“This is my rock album. I’m saying goodbye to the suburbs.”
- Kevin Mitchell
Strange things happen in Nashville, Tennessee. People forget who they are. Dreams come true. Fingers get covered in blisters. All of these things happened to Kevin Mitchell, erstwhile front man of much-loved, Perth indie band Jebediah, now an ARIA award-winning, singer-songwriter performing under the name Bob Evans, during the making of his third album, Goodnight, Bull Creek!
Strange things began to happen the minute he arrived.
Mitchell received an email from his Nashville-based producer Brad Jones (who also produced the last Bob Evans album Suburban Songbook) saying he was ready for pre-production but first he had to run off and play at a Clash tribute gig, just Jones and a bunch of gun Nashville musicians playing the entire London Calling album.
“He asked me if I wanted to come along. Before I knew it I was up on stage singing ‘Clampdown’. Then I got back up for an encore - ‘Rock The Casbah’. Confused and jetlagged, that was my first ever gig in Nashville.”
To make things even more confounding, Mitchell was billed as Bob Evans from Jebediah. Everyone took his stage moniker to be his real name. “It was just too confusing trying to explain. I was just Bob for the night, singing Clash songs, and it was really good fun.”
Bob Evans is the name Mitchell uses to record and perform his critically acclaimed albums, Suburban Kid, Suburban Songbook and his upcoming album Goodnight, Bull Creek! This time, however, he is leaving the landscape of his suburban childhood behind.
“My last record was very much an open love letter to my partner,” he says. “I knew I could only make that kind of record once in a lifetime and I’m so proud of it. But this time, I wanted to express my feelings about the outside world a little bit more. This record is a little bit deeper and richer.”
Bull Creek is the name of the southern suburb of Perth where Mitchell grew up. It’s a very ordinary little suburb filled with little brown brick houses. Mitchell says the suburb represents a lot of things he was using on the last album in terms of innocence and naivety and simplicity - all the things he associates with his childhood. The first song, ‘Someone So Much’, states Mitchell’s intention to leave the suburbs behind even though he was expected to do one more suburban record. “It’s my intention to venture out into the world and express something greater than my own little existence,” he explains.
Teaming up again with Songbook producer Brad Jones (Josh Rouse, Yo La Tengo, Sheryl Crow) and recording in the same Nashville studio, Mitchell set out to make a rock album but hold onto the charm of the established Bob Evans sound. Jones encouraged him to throw out the click track and record all the songs live with a group of crack Nashville musicians including drummer Ken Coomer (ex-Wilco), who also played on Suburban Songbook, in-demand guitarist Will Kimbrough (voted Americana Music Association Instrumentalist Of The Year in 2004), Jones on bass, and vocalist Melissa Mathers.
Mitchell says he’s proud of the albums he’s made but didn’t want to be labelled just another singer/songwriter. Instead, he wanted to surprise people by making more of a band record this time. “There is a lot more electricity running through this record. We got four people in room and they played live in the way a good rock album is supposed to be made but seldom is these days. It’s a band album yet there is no band.”
Fans of the singer-songwriter greats - Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith, Neil Finn, Tim Rogers, even Neil Diamond, will find much to admire in Goodnight, Bull Creek! The album’s sound is reassuringly familiar yet bolstered with sophisticated arrangements and instrumentation including organ, flutes, strings, a toy piano and Moog.
One track, “Power Of Speech” is a smooth and sexy Bossa nova tune.
“When I first heard Bossa nova, I fell in love with it instantly and I knew I wanted to write a song like that. It’s completely tongue-in-cheek but the music is serious. I don’t have any classical guitar training so I got blisters on my fingers trying to learn all those jazz chords,” Mitchell says.
Another song, “Pasha Bulker”, is inspired by the grounding of the massive bulk carrier on Nobbys beach in Newcastle but is fuelled by Mitchell’s feelings of being lost at sea during a bout of depression in 2007.
“Brother O Brother” began as Mitchell’s thoughts on Sorry Day and grew into a song about inequality in the world.
“It’s A Beginning” is an upbeat pop song that nods to The Cure, and “Everything Goes”, the beautiful final track on the album, is an ode to life moving on.
Lyrically this album is heavier and deeper than the last record. It’s more twitchy and uncomfortable and maybe a little more restless, which sums up the way Mitchell was feeling leading up to making it. But it maintains the gentle beauty and harmonies of the Bob Evans sound loved by fans on Suburban Songbook.
In 2012, Bob launced a brand new website which will allow fans to keep up to date with his latest news and shows! Check it out at bobevans.com.au