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Feature Artist: Andrew Farriss- Australian Made

Photo: David Christopher Banks

The last six months have been somewhat surreal for INXS founding member and composer Andrew Farriss.  Owning a working grain and cattle farm in the Tamworth region of New South Wales for over 25 years, it seems that Farriss is at home on the land; but there is certainly still music in him. Farriss has managed to sit down and write a new self titled album in a genre many weren’t expecting from the rock legend: Country. It seems the land is finally fully infused into his blood. Releasing his first single “Come Midnight” in September last year was a milestone but also a challenge, as it brought him front and centre for the first time. It is now just about him and his music. Whilst his glorious INXS days will never be forgotten, it seems that for Farriss and his solo career, the time is certainly right for him to take control and be seen. 

Farriss’ last six months have been truly extraordinary and somewhat busy 

“Look, I’ve been busier than shit through a goose to be honest with you. I can’t believe what’s been going on”

Recently accepting an Order of Australia Medal for his contribution to the Arts, Farriss still remains humble and whilst talking to him, acknowledges his past and all the significant people in his life that have got him to this major milestone in his career. 

“I was pretty freaked out when I got the award from the Governor General’s office. That one came pretty left of centre. I didn’t know what to think at first especially when I saw the letters AM.  I thought it meant average musician (Laughs). I was really really humbled by that one and I have to say that I could have never have done what Ive done without the support and help from so many people in my life including obviously my mum and dad who are no longer with us, my wife Marlina (Neeley), my kids Grace, Josie and Matthew. I just can’t thank them enough for being supportive and understanding of the creature that I am. Going forward, I also want to say, I owe so much to my mates with INXS, my brothers and those guys. Their support over the years in my life and what we did together was truly extraordinary. I don’t know how to explain it any other way” 

Farriss’ music career spans decades, and it’s no wonder why he was nominated for such an auspicious award. From his musical influence with INXS, through to his current solo career, Farriss reflects on his life and his incredible history.

“To be honest with you, I liken my life to a rollercoaster ride. You know we had some of the highest highs, going as fast as possible, to some of the lowest lows, going as fast as possible and somewhere in between, along the rollercoaster ride, you get these beautiful moments, where it’s calm and you sit there and you go “Wow! How lucky are we?” But at the end of the day, no one gets through life without help from other people. I really want to thank all the people in my life, not just the Governor General and the Government, of course I am truly honoured, but the people in my life from who have enabled me to be me. I just want to say Thank You”

Having worked within the country music genre in the past, it seems that it has now taken up residence in Farriss’ soul. Never to take anything for granted,  Farriss has been welcomed in to the country music community with open arms.

“Be careful for what you wish for right? I started this thing, just thinking you know, Ive always loved country music and the genre and I have had a bit to do with it over the years. Tania Kernaghan asked me produce an album for her a long time ago now when we met. That was my first sort of real meeting of Andrew Farriss with Australian country music community and they were really kind to me, all of them and I love them. They are a great bunch of people. I feel very fortunate to work with them.”

Working with them is exactly what he has done. Appearing at the recent Tamworth Country Music Festival in Tamworth, Farriss did not stop for the whole festival. It seems that if you didn’t know who he was, before the festival, you would certainly know who he was by the end of it.

“Tamworth Country Music Festival was awesome. I have to say and being a local that lives around that area, I love all of it.  I did a duet with Gina Jeffreys, who I have been a fan of over the years, and Rod McCormack’s work, who by the way won some very well deserved awards for his musicianship during the Golden Guitars.  All the things that occur throughout the festival were fantastic to be involved with. James Blundell invited me up at Moonshiners and he had a few guests. I played two or three songs with James and I really like James. James like me, has a block of dirt up north and owning a bit of country does give you, I don’t know how to put it, but there is this;  first of all we are fortunate to own some country,  but secondly, it gives you a respect for people out in the bush, I don’t know how to put it.  I also did a song in the round with Phil Barton and myself and Jerry Salley who is up for a Grammy in the US , who is American, and Jason Duke was another American writer there. We did a songwriter’s round that was great.  I went on to play the Toyota in the Park show on the Friday night. That went really well. I played the main show, then went  across to Fanzone which was really good and then we went to the JB Hi-Fi Stage. Played that and then performed a new song at the Golden Guitars with my band and on Sunday I performed at a concert for drought recovery with Amber Laurence and Drew McAlister.”

Lucky for the punters at the Country Music Festival, as they got to hear Farriss’ new release “Good Momma Bad”; the second long awaited release of his yet to be released self titled album (due out 15 May 2020). Farriss has continued the old western theme for his videos, but has the starring part. How did he handle the spotlight in what seems like a feature film?

“Its funny you should mention that. Firstly,  Duncan Toombs and The Filmery guys. He’s got an awesomely talented group of people that he works with and his has won a lot of golden guitars for his videos over the years, so he knows and understands the country music genre. When I committed to this, and you know Marlina worked out that I have got to have some of me in there,  I guess, but we worked out that probably one of the more interesting things with my videos that I am making on is, that I wanted to make it pretty stylised like the old west meets bush ballad kind of thing. Where it has a look to my videos and there is stylisation to it. That was partly for fun and we did it.  In some of it, say Come Midnight and Good Momma Bad, the guys and the girls riding the horses are mostly  local people who work on the big farms where we live. I discussed with them with what we wanted to do and they got so in to character that it was frightening. They all wanted to be cowboys and cowgirls from the old western movies and they wanted to ride around. I realised it was like letting a dog of its chain with these guys. They are awesome you know. They are incredible riders and they got right into character with it all. They made the videos look incredible. I have had people say that they look like films. Its been great”

There does seem to be a theme happening with his past videos, but there is a reoccurrence of clocks?

“That was my idea. Marlina said the same thing. She kept on saying “What’s with the clock thing?” Well, I see that was part of what I thought too because there will be more clocks coming up. Dont worry. I thought to myself, that part of it (trying to keep my mouth shut here) but down the track that may become more obvious with what I have in mind. Still a bit of mystery with that one. The clock thing, because all of us, who are alive today. Time is an interesting thing, that it’s always running. Isn’t it? You may look back and you may look forward, but the moment to live in is right now and my thought,  that clocks would be interesting, to put in the fob watch, because in the old west and in older years they didn’t have access to smart phones and digital technology and electricity and the stuff that we take for granted in the years that we live in now. So then you think about it for a minute, that a train would pull out of the station and someone would have a fob watch or clock. Same with the access to find the time, was not as luxurious as now. So you say “what time is it” and you will know exactly what time it is. That was part of my thinking.  It’s to draw that parallel between you know where we are in the 21st century and what used to go on. But not all of my album and the artwork and the songs and the stylisation is all old fashioned. There’s some hints where I might take the next lot of music too, so it was somewhere to start and I wanted something that people could identify so when they look at it they go “maybe that’s my work”. That’s what Im thinking, that’s how Im thinking”

Good Momma Bad has a funky beat and is certainly different to his first single “Come Midnight”. Both with a country flavour, Good Momma Bad, has an attitude that commands you to pay attention.

Interestingly enough, with that song, it was really more about the lyric in the song, I’ll come back to music.We started talking about how the first person that helps you in your life is your mother,. Most songs that are written about mums are pretty sentimental and we thought ‘why don’t we go writing a song that’s a bit more gritty and punchy’  and that’s how we designed it. I was working with James Dean Hicks and Buck Johnson who have become good mates of mine.  They are based out in Nashville.  I work with Australian writers or on my own mostly these days, but those two guys are great songwriting and powerful writers and I think we nailed it with that song with Good Mumma Bad. It tells a story . The reason we called it Good Mumma Bad, is that there’s really really good women and sometimes there’s bad women. you know. We felt the funky thing helped move it along.  What I was trying to do musically with it, was to try to incorporate more old school instruments like the fiddle and the mandolin. It’s the feel of it.  It has the country moments, but it also has a little bit of my roots which are more in rock and funk. Put that together and that’s something I want to work a lot more on down the track. I could have gone much more heavier on my album, but I decided to not go too hard.  Maybe the next album, but on this one I wanted it to more country in its front end.

Its nice to hear that after all of Farriss’ accolades and successes over the years, that he appears still so humble. Maybe it’s living on the land or maybe it’s his family and friends that keep him grounded. But we do know the newly acquired initials of AM next to his name, really means ‘Australian Made’. And Andrew, you can claim that one. 

You can view Good Momma Bad

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