Morgan Evans may be a big star now, but he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from. And now, country music is booming in Australia.
Nashville-based country music star Morgan Evans has been playing sell-out shows across Australia in recent weeks. He‘s still going strong with more dates ahead and his finale on September 20th in Perth. Evans’ Life Upside Down Tour celebrates his latest EP of the same name with four new songs, including the hit Over For You.
With an American band and Aussie acts like James Johnston and Kita Alexander, Evans seems to know how to please a crowd.
Wednesday afternoon at the Clovelly Bowling Club in Sydney was no exception. Evans strolled onto a stage in a singlet and thongs and could easily be mistaken for a nearby beachgoer. He was there for an intimate lunch and interview with host singer-songwriter Henry Wagons.
"It’s great to be back,” Evans said, grinning at the doting crowd of 50-odd fans.
“There have only been two Australian country artists that have played the Opera House. One of them is Slim Effing Dusty and Gina Jeffreys,” Wagons told Evans. “Your representation at the Sydney Opera House is the reflection of the popularity of country music in the country.”
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Morgan played two nights in a row at the Opera House while filming and recording the shows, too. Growing up in Newcastle, Morgan played every style and genre of music (yes, including Silverchair) but never imagined he ever would one day play at such an internationally revered, iconic location. He joked he thought The Opera House was a typo when he saw it listed on the tour as a venue.
“Every time I come back [to Australia], I find it [country music] in places I never thought,” Evans said of country music.
In 2017 and 2018, he witnessed country music take off in Australia. He remembered going for a swim at Bondi between interviews. He was crossing a road, and a guy on a Harley Davidson drove past, blaring the popular country-pop group Florida Georgia Line.
That’s when he realised Australia was changing. Now, he notices more and more US country musicians coming to Australia. Last year, he toured Australia with American country music stars Brad Paisley and Kane Brown.
“Something is changing around here,” he suggested.
Playing country music in Newcastle when he was growing up was not a way to “impress the chicks,” he joked. His parents loved country music, and the genre was always a part of his life. Growing up, he never noticed the difference between rock and roll and country; he thinks that’s similar to what is happening in the world now.
“Maybe that’s where we are too in the world, where people will go to find their music somewhere, and they won't be looking for a genre; they’re just looking for the next song they might love, and it just so happens to be a lot of country songs out there that people are loving,” he wondered.
He grew up on older country music like Garth Brooks classics, and then when he was 15, his mother dragged him to a Keith Urban concert in Newcastle.
“He came out, and he played rock‘n’roll guitar over some country grooves and sang lyrics that made sense and spoke to me, and I remember thinking, ‘that’s the combination of everything I love’,” Evans recollected.
After briefly abandoning country music in his early teens, Urban hooked Evans again, and he hasn’t stopped playing or writing it since. He’s been touring so much lately that he’s hardly spent time in Nashville.
For Evans, good songwriting happens when he’s trying the least to write one. That’s how he wrote On My Own Again.
“One November, I was looking out the window of this AirBnB I was living in and just started strumming those chords. That whole chorus just came out, and I just kind of smiled and pressed record quickly so I could remember it,” he said.
Many country music enthusiasts have discovered Evans’ music from his song Day Drunk, released in 2018.
Evans remembered being on tour with Chris Young and Ken Brown and seeing the party songs they performed and how much fun they were to play live. He decided he had to write one of those, even though before then, he wasn’t really known for writing drinking songs.
“I thought, ‘I can’t just write a metaphor about drinking. What if we made it like a country Afternoon Delight?” he reflected. (Afternoon Delight was Starland Vocal Band’s biggest hit, known for its sexual undertones.)
Young Aussie country musicians Finnian Johnson and Lane Pittman were in the crowd that day, both big fans.
“I’ve never been so close to Morgan Evans despite growing up around the same area in Newcastle,” said Johnson of the lunch. “Just seeing that someone from where I come from can do so much is pretty inspiring.”
Evans may be a big star now, but he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from. He feels so much more chill, relaxed and comfortable when he comes home.
“Maybe it’s because I’m from here, or maybe it’s an Australian thing. I haven’t quite worked it out, but that’s what I get when I come home,” he said.
Morgan Evans’ Life Upside Down Australian tour continues tonight in Melbourne. You can find last-minute tickets via Frontier Touring.
THURSDAY 14 SEPTEMBER - Palais Theatre | Melbourne, VIC
FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER - Palais Theatre | Melbourne, VIC – SOLD OUT
SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER - Hindley Street Music Hall | Adelaide, SA
TUESDAY 19 SEPTEMBER - The Astor Theatre | Perth, WA – SOLD OUT
WEDNESDAY 20 SEPTEMBER - The Astor Theatre | Perth, WA