be treated, regardless of where their job description might fit into your quest for stardom.  

H2Z: Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
BE: Sleep, does that count?  Breathing, that’s important.  I find that if I’m really nervous and it’s getting the better of me, to the point of physically shaking, closing my eyes and taking long, slow, deep breaths really does help.  I’ve been walking along the beach a lot more this year during lockdown.  Getting down to the beach is the only time I feel that closeness to nature.  It’s a fairly rugged surf beach looking out to Bass Strait, so the waves can really thunder as they break and the atmosphere in the air can be quite charged and electric.  It can really bring you out of yourself, get you out of your own thoughts I suppose and clear your mind.

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More about Bob Evans

Born Yesterday is perfect for that classic Aussie drive to the beach – it feels like summer holidays.  Glistening guitars spread luxuriously as Mitchell’s idiosyncratic vocal hits those brilliant notes in the hook-laden chorus – then the track hits unprecedented highs with a killer sax solo right in the middle of the song.  Produced by Steven Schram (Paul Kelly, Kate Miller-Heidke), Born Yesterday is a stunning addition to the Bob Evans discography, as Mitchell explains the inspiration behind the song, “I was backstage at a Jebediah gig when an old housemate from Perth messaged me with a link to our old share house we lived in that was for sale.  We couldn’t believe it when looking through the photos of the house that it hadn’t changed at all since we lived there in the late 90’s.  What followed was a slew of messaging between us, as well as the other two friends I used to live with in that house.  It was my first share house after leaving home and the whole exchange between us and seeing the house again just brought back a lot of great memories from that time and age, my late teens and early twenties.  I already had the music for the song pretty much written at that stage so all I needed was the lyric to go with it.  It’s a deeply nostalgic song for me, looking back at a stage of my life that feels so long ago now, but at the time it felt like it would last forever.”

The clip for Born Yesterday captures this nostalgia flawlessly.  Shot as though on a vintage super 8 camera, the viewer follows the Bob Evans touring party through gigs, travel, and recording, as the handwritten lyrics fade in and out as the melodies pass.  It’s a perfect reflection of the mood of the song, as Mitchell describes, “My friend Arlo Cook has been taking footage of me at shows and in the studio for years and he came in to the studio while we were recording and took footage, not with anything in particular in mind.  I knew the song would really suit a more abstract kind of video, because it’s about memories, so lots of home made visual snapshots was how I imagined it and then as COVID happened and lockdowns happened, it became more and more obvious that we should make that kind of video.  So it mixes footage from the last few years with footage from during lockdown.  There’s even a couple of seconds of my two kids at the beach in there as well.  It will forever be a document of this strange year we’ve lived through, which I’m really happy to have captured.”

Born Yesterday is out now via Dew Process.
Bob Evans is Kevin Mitchell.

BOB EVANS SHOWS

SAT 12 DEC | THE PELICAN BAR, QUEENSCLIFF, VIC | 18+ | 3:00-5:00pm

Tickets available from https://www.thepelicanbar.com.au/tickets

SAT 12 DEC | THE PELICAN BAR, QUEENSCLIFF, VIC | 18+ | 5:30-7:30pm – SOLD OUT

Tickets available from https://www.thepelicanbar.com.au/tickets

SAT 12 DEC | THE PELICAN BAR, QUEENSCLIFF, VIC | 18+ | 8:00-10:00pm – SOLD OUT

Tickets available from https://www.thepelicanbar.com.au/tickets

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