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Bob is back! It wasn’t always going to be that way though. Many years ago, in answer to an Australian Musician question as to whether Jebediah frontman Kevin Mitchell’s solo pseudonym, Bob Evans had ever caused confusion, Kev suggested that he was contemplating killing the character off after 3 albums. It seems that as time has passed, Kev has found comfort in his own skins. Today (June 16) he releases, Car Boot Sale the 5th album under the Bob Evans moniker. Written on acoustic guitar and embellished with some superb instrumental arrangements, Car Boot Sale, presents a singer, songwriter refining his craft and delivering ten immaculately produced, thoughtfully written stories full of interest and joy. AM’s Greg Phillips spoke to Kev prior to the release to chat about the creation of Car Boot Sale.

You drove quite a bit during your last tour and I believe that had something to do with this album’s title. Is that right?
Yeah kind of. When I started writing for the record, it was just my working title and it stuck. It has as much to do with the fact that I like the sound of the word as well as the idea of being a travelling salesman, which fits into the record thematically.  The kind of imagery that the title evokes, connected with the style of the record I was hoping to write. It was a reaction to my last record, which wasn’t an acoustic kind of album at all. In a sense, it is my return to embracing  the acoustic guitar and writing songs on acoustic guitar.

There’s a song called Ron Sexsmith on the album which you’ve said is not specifically about him. You toured with Ron. What is it about his songwriting that you like?
With discovering Ron Sexsmith a few years ago, he has obviously come from that Beatles lineage and is clearly a Paul McCartney fan. He has an absolutely exquisite voice. He’s as good as anybody and his songwriting … he has a classic style. His melodies are incredibly memorable, his lyrics are superb … he’s the full package. Once the light went on in my head for his music, I just fell for him and got a little bit obsessed for a while. Like you said, my song Ron Sexsmith is not about him. It’s just a line in the song that name-checks him. A person asked me what I was listening to and that’s what I was listening to at the time. But the guy who asked had never heard of him and I didn’t expect them to either.

Bob-Evans_Car-Boot-Sale_LP-Cover_3000pxThere are some interesting combinations of instruments on the album. For instance the trumpet and banjo on Old News and I love the piano and fingerstyle guitar together with flutes on Race To The Bottom. I wonder if those combinations of instruments immediately came to you when you were writing or is it something that happens later in the studio?
It very much depends on the song. With Race To The Bottom, yes definitely. It’s a fingerpicking song and I wanted almost like a baroque feel to the song, so the instrumentation to go with that was flute and cello, they just spring to mind immediately. With that song I was very much trying to emulate a very traditional style of music. To me that song sounds a little like French erotica movies like Emmanuelle and things like that. Then with Old News, the choice of instruments like banjo and brass, it was all about connecting the music with the lyrics of the song, so Old News as the title suggest is a comment on old school conservative arms of the media. I really wanted to make sure that the music reflected those themes, the real rusty brass sound and the banjo as well. With that song more than any other on the record, I think we really achieved a nice synergy between the lyrical themes and instrumentation used.

The song Happy Tears has a bit of a Travelling Wilburys feel about it. Were you into those albums?
A couple of people have mentioned that. It took me a while to work out what people meant but I think it’s because I sing ‘It’s Alright’ and there’s a Travelling Wilburys song with It’s Alright in the chorus. I love that song but to be honest with you, they only entered my mind because people pointed out that lyrical similarity. Happy Tears had a very different feel when I wrote it. It was reminiscent of a song called Nowhere Without You from my second album. It had a pounding Lennon style piano and then Tony (Buchen), the producer suggested it was too reminiscent and to mix it up a bit.

You have done a lot of recording now. Has the producer’s role changed on your records from when you first started recording?
I suppose so. It’s funny because Tony is a very similar producer to Brad Jones, who made my second and third albums. They are both bass players but multi instrumentalists, producers and both have a similar way of working. They’re both songwriters themselves. I took a lot of advice from both of them, things like cutting the fat and tightening up songs. I don’t think the role has changed that much. What has changed is what I bring to it. I’ve made enough records to know when to stand strong behind my ideas but also know when to let stuff go as well and that’s important. You can’t be so rigid that … I guess you can be if you want … but I think the danger going into a record with a  rigid attitude, is you might make a record that falls into formula or repeats patterns of the past. So for me that’s the danger, plus I like a producer to challenge me. Then it’s up to me to decide when I say yes and when I say no.

There’s a photo on Facebook and it looks like you’re playing a lute. Was that used on the album?
Ha, no it wasn’t used on the album. I don’t even know that it was in any kind of condition to be played. It was mainly just an antique to look good. Of course I grabbed it and posed for a photo with it. It was very tongue in cheek

What guitars did you use on the album?
A whole bunch of acoustic guitars. My initial intention was not to use any electric guitars at all. There’s a little bit on there but not much. Obviously I brought my Matons. We also had a Martin in there, a Gibson, a six string banjo that I borrowed from Josh Pyke for the track Old News, which is strung like a guitar so you can play your familiar chord patterns but it sounds like you’re playing banjo. We begged and borrowed as many guitars as we could. I don’t think we stole! There was also a Yamaha acoustic guitar that was made in the 80s that was really good.

Do you get attached to your guitars or are they just tools to do a job?
Yeah, I get attached to certain ones. My favourite acoustic is the very first Maton that I ever got. It’s probably about 16 years old now and ageing nicely. I’m attached to a couple of electrics too, the ones that you come to rely on most and have been around for a while and they start to become very special. Their value becomes much, much higher than the dollar value which may be attributed to them.

Is there a song on this album which is closer to your heart than any other?
As reticent as I am to answer that question … because once I start talking about one song, I start talking about others until I cover the record. But Race To The Bottom as you mentioned before, there is something special about that song for me for reasons that most people who listen to it will never really suss it out. From a purely songwriting point of view, there’s a combination of chords in it that I have never used before, that were really new for me and a melodic kind of thing that I have never done before and the way that the chords interact with the melody. So it’s stuff that I have never done before which I think I have done a pretty good job with on that song. So yeah, it’s a bit of a favourite but for very technical reasons.

When you take these songs out on the road have you thought about your band set up and gear?
I’m not planning on changing things up too much. I think the band will consist of a couple of guys who played with me in the last Bob Evans band with some new additions. I was considering before I made the record of pairing things back but after I made the record, I realised that wasn’t going to be feasible. I think I’ll have a keyboard player who will be playing mostly piano style because as it turns out on this record I think there’s piano on almost every song. It will be a five piece band, two guitars, drums, bass and keys.

What is on for the rest of the year?
The album comes out, then a tour in August. More touring stuff toward the end of the year, which will be announced soon. A bit more Jebediah stuff. I’ve got to work out a way of balancing the two but If I can do it well, between Bob Evans and Jebediah, I’ll very busy until the rest of the year. That’s the goal.

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