Bob Evans explains why Tomorrowland was born out of yesterday's challenges

HARD ROAD: Bob Evans finished recording Tomorrowland literally as COVID-19 shut down the music industry.
HARD ROAD: Bob Evans finished recording Tomorrowland literally as COVID-19 shut down the music industry.

TO describe Kevin Mitchell as a relieved man would be an understatement.

Never in his 20-plus years of recording albums with alt-rockers Jebediah and his indie-folk solo project Bob Evans has the 43-year-old "made a record that's had so many challenges put in front of it."

However, as of Friday, Bob Evans' sixth album Tomorrowland is out in the world, permeating people's ears.

There were various times during 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic ripped apart the music industry, that Mitchell wondered when that would ever eventuate.

When Mitchell stepped into a Melbourne studio in early March, COVID-19 was dominating the news. But for many people, including Mitchell, it still felt distant and foreign.

By the time Mitchell had Tomorrowland tracked two weeks later, everything had changed.

Musicians were staring at an uncertain future as lockdown came into effect and Mitchell's busy diary of Jebediah and Bob Evans gigs was consigned to the garbage bin.

"I came out of that studio after two weeks of working and the world had completely changed from when I walked in," Mitchell says.

"All my work was gone and I kind of panicked. This record, I self-financed, so not only had I lost the vast majority of my income for the year, but I'd also just splurged 20 grand of my own money on making a record and the record wasn't finished, it had just been recorded.

"It still needed to be mixed and mastered."

With Mitchell on JobKeeper, the album was shelved for the next two to three months as the father-of-two settled into home-schooling, taking daily walks along the beach near his home on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula, and writing songs in his garage for fun to maintain his sanity.

Eventually Mitchell plotted a path to complete Tomorrowland for release.

"The real silver lining to it was I had so much time to finish the record and make sure everything was exactly how I wanted it," he says.

ROCKER: Kevin Mitchell playing with Jebediah at Scene & Heard 2019.

ROCKER: Kevin Mitchell playing with Jebediah at Scene & Heard 2019.

"There was no rushed decisions. All the artwork, the film clips, the mixing.

"All those creative things you have to do to finish an album off once you've walked out of the studio, I had nine months to do them all.

"That's part of the reason why I feel so happy with the end product because I was really able to follow through with the vision I had for it and not make any compromises along the way."

Tomorrowland is a major departure from Bob Evans' folky 2016 album Car Boot Sale and his biggest solo hits Don't You Think It's Time and Nowhere Without You.

The acoustic folk has been replaced by electric guitar, shimmering melodies and harmonies and even a slice of Americana courtesy of Mitchell's deep appreciation for Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty in recent years.

It's arguably the most immediate Bob Evans album; all the hooks have been firmly pushed to the front.

NEW SOUNDS: Bob Evans was inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

NEW SOUNDS: Bob Evans was inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

The tracks range from the warm horn-backed Excuses, the Petty-inspired I Don't Wanna Do Anything (Without You) to the sparkling pop of I'll Get Over You Somehow.

Then there's the rock-pop gem Concrete Heart, inspired by Mitchell being criticised on social media for being a "bleeding heart".

The song features a duet with Fremantle indie singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly, who Mitchell was eager to collaborate with after watching her performance at Laneway festival in January 2020.

"I wanted to make a rock album that wasn't shy about coming forward," he says. "I wanted it to have a real shimmering kind of sound and wanted it to be a very confident-sounding statement."

Also for the first time in his 10-album career, with both Jebediah and Bob Evans, Mitchell opted to record Tomorrowland live with his full band.

"I felt like now I had the confidence, the experiences and the resources because I had this awesome live band at my disposal to make a more live record," he says.

"That's what brings so much of that electricity and vitality to the songs."

Bob Evans brings Tomorrowland album tour to Kingscliff Beach Hotel (June 3); Heritage Hotel, Bulli (June 16); Lizotte's, Newcastle (June 17); Frost & Fire Festival, Forbes (June 19); The Brass Monkey, Cronulla (June 20); Sooki Lounge, Belgrave (June 24) and Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine (June 25).

This story Bob Evans moving on towards brighter Tomorrowland first appeared on Newcastle Herald.