Bob Evan’s Savvy Seven

Bob Evans, the ARIA winning alter ego of Jebediah frontman Kevin Mitchell, has been gracing the Australian music scene for more than two decades. Mitchell is a self-confessed romantic who has written some of the country’s most beloved songs. Under the alias of Bob Evans, Mitchell has released five albums, all of which showcase the versatility and skill of this talented songsmith. Gentle, acoustic melodies prevail, enveloping the classic folk storytelling and strong emotional pull that characterises Mitchell’s substantial body of work. In this week’s Savvy Seven, Mitchell discusses his first musical inspirations and his top business tips for new artists, let’s dive in.

1) Who was your first musical inspiration? Why?

I think my first musical inspiration was probably the television show “Fame” that used to be on during the early eighties.  I would have been around 6 years old and I just loved it. For those reading this too young to know the show, it was about a bunch of kids in New York who all attend a specialised performing arts high school, based on the famous Juilliard School.  So everyone there is a young dancer, singer, actor or musician. It just very quickly opened my eyes to the kind of world I wanted to live in I think.  It obviously really resonated with me because from that point on I got into music and dancing and performing and have done it my whole life. Learning an instrument didn’t come ’til later, when I was 12 or 13 but I think the seeds had been planted back when I was watching “Fame” on tv.

2) What advice do you have for someone who’s about to record and release their first album and go on their first tour?

Make sure the people you are working with are the kinds of people you would be hanging out with and travelling with and getting drunk with and going on crazy adventures with even if you weren’t in a musical/business relationship with them. You are about to embark on what could be the adventure of a lifetime or it could just as easily all amount to nothing. Either way, if you genuinely love the people you are surrounded by and working with then the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t take off but you have an unforgettably awesome time. The best case scenario? Well the skies the limit on that one.

3) How do you record your initial song ideas?

If I’m away from home or I’m otherwise doing something else and don’t have time to pick up an instrument I sing my idea into my mobile phone’s dictaphone so that I can come back to it later. I usually start demoing my songs before I have finished writing them properly which is kind of a bad habit I have gotten in to but I get so excited about the song that I want to capture that feeling while it’s happening and I get a lot of good musical ideas when I’m inspired like that. However I do procrastinate on lyrics a bit, simply because they are very important to me and I want to make sure they are really good. I demo my songs using a digital work station, a drum machine for drums, a synth for bass, keys, strings etc and then guitars and vocals. It’s a very simple, rudimentary set up considering that these days so many people have a computer in their bedroom’s with the latest software and stuff. People are surprised by what I use but it works for me and gets the result I need and I think most people agree that that is the most important thing.

4) How has your music practice and performance changed over time?

Well I hope I’ve gotten better!  I think I just have a bit more of an understanding of what I want and how to get it.  When I first started out playing in Jebediah I was 17 and like most teenagers, I didn’t really know who I was yet. As you grow older you get to know yourself hopefully and I think that reflects itself in the music you make and the way you perform it. When I started I didn’t know how things worked, or why some things sounded great and other things didn’t. Over time as an artist you are constantly learning, always a student and never a master and I think you gradually, slowly over time come to understand why you like what you like and how to get those results more often and more precisely.

5) My top business tip for new artists is…

Work with people you want to be friends with.  Surround yourself with people you like and want to have a beer with or go on holidays with even if you weren’t in business together. Because any long standing business relationship is going to go through a lot of ups and downs and the music industry is especially volatile and unpredictable and I’ve come to learn that it’s the friendship that is the glue that keeps it all together, especially when things are bad.

6) My biggest career mistake and highlight has been…

It’s hard to just pin point one mistake or one highlight because the fact is the last twenty years of my musical life are littered with small mistakes and small highlights to the point that there really is little else in between except for a lot of waiting around I suppose. It’s just little highs and little lows all the way through.  The other thing about mistakes is that you can never be sure how something that seems like a mistake in the moment can set you on a path that leads you to great things. So I’m a little hesitant to put the spotlight on one thing in my career that has been such a huge mistake that it’s worthy of that kind of attention.  There are many many things that if I had my time again I would probably do differently however that’s not reality and life’s too short to waste on regrets.  The biggest highlight I suppose has simply been all the wonderful moments I have gotten to share with the great people I have been lucky enough to work with and make friends with.

7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is… What do you think can fix/change it?

I suppose for me the most important issue facing the music industry is how we create a new model involving all the new technology that has changed the industry so much that is fair for everyone and properly compensates artists for their work. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how these things can be fixed or changed cause I’m an artist and the people who do have the ability and skills to change or fix things are business people and entrepreneurs. So what we need are as many artist-friendly business people working in the industry as possible. Otherwise the only art and culture we will have left in the world will be created for the sole purpose of making a few rich people even more rich and I’m not sure that good art or vibrant culture comes from such a place.

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