Mitchell strokes his alter ego

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It's ironic that it's taken an alter ego for Kevin Mitchell to produce some of his most personal work.

The singer-songwriter concocted the moniker of Bob Evans 15 years ago in a bid to separate his solo career from the music he made with alternative-rock band Jebediah.

"At the end of the day it's just a name so that I'm not Kevin Mitchell from Jebediah and … it allows me to develop my own little niche that's separate from [the band]," he says.

"There's a very appropriate quote from Oscar Wilde. He says something along the lines of 'give a man a mask and he'll reveal his true self'. I think that's very much the case with Bob Evans."

The solo project allowed Mitchell to pursue a career in folk pop, initially with a trio of suburban-themed records.

However, fearing that the Bob Evans' records could start to sound the same, the musician was reluctant to promise a fourth album.


"I felt like with the last two albums … we were trying to achieve a very particular style and sound. I think we did it really well and I'm super proud of both those records, but to keep going back and doing the same thing over and over, I think I knew that I'd be forcing it and doing it for the wrong reasons," he says.

"What I really needed to do was just start again."

Mitchell took a break for a few years and returned to Jebediah, which - after being on hiatus for five years - managed to produce a highly successful fifth album, Kosciuszko.

He likens getting Jebediah back together to the "elephant in the room", that had been hanging around for years.

"To finally do that and for it to be so successful was just something that I really needed to do," he says.

But the band's fruitful reformation doesn't mean a sixth record is guaranteed.

"I don't know what'll happen with Jebediah, I think we're going to try and get together at some point mid-year and have a jam to see if anything comes from it," he says.

"I'm really conscious of not forcing another Jebediah record. I just think the last record did so much better than we ever imagined and it was such a positive experience that I don't want to push another [one] for the wrong reasons."

Instead Mitchell shifted focus back onto his solo career, where he'd found fresh perspective and renewed energy to produce a fourth album.

Familiar Stranger steers away from the organic, rootsy sound explored in his last two, Nashville-produced albums, while continuing to incorporate the singer's trademark warmth and intimacy.

"I really wanted to change direction a little bit and make a record that wasn't so tied to the singer-songwriter box," he says.

"I wanted to make a record that would stand on its own a little bit and not necessarily sound like a guy with an acoustic guitar strumming away."

The album, which was released in March, allows overarching themes of love, loss and transition to shine through.

Between 2009 and 2012 Mitchell experienced the grief of losing a family member, the joy of welcoming his first child into the world and the stress of relocating from Perth to Melbourne.

He admits such massive life changes provided him with plenty of lyrical ammo.

"A lot of pretty heavy life stuff happened in the last three years and I think that led me … to probably become a little bit introspective," he says.

"Where the last [album] sounds like I'm singing to somebody, this one sounds like I'm singing to myself and it's a little bit more philosophical or something."

Mitchell says the moment he and his wife Kristen welcomed their daughter, Ella Jean, into the world, their entire lives were instantly transformed.

On a practical level, the musician has been forced to change the way he works.

"Before we had a baby, my wife would go to work and I'd spend all day walking around the house with a guitar, just let ideas flow. It was all very easy," he says.

"But after having a baby I couldn't do that any more. So I had to do what most other musicians do when they have a kid and … I just have to be more disciplined with my time."

Mitchell set up a studio in the garage, where he essentially "goes to work" every day.

Once upon a time he didn't consider it possible to work creatively in such a regimented way, but these days he thinks differently.

"I mean Nick Cave famously leased an office in London - it just had a piano in it and some kind of recording device and a typewriter - and he'd go off to work. I think that had something to do with kicking a drug habit or something but the principle of it is the same," he says with a laugh.

Another aspect of his personality the muso has been forced to change is his potty mouth.

At 18 months old, his daughter copies every word that comes out of his mouth.

"It's amazing how much you find yourself laughing when you've got a little kid in the house. It's also amazing how often you find yourself cursing under your breath," he says.

"There's so many times when I've let rip with a f--- or a shit and it's only after I've said it do I remember - she's pretty much copying everything that she hears at the moment. I'm just going to have a foul-mouthed little baby."

Bob Evans

WHEN: Saturday, May 11

WHERE: Zierholz @ UC

TICKETS: $31.15 from oztix.com.au