If you haven’t heard of Andrew Farriss, you must have been living under a rock for the last few decades. From being one of the founding members and main songwriters of INXS, through to being inducted into the Australian songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Farriss’ list of accolades are a testament to his amazing talent. But his next project is by far his most exciting to date; Solo. Farriss has just released his country rock single “Come Midnight” to the world and is currently promoting the single. Writing the song during his INXS days, Farriss finally wrote lyrics and completed his next masterpiece. Kylie Carns was honoured to speak to Andrew about his latest project, life on the land, and how hard it was for him to be front and centre.
KC: Hi Andrew. How are you?
AF: Good thanks Kylie, where are you?
KC: Im in Melbourne,
AF: What’s it like down there?
KC: It’s sunny but cold. You know it will probably hail and snow and then the sun will come out- Melbourne, four seasons in one day.
AF: Least its raining!
KC: True. At least a part of Australia is getting wet. Where are you? Are you still in NSW?
AF: Yeah. My wife and I live North West NSW and near Tamworth.
KC: Do you enjoy it up there?
AF: Yeah. I’ve owned a mixed kind of farming business up here for almost three decades. I live out in the bush.
KC: That’s a bit different to being on stage then.
AF: (Laughs) Yeah. That’s putting it mildly. I think it’s a funny journey Kylie how I ended up here. I actually had a hobby farm in Southern NSW for a while and then my mum, unfortunately all those years ago, was diagnosed with breast cancer, so dad and mum moved from Western Australia, which is where my family are from. They moved down and I thought ‘well Dad was retirement age so I thought I would buy a much bigger place and that way they could live in a house on it,’ That was the thinking, but then because of my naivety and whatever, I didn’t realise that the medical facilities that mum needed were so complicated and intricate, that dad and mum needed to stay where they were. Anyway, That’s how I ended up here .
KC: So you are just about to go to Gympie I hear?
AF: Yes. that’s right. We are driving and heading out there and I am all excited
KC: Well going on your new release “Come Midnight”, firstly, it’s such a beautiful song.
AF: Oh Thanks
KC: Just your voice on it; it’s beautiful. It’s nice to actually hear you front and centre. Knowing that you wrote this song years ago during your INXS days, how does it feel actually finishing it as a solo project?
AF: Yeah, that’s interesting. A lot of people have been pretty curious about this. Putting it simply, I sort of wrote the guitar riffs and the chord ideas around about the time that INXS was at it’s height you know, and it just seemed like it was out of space. It didn’t suit. Cause like back then, I was using technology like drum machines and samplers and what became what everybody uses now. Basically synthesisers and whatever, and with rock, but I have always loved old school country. By that I mean, the Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson stuff, old cowboy music. I have just loved it. It just has a soft spot for me, so I started messing around with it. At the time, I just thought it was silly but just what am I doing. So I loved it alone, and then my wife Marlina, heard it on a demo and she really liked and she put it on her mobile phone so every morning where were getting up I would hear (hums tune) ‘da now now non ow now’ and I would go ‘oh Serious?’ Then I realised, thats a bit silly. Maybe she really likes it and then as this project rolls around and I started getting more serious in this genre, she championed the song and I finished the song and finished the lyric off and rearranged the song and yeah there it is.
KC: So you’ve got this amazing filmclip that goes with it as well. Where was it actually filmed?
AF: Well some of that was filmed at my property. Actually a lot of it. But a lot of the local people were fantastic, like the local farming communities and it was cool because I had no idea when we started doing the video on how it was going to look. All the younger guys, they played the cowboy part, they all ride cause of their farms cause of the stock and mustering work and whatever, but the funny thing was, was that as soon as it was a kinda cowboy culture of 19th century, they all got really in to it. I was blown away. I sat there and it was like I was watching Clint Eastwood film. One of the guys was walking around saying “They are not actually actors, but gee they can act.” Then I ride horses myself; Marlina and I ride, and you never know that the next videos might have us doing a bit of that in it.
KC: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
AF: Yeah, that’s it. I’m more the ugly, not so good. (laughs)
KC: Come on Andrew. You have aged well.
AF: Oh thanks Mate. I’ll talk to you anytime (laughs) But I was going to say. Probably in the years when INXS was incredibly busy, you know that we worked in 52 countries. We had these massive hits around the world and we were constantly on the move and I realised back then that this whole game if you like, this business, you can really do some serious damage to yourself if you don’t take care of yourself you know. Cause it is sort of like within that era and job of whatever we were doing, sometimes it was like there were no breaks, just had to go go go. But that now, you know with my journey with what I’ve been doing and it’s interesting that you should flag the video and the stylisation of the music and all that, what I am doing at the moment, and I’m trying to explain to everybody, I’m not chasing a modern country sort of style that much. To be honest with you, I don’t really care about that, what I am trying to do and I’m getting more and more excited about with my project, is that I tried to think carefully about what I can possibly contribute to a genre that has so many talented people within it and the other people that deserve a slot and a break and what they are doing and so I was like, what can I contribute? And I thought well, maybe what I can contribute is to look at it differently. Instead of looking at it like this is another song with a country style or whatever, I will do a bunch of research. Not the 21st century, not the 20th century but the 19th century, which is where a lot of beginnings of what became the 20th century cowboy and country music. Research where it came from. It came from the country culture, and an Australian outback culture as well. So I thought, if I explore that area and I start writing about it all, and I go into that zone, and that’s exactly what we did. I started by researching what actually went on and life before electricity, what was life like? Life was quite dangerous. They didn’t have the transport facilities, there was no westpac helicopters (laughs) they didn’t have the medical advancements, or the technology we have, and I started realising just how hard some of these people lived and worked. That’s what gave me a lot of inspiration to write my album. So I started thinking, I’ll write about that, but some of it’s modern as well. I try not to talk too much about how I feel. A lot of people that are songwriters, tend to write about how they feel, but I tried not to do that so much. Not so much about the song “Come Midnight” cause I dedicated that song to Marlina and there is another song that will be on the album that I dedicate and is about her cancer battle, but my writing has more gone into an area where I started to really enjoy it and have some fun with it and some of the stories and the storytelling that I am doing is from Australian cultural past and some it is about the US cowboys past. We rode down along the Mexican border. I know where Geronimo was stranded, where Cochise set the strong hold, I know where the US Calvary fought in the Arizona and New Mexico districts and how they were all fighting each other, including the Mexicans and then I realised hang on, this is interesting. I’m possibly doing something here. The current mecca is you get off a bus in Nashville and for younger people especially Australian’s, that was almost unthinkable 30 years ago. You couldn’t do it. They would go “Who are you” and then they go “Are you from Austria?” and we are like “No we are Australians”. But now, everyone is picking it up and so they should be. There are awards left right and centre and you’ve got their names carved in stone and actors and actresses are wandering around picking up oscars or whatever, but back in the day you were lucky if anyone would have even cared about you. So that’s why I decided not to be so obsessed with the charting culture or the ‘what’s on radio’ this week. The way I have always looked at it as a songwriter too, is, if the train has left the station, whats the point of chasing it. It’s gone. So I might as well create something.
KC: Speaking of Nashville, performing at the Bluebird Cafe is obviously legendary in itself, but how did you go preparing yourself for that gig. It is basically a soul exposing intimate venue.
AF: I went to the toilet a lot. (laughs) I have got to say I was really blown away by the hospitality of the audience. It was very intimate, you are right. I thought “gee Andrew you better not blow this”, but it went well. I was blessed and lucky to be there and actually it was from a fellow Australian and he is doing really really well. A guy called Phil Barton, who has become a friend as well. I have written a bit with him. He is a great writer and a good person and also another American writer who I have huge respect for was also there, Bruce Wallace. A guy I really admire and brilliant and a Canadian guy Tim Hicks. I am doing my own shows now. That’s me. Just me. I think I need to pour a bucket of cold water over myself I think, but I am really enjoying it at the moment and it is something really different for me. I feel liberated but at the same time it’s given me the feeling that I can be myself. I know that sounds strange, but for so much of my life I’ve spent being a support person whether its a song writer or producer or whatever I’ve done, but know I am thinking, let it be about me for a little bit.
KC: Was it a hard decision to make going solo? Obviously you needed to step out of the INXS light that people know you for, but how do you perform as Andrew Farriss, Solo performer?
AF: You have to come and see me
KC: I will! I was going to ask you when are you going to do an East Coast tour?
AF: Yeah right! Please, ask me. The sooner everyone says, “Andrew, we would like to see you play live”
KC: Andrew, we would really like to see you play live. (laughs)
AF: Hey (Laughs) I was really surprised you just said that. Hopefully Kylie, people support my album and buy it and whatever – early January 2020 it will be out, or you can buy the single, and I might drop another single before the album, and if people get into that and it does well, its more than likely that the people that book these venues are going to go, “yeah well have him” and then you can see me.
KC: And just remember I was one of the first to ask (laughs)
AF: You’ll be front and centre
KC: I’ll be there.
AF: There’ll be a chair with a big crown on it for you
KC: Queen of Farris (laughs)
AF: Of course.. how inappropriate of me (laughs)
KC: Just going back on your song writing career, you have obviously written for some legends in the music world. Do you now find as a solo artists it is hard to seperate songs that you would write for others compared to songs that would you write now for yourself?
AF: Well that’s a good question. In the past, which again is the reason “Come Midnight’ happened, I always used to cast my songwriter net very wide. By that, what I mean was, I didn’t try to write the same song 50 times. I always experiment whether it was with the music style itself or different genres. It could have been funk, rock or classical music or whatever it was I was messing around with at the time and I would spread my net really wide. But on the one hand, it’s great for me as a writer and it worked really well for me, but on the other hand when I went to start to produce my own record and write for myself (that’s a good question) cause I said, who on earth am I? And that’s why part of my journey was as well, I would write about the earlier part of early Australian outback culture meets US Western Early culture, because that was the beginnings of what formed folk music, what formed country music and so I say to myself and give myself those parameters, and since then, I’ve had some real fun with it, where I started off and did a sort of stray dog with it and then I started to go, I wont think about myself, Ill think about other people in the landscape especially the 19th century for example. On my album there will be bushrangers, outlaws they’ll be preachers. See what I mean? A pretty girl with an ugly heart, all the characters that could make up a movie, almost theatrical and I wrote about them all. Some of them are real and some of them are not.
KC: It sounds like a mix between a Nick Cave and a Paul Kelly story
AF: Yeah Ned Kelly (Laughs)
KC: Thank you so much for speaking with us today. It’s been an honour to speak to you. Really wish you well on this album and I think you will get people curious with this release. People will probably be drawn to your album to see what it is all about.
AF: I certainly hope so and I really hope that they like it.
Check out Andrew’s latest single and video clip