There is a reason the shire holds a special place in Kevin Mitchell’s heart – it helped blossom one of his life’s great bromances.
Mitchell, the frontman of Australian rock band Jebediah, will bring his ARIA-winning alter-ego Bob Evans back to Sydney’s south for solo acoustic gigs at the Camelot Lounge at Marrickville on May 5 and Cronulla’s Brass Monkey on May 6 as part of his Lonesome Highways tour.
Ahead of his extensive national tour, Mitchell has treated fans to a complimentary six track EP, Zeroes To Heroes, of unreleased material with all tickets purchased from his website and online outlets.
It has been a busy time for Mitchell, who followed the release of his critically acclaimed LP Car Boot Sale with a packed out co-headline Bob Evans tour alongside Josh Pyke late last year.
Mitchell has fond memories of the Brass Monkey, the iconic shire venue. It is where he first met Pyke, starting an enduring friendship.
“I’ve played a lot of shows in my life but I do remember one real great one. It was the first time I’d ever done a gig with Josh Pyke. It was when we first met, the bromance of Josh Pyke and Bob Evans started at the Brass Monkey at Cronulla,” Mitchell told the Leader.
“He was supporting me, it was 14-years ago or something like that. We played our sets, then got drunk and became friends.
“I know [the Brass Monkey] well. It’s a special place. I have great memories of that venue. I played there about four years ago on a solo tour to a full house and it was amazing.
“Playing solo is all about intimacy. I want these shows to feel like we’re all in someone’s loungeroom.”
It is that kind of attitude that has made Mitchell beloved by his fans. Gracing the Australian music scene for more than two decades, Mitchell is a self-confessed romantic who has written some of a generation’s most loved songs.
Under his Bob Evans alias Mitchell has released five albums, all of which showcase the versatility and skill of a talented songsmith. Gentle, acoustic melodies prevail, enveloping the classic folk storytelling and strong emotional pull that charactises Mitchells’ substantial body of work.
Mitchell has gone through plenty of changes in that time, now a husband and father, but also with his craft.
“These days I spend a lot more time on the lyrics than I used to,” he said.
“Probably 10 or 20 years ago I always looked at lyrics as sort of secondary to the music. I just thought in terms of one instrument. But these days I labour over lyrics. Every line. That side of things is so much more important to me now.
“As far as the music side of things go I guess the actual songwriting hasn’t really changed that much. It’s melodic, pop music. It’s what I do.”
The name of the tour suggests Mitchell isn’t thrilled by the idea of hitting the road again. But that isn’t so. Mitchell has retained a love of the live gig and playing for people. It’s something he doesn’t think he’ll ever lose.
“If i didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“There’s... a lot of stuff that happens around the actual performance that isn’t that much fun. All the driving and stuff like that. It can be long days away from your kids, you’re worrying about money.
Probably 10 or 20 years ago I always looked at lyrics as sort of secondary to the music... but these days I labour over lyrics. Every line. That side of things is so much more important to me now.
“But I just f---ing love getting up on stage and doing it. I’ve spent such a long time, my entire adult life doing it. It’s my job, I don’t know what else to do. It’s been a massive part of my life [and] I love it.”
Part of that love comes from his extensive back catalogue. His most successful solo album, Suburban Songbook, was released in June 2006 and became the soundtrack to so many young people’s lives.
The album won Mitchell his first ARIA in 2006 for Best Adult Contemporary Album and spawned a number of timeless tunes.
Don’t You Think It’s Time, Friend, Nowhere Without You and Darlin’ Won’t You Come? all became instant classics. His subsequent albums have featured more catchy, acoustic-based pop – Don’t Wanna Grow Up Anymore, Hand Me Downs and Wonderful You among the standouts.
The only problem with having such a deep pool of songs? Choosing a set list every night.
“It does get a bit difficult. I try to do something that satisfies everyone in the audience,” he said.
“It can be difficult to strike a balance between songs people come to hear but also do stuff I haven’t done for the last few years. You want to surprise people and also give them what they want. That’s the trick, the challenge. To strike that balance.
“[My favourite Bob Evans’ songs] do change. It’s very hard to pick out one. The only song I guess kind of stands out, and it’s not necessarily my favourite, but the song does kind of stand a little taller is Don’t You Think Its Time. It’s the song most people know. It always gets the loudest cheer when I play it. It’s my most commercially successful song. It’s the single off the records that started this whole trip for me. But by no means would I say it’s my favourite.
“Certainly when I listen back to my songs off the record they absolutely take me back. When I’m playing them live it’s like they’re all new. They all exist in the moment I’m playing them.
“And old songs become new again.”
Details: bobevans.com.au or brassmonkey.com.au