Meet Bob Evans: Aussie Indie-Folk Singer-Songwriter

He’s been singing his sweet nothings to audiences since his solo debut in 1998 as Bob Evans – which isn’t even his real name. Originally part of much-loved Aussie indie-rock group Jebediah in the nineties, Kevin Mitchell made the switch to solo naturally, with a long-held love for performing to audiences, no matter the context.

With his first album released in 2003, Kevin has now launched a total of five studio albums. His latest record, set to be released next week (October 5th), celebrates his musical career, with a personal collection of his own favourites. Full Circle features some of Evan’s top tracks, including ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’ and ‘Someone So Much’ as well as some of his favourite covers over the years.

We spoke to Bob in the leadup to the release, and his upcoming Australian tour to chat about his beginnings, the Jebediah days and his alter-ego Bob. He’s set to play The Gov on Friday 26 October.

When did you start playing music?

I started writing songs in my imagination when I was about 12. I didn’t play any instruments…it was purely an imagination thing. Soon after I turned 12, I started taking guitar lessons in my first year of high school. From there, I played and wrote all the time. I guess as a teenager, like anything, you have fantasies about [performing] in real life…I would pretend I was performing on a stage or on TV, but they were childhood fantasies.

When was a turning point for you in your music career?

It only really became real when Jedediah started. I was seeing all these other bands on stage and thinking ‘this is something I could do’…If I did have dreams of doing it for a living, they were always very modest ones.

Jebediah formed when I was in my first year of university – we entered this campus band competition which we won…that helped us get gigs. From there, it was this quick succession of opportunities coming our way. It happened really fast – within a year of forming, we’d signed to a major label, and then two years later, we brought the album out. We were so young and it was happening so quickly…we didn’t really have time to process what was going on.

Jebediah (Kevin Mitchell middle). Photo: Jebediah Facebook, courtesy of  Sean McDonald Photography

On Jebediah’s success…

I think it’s all about timing…we were just at the right place at the right time. I think we were probably very marketable and I think that’s why major labels were in a hurry to sign us. We weren’t even a very good band – we were kids and had only just formed. We weren’t blowing people away with our musicality.

But I think people could see there was a lot of potential to sell a lot of records. We couldn’t see it in ourselves – we were just having a bit of fun. There was definitely a time and place in the late nineties when Australian alternative-style music was coming in, and Triple J was happening – there was quite a big movement and scene happening at the time.

When did you release your first Bob Evans record?

The first Bob record came out in 2003. In 2005, we took some time off [from Jebediah], and that’s when I made the second Bob Evans record, which was the one that kind of gave me this alternate career. The first record got noticed, but it didn’t really get played on the radio…but the second record got on the radio and then it all went from there. In some ways, I’m still kind of surprised that I’ve made five records.

Have you always wanted to do your own solo work?

I think I probably did want to do my own thing in the back of my mind…I started doing little solo gigs locally in Perth, but I was never really thinking about making records at that point. I had these songs that I’d been writing and I wanted to do something with them so I just played shows. It was a way to get them out of my system.

After a few years, I started to get the confidence and the desire to hop into a studio and take that next step with it. It was always in the shadow of Jebediah, but then all of a sudden Jebediah was in the shadow of Bob Evans. It was a little uneasy and hard at the time because on the one side I was ecstatic because everything was going better than I thought it would and everything was exceeding my expectations, but all the time I still kind of thought about it, Jebediah had never really broken up…we still haven’t really broken up. The more people close the door on Jebediah, the more I want to open it up again.

In 2011, we did make another record, and now I just juggle the two at the same time. They both co-exist at the same time. It’s really nice.

Tell us about the new record ‘Full Circle’

It’s a compilation album. I’ve just chosen songs from across all the records, so every record is represented at least once.

The timing felt right after making my fifth record; to dive into putting this ‘best of’ together while I still had the opportunity to do it my way. I kind of wanted it to be an introduction [to my music]…like if someone had never heard of Bob Evans, they could start here and go from there. I didn’t just put all the singles on it, I put a few album tracks that never got played on the radio but are important to be there. That’s why I didn’t want to call it a ‘best of’ or ‘greatest hits’.

With a lot of artists like Bowie or Neil Young, I’ve started off with the greatest hits…if I’m not sure where to start , I think there’s value in that in discovering a new artist.

Hopefully in 20 or 30 years time, this will be something to stumble upon.

How did the name Bob Evans come about?

Many years ago, must have been about ’98 before I played a live show…It was my first ever solo gig, at the Grosvenor Hotel. Back when there was street press, to get into the gig guide you had to submit your gig at a certain time on a certain day. On the Tuesday, I got a call from my manager and he asked me what I was going to call myself. I just happened to be sitting on the couch wearing a t-shirt I bought from an op-shop with the words Bob Evans on it and so I just said ‘I’ll be Bob Evans’ and I just kept using that name.

What’s the best part of your job?

There’s so much about it that I love.

With Jebediah gigs, they’re like hoidays. The only time we see eachother as a band is when we play gigs, so when we do weekend shows, it’s actually like going on a holiday with your mates, except you make money rather than spend it…all you have to do is play a gig which is great fun anyway.

I do enjoy travelling around. I still love rolling up to a country pub and playing a show there. I think because there are so many aspects about the job that I like, overall the best thing is that every day I wake up in the morning, I am excited about my job. I know that for a lot of people, they don’t have that luxury. Of course sometimes it can be stressful, but I wake up excited about what the day holds and that in itself is such an amazing gift that life has handed to me so I’m really grateful for that.

Bob Evans plays his Full Circle Tour at The Gov, Friday 26 October. Tickets $30. 

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