0%

How Morgan Evans Developed A Deeper Connection With His Fans

April 12, 2024 - News

For the past 18 months, the stage has been a safe harbour for Australian country star Morgan Evans—or as safe as it could be when your latest record and tour are called Life Upside Down.

After his divorce from American country star Kelsea Ballerini, Evans poured his heart out in songs like Over For You and On My Own Again on the Life Upside Down EP, released last year. He has been blown away by the response of his fans to his soul-baring tunes.

“It’s been a hard couple of years, personally and in public, and I’m just so grateful for being able to communicate through the music. 

“We had our busiest year on the road ever last year. I was away for 200 and something days, all over Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the US, and Canada. It has been a great experience.”

The tour included two sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House last September, one of the rare occasions when an Australian country artist has headlined a show at the iconic venue.

Those nights were captured for the Live At The Sydney Opera House album, which is out today. Highlights from the show include emotional versions of those new songs. 

“It’s been amazing to see the way people respond to that really personal story of mine and the way that story connects with other people’s stories,” Evans says.

 “It has really meant a lot to me to see how a song that came from such a dark place can become such a positive, unifying experience at a show like that. It was a great feeling; you can hear it on the record with the crowd singing along.”

Over For You quickly became a fan favourite.

“Honestly, if I had a chance to think about sharing that song, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” the Newcastle-raised songwriter says. “Just after I wrote it, I was playing CMC Rocks (in 2022). I sat down at the piano to play another song, and for some reason, I played that one. It just felt like the moment to do it.”

Embedded Content

People shared their video of the performance, and it quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of views as fans shared their own stories of heartbreak.

“It took on a life of its own and became something that I felt I had to share after that. I’m really glad that I didn’t get the chance to overthink it and that it is part of my music story now.”

And sometimes, the more personal the story, the more universal the appeal.

“That’s one of those things that’s easy to say, but I am not sure I really understood it until the last year and a half when I felt this outpouring of support and connection with the music. I think that has definitely affected the way I write songs now, being specific and trying to dive deeper into what is underneath the thing we’re talking about. As a songwriter, that’s been a transformative experience.”

Other highlights on the album include a duet with Australian songwriter Kita Alexander on her song Date Night, which featured on her new album Young In Love, and a duet with John Williamson on his classic Rip Rip Woodchip.

Embedded Content

“Kita sent me the song last year and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it,” Evans says. “I loved it on first listen, and now we play it together every chance we get. I really love the acoustic version we did at the Opera House, with me on guitar and my guitar player doing some slide. The way it comes across, it’s a credit to what a great song she wrote.”

Singing a duet with Williamson on one of the Australian legend’s most-loved songs set the nerves jangling though.

“The first song I learnt to sing and play on guitar was one of his,” Evans says. “Performing with John was probably as nervous as I have been on stage, so I was glad we got to do it two nights in a row and settle into it.”

Embedded Content

There is a narrative flow to the songs on Life Upside Down, heartbreak to hope and recovery, and the flow of the set works equally well on Live At The Opera House.

“A lot of thought went into that on the road all year, right up to the Opera House in September. I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we did the show there. For that moment in my life and my career, that really felt like the best representation of the songs.”

The album includes versions of Evens’s biggest songs like Kiss Somebody and Day Drunk. Can he pick a hit when he has written one?

“I’ve heard Paul Kelly say this, and I relate to it. What’s the favourite song you’ve ever written? The one you’ve just finished,” Evans says.

He says there are smart music people in his life who have said, “That’s going to be a big song.”  That doesn’t work out every time.

“Then there are songs like Day Drunk. Everyone was like, it’s really catchy but can you put a song about that on the radio? It was big in America and Australia, a 26-week No. 1 on Australian country radio and a song that I will play for the rest of my life.

“You go with what feels right. That’s another thing that’s easier said than done but 100 per cent true.”

Embedded Content

TWO SIDES OF NASHVILLE

 

Evans has been based in Nashville since 2017. As with Keith Urban before him on that trail, it all worked out in the end.

“I had been back and forth quite a few times before I moved there, but moving to the other side of the world is a difficult thing for anyone in any line of work. The first year was a real struggle to adjust, thinking, this is the right thing to do, isn’t it? 

“The best way to describe Nashville is as the most inspiring place in the world and the most intimidating place in the world. You get to choose which one it is every day. I really feel like part of the songwriting community now, and I’ve got some great friends and collaborators. 

“There’s no other place like it, and that songwriting community is really what makes the town great. I grew up writing songs, sitting around with a guitar, waiting for inspiration to strike, and I still think the best ideas come like that.

“But it’s one thing to have the idea and another to turn it into a song. There is such a great work ethic there, and you learn the discipline of finishing a song. That’s what Nashville does best, taking the inspiration and creating the art with it.”

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

 

Country music is where you find a home, but you don’t sound like an artist who sees too many musical boundaries.

“I grew up with my parents’ records, people like John Williamson [and] Garth Brooks. But I also grew up with Creedence [Clearwater Revival], Led Zeppelin, [and] The Eagles. Newcastle was a rock’n’roll town too, with Silverchair [and] The Screaming Jets.

“At the time I went to Nashville, country music was really starting to move. There was a lot of R&B and even hip-hop influences. That enabled a lot of freedom to try whatever you wanted, to find what is unique and whatever you think is cool.”

Live At The Opera House is out now via Warner Music Australia. You can buy or listen to the album here.

Embedded Content

Play Cover Track Title
Track Authors