Andrew Farriss

For Andrew Farriss, it has never mattered what style of music he is writing. What is important is how the song makes you feel, the story it is telling and how the track lingers with you long after the music has finished playing. It was this ethos that the formidable songwriter took with him when it came to penning the tracks for what has become his debut solo album, a collection of songs that bring to life stories of outlaws, freedom, cowboys and love, and paint vivid imagery of gun slinging bandits, Australian history and international cultural spirituality.

Andrew has already shared three singles from debut album. The first single, Come Midnight, released in 2019 has continued to steadily build a listenership since it first received radio airplay. The follow-up, Good Momma Bad, released at the start of 2020, solidified Andrew’s new musical direction and garnered him further acclaim across the country music industry as a whole. The latest single, Run Baby Run, hit the airwaves at the start of March 2021. Prior to COVID-19, Andrew’s solo album was initially flagged for release in March 2020. However, that was put on hold for 12 months. In that time, Andrew released a five-track EP, Love Makes The World, that spawned two hit singles, the title track which very recently hit the #5 spot on the Australian Country Chart and All The Stars Are Mine. Andrew speaks to Hi Fi Way about the album and tour.

Congratulations on your solo album, it’s good to be able to talk about touring now instead of pesky interruptions like COVID holding things up.
Well exactly, yeah that little thing. Yeah.

Was it frustrating given how long you have had the album ready for?
Yeah, I suppose so, especially at first. Like the rest of the world I was just in shock at how much something so little could have such a huge effect on the world. I think that people, rightly so, were more worried about their friends, their family, their health and their jobs rather than worrying about Andrew Farriss’s record coming out. I just thought, “You know, I’ll have to have a think of something else.” That’s why I came up with the idea of releasing my EP, which are songs I was very happy with, they just didn’t suit the style of my album. I put that out and luckily it was successful for me.

Do you feel really excited that release day is finally here?
Yeah, that’s funny you should say that because I’ve been quietly patient for so long, I suddenly realised it’s running around the corner at me now. It’s actually coming out on Friday, I’ve got a single out at the moment called Run Baby Run. I’m excited, the EP in a strange way led really well into the LP in a way that I could have never have imagined. I think if I’d gone into all this cold, if you like, with just the LP I don’t know, I actually think it’s worked out better for me the other way round. Really lucky!

Did it actually take you a while to work out the style of music that you wanted to play and ultimately give you that musical satisfaction?
Yeah, sure. Well people who know about me would know that I’m a songwriter, and most of my song writing career has been for or with INXS, and what a great band. It’s like having a musical Ferrari to play with. It wasn’t so much that, when I went to pick up my music, I’ve always been a songwriter and I always will be. It was just that I had accrued a lot of songs, both from the past, that didn’t suit work that I’d done previously. I had a lot of songs that were quite recent and I was really happy with those songs but wasn’t happy with the recordings of them. The demos were quite rough and I’m sure anyone who’s reading this will understand, having people writing songs and then doing demos, they’re often in pretty scratched form and then you have to spend some time trying to make them sound the way you hear them in your head.

Well, that happened to me too. Except this time I took a lot of my songs into the recording studio, not so much trying to make a solo album, but because I wanted to bring the recording quality of what I’d recorded into 2021 and the stylisation that I started recording in. I wasn’t that worried about it at first, not that I’m worried about it now, in fact I’m very happy right now, it was just that as I went along I started re-recording these songs from demos to recordings, I was the closest lead singer. So I started singing my songs, and it was the Nashville engineers when I was over there tracking my stuff, and I said, “Look, I’m going to find someone who really knows what they’re doing to sing on it.”

They looked at me and said, “Well, what’s wrong with you singing it?” I said, “Well, it’s me.” They were like, “Well, we like this, just keep doing it.” I’m like, “Really?” So that’s where my journey started and how I ended up going more and more into the old west part of it, because I love country music. I knew I really wanted to track all of it in a country style, but I took a horse riding trip with my wife Marlina, from Nashville… well, she’s actually from Dayton in Ohio which is about a five and a half hours drive from Nashville.

So we went down the Mexican border on a little getaway holiday thing, but we wanted to get fit at the same time and not just sit around, so we went on this horse riding adventure, which went down along the Mexican border where Arizona and New Mexico meet the Mexican border. We basically rode six hours a day with a lunch break and we did that for six days in a row. But I didn’t see what was coming next, because we went with an old cowboy wrangler guy, a great guy called Craig Lawson and his wife Tam, and the four of us, well he gave me and Marly, I suppose, an education of an area that I knew virtually nothing about, which is Highway 80 along the border there. That area is where the Apache Indians lived and fought with the US Cavalry. You had the tombstone up the road with the cowboys and then you had the settlers, you had the Mexican across the border, and the Mexican army and all this crazy tumultuous history. We rode through abandoned silver mines and Apache paths, and we rode up to Cochise Stronghold. We rode along national monument areas where the stage coach route tracks are still in the dirt, but there’s no cars or four wheel drives going through there. I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s a very desolate area and mostly you think of the US as highly populated, but we went through these areas and when I went back to Nashville before that I had no idea of the boundaries of my album, how I would construct the songs and the lyrics and the style of my record. When I got back I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

So it was the trip that was the standout musical influence and not any specific country/ Americana music?
Like I said, I’ve always loved country music, but that trip I did, if I call it my cowboy adventure down on the border, what it really brought home to me was if you think about it carefully both Australia and Americana, or Australiana and Americana have very similar ties culturally where you had European classical instruments like violins or whatever they were, mandolins, mandolas, from Europe coming in to new countries, if I could put it that way in historical sense. Like Australia, United States, Canada, other countries too, where you had these cultures clashing with each other, and indigenous peoples or whatever that was fundamental.

What I’m saying is when these instruments came into the countries they brought along textures and things into folk music, and that folk music gradually but surely turned into country music, and it’s exploring these ideas with the old west thing that to me that’s where I could see how I could actually write this album, and the lyrics on my album have flow to them. What I mean by that is what really hit home to me when I looked at a lot of these desolate areas and thought about people, especially in the late nineteenth century before electricity, if you realise there’s frontiers and things, there’s a clashing of cultures, all these things going on, I don’t just mean war. I’m talking about where you’re introducing cultures to each other, whereas if you and I are talking to each other in the twenty-first century technology is the new frontier.

Did you find that after this trip that the ideas were coming out so thick and fast that you just couldn’t get them down quick enough?
Exactly. It’s funny you should say that because before I did that horse riding adventure, if I can use that word, and I went back again too, I didn’t just go there once. I went back three or four times, and sadly Craig passed away, the old cowboy guy, but we exchanged a lot. I suppose right there too as an Aussie and as a Yank living down there and that old world country that he fell in love with. And in a way I fell in love with it too, and there’s parts of Australia that remind me of that area, so you’re right. It influenced me in a big way but I think what it mainly did to me, was when I got back to Nashville especially and I could tell because of my career with INXS and working with other genres of music, besides country, is everybody wants to have a chart hit. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a pop artist, a country artist, or a rock artist, whatever you are. Dance, hip hop, electronica, EDM, whatever you want to call it. Everyone wants to have their music all over the place, but what I began to understand with where I was heading with this was I began to realise if I got it right I could also have a kind of concept album, where lyrically all my songs relate to the idea of freedom. I don’t mean that in a cliché, I mean look at the era we’ve just come through in the last year. We may think of ourselves as technologically advanced, but you wonder if they were better off a hundred years ago. Get on a horse and ride off in the distance!

Is it hard to separate yourself as Andrew Farriss the solo performer as opposed to, and I say this respectfully, that guy from INXS? Is that something that you hope that that has passed and they can actually see you as a musician who has forged his own direction?
I know what you’re saying. I think before I went into this whole thing, I meditated on what you’re talking about, and the first thing I’d like to say to you is I really respect the guys in the INXS, they’re an amazing band. I know what they did because I went through it with them. We really had an incredible international entertainment industry experience, and some of the things we did together only us guys in INXS will ever really understand what we actually did sometimes. We don’t go around beating our chest, but I’m really proud of all those things that we did together. I love those guys who are awesome musicians, and so what come around being myself that I just took the view philosophically if I can interest some people in my country music, old west thing I’m doing, that’s great. I don’t see them as being polarized, it’s also it’s part of my career. I’m no spring chicken and I don’t hide that fact. I’m no youngster, but there again you’re as old as you feel, or it’s that kind of thing for me. I feel on fire at the moment, I feel really good.

It must be great not to have any pressure, expectations and be able to play a small venue like The Gov in Adelaide when you tour where the shackles are off and things can go wherever you want them to?
Exactly, you just hit the nail on the head. It’s interesting because I was out near Tamworth here in New South Wales, we have beautiful cities and one of the beautiful coastlines in the world I think. But inland Australia is just as interesting to me and that’s where I live, I live in the bush. The bush there’s a bit of a sense of humour about what I’m going to say to you next, is when it came round to deciding if I could get away with looking like a cowboy, well the honest answer is if I go into town everyone else does anyway. That’s one, and the other one is you’re right, if I get to choose a venue, it’s not based on the kind of venue choice that I really would have been worried about years ago. I’m happy to play anywhere on any stage, small or big. It doesn’t really worry me anymore, I just feel fortunate to be able to share my music in the way I want to share it.

Is there more music to come?
I hope so, I was really pleasantly surprised with how well received my EP was that I put out, and I had no idea whether people would like that or not. It got a really good reception and still is getting a good reception. One of the songs off my EP, Love Makes The World, I think it’s still in the national charts, in the country charts and doing pretty well. I didn’t really see that coming, I just was just hoping to get some music out in a difficult time for everybody. Going forward, I promised my wife Marly that on this adventure we’re both on together that we want to make sure it’s enjoyable and philosophically enjoyable. I know that sounds really selfish and probably self involved, but to us it’s really important that we actually enjoy this experience and that I don’t feel like I’m mountain climbing to put flags on mountains. I’m not really sure I care about all that anymore, I just want to make some music, and if people want to hear it and get into then I’m a lucky guy.

Will the tour be focused mostly on the solo album or will there be a couple of INXS songs thrown in as well? I guess it’s probably unavoidable people are going to yell out for INXS as well.
Yeah, of course. Well, that’s one of the great things having come from such an amazing band as INXS is people were always asking me, “Are you going to play the songs?” Yeah, I love those songs and I’m not going to tell you exactly which ones I’m going to play, but I’m going to have some fun with it. Especially because I wrote or co-wrote a lot of the songs for INXS… But I pay respect to INXS, and I don’t take that lightly, it’s a really serious thing for me. I’m going to have some fun with the songs and I’ll do it in a way that hopefully the people enjoy.

Does it still amaze you the legacy that’s been left behind with the music of INXS that it continues to keep gaining momentum?
Well, if you’d have asked me back in the 80s or even 90s would that be happening now, I probably would have laughed, but now who knows. I can’t believe it. I know what you’re saying. I can look at it like a fan, I know that sounds weird, but I do. I look at INXS like a fan does probably now too, because we’ve been around for so long and everyone keeps wanting to be involved in the music. It goes out on mainstream radio all round the world and I keep thinking about that. In some ways it’s very humbling. I remember when Koshie championed Never Tear Us Apart for the Fort Adelaide footy team and I grew up playing AFL in Western Australia. When I saw that stadium full of people, someone said, “Have you seen this Andrew?” I saw all these people singing a song that I was involved with writing with Michael, and I sat there, and I was quite emotional because I thought, “Hang on a minute, that’s got nothing to do with pop charts. This is something to do with culture, we’ve just gone into Australian culture.” That’s overwhelming in a way, I can’t explain it, in a good way, but overwhelming.

I’m a massive Port Adelaide fan and that moment is one of the highlights each game. It just amazes me how powerful it is and how much it unites the fans, it’s incredible.
Exactly and I just hope Michael’s up there in heaven enjoying it like we are.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Andrew Farriss on tour on the following dates…

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