Andrew Farriss is best known for his stint as the keyboardist and main songwriter of Australian rock band INXS. After gaining huge fame in the 80s and 90s, INXS lost vocalist Michael Hutchence to suicide in 1997, an event that changed the band and Andrew’s future inevitably.
On his first recordings in more than 10 years, Andrew released his debut solo album in March – a country flavoured, outlaw album that is near and dear to his heart.
From rock star fame to farming and country music, Andrew Farriss gets back to his roots on the new self-titled CD.
We sat down with the iconic songwriter via email for this exclusive Q&A.
Your self-titled country solo album was just released. Tell me about the album and why you chose country?
I started writing songs as a teenager and I’ve written songs ever since. And so, I have accumulated many songs over the years, including country style songs. I particularly like Outlaw style country music and folk instruments combined.
I didn’t start out making an album, at first, I was re – recording older (and much newer) song – demos to pitch to other artists. I was pleased with the songs but not with the quality of the recordings.
During one of the Nashville recording sessions, my wife Marlina and I took a week off work and headed down to where Arizona and New Mexico meet the Mexican border to ride through the Chiricahua Mountains National Monument and Wilderness area.
We rode horses for six hours a day, six days in a row and had an education on the turbulent and emotive history of that area. The Apaches, The Mexicans, The Mexican Army, The US cavalry, the Cowboys nearby in Tombstone, The Outlaws and Settlers were all trying to survive and make lives for themselves.
I was inspired and emotionally moved by the gritty history of the area and thought this party of US 19th Century history was culturally very similar in a way to Australian 19th Century History.
The cover and even vinyl for the album are very visual. Was the visual aspect of this album just as important as the music?
Yes, I really wanted the album artwork, photography, graphics and the vinyl itself to stand out, combined with practical clothing of that era – US 19th Century history that was culturally similar in a way to Australian 19th Century History.
The vinyl itself seems really important to you. Why so much effort on the vinyl?
Vinyl was VERY important to me for a few reasons. Vinyl is physical. It can be its own art form. You own it if you buy it. Technology is not better simply because it’s new. You can’t eat a smartphone.
Your song “All the Scars Are Mine” was released last August, and the title reminded me of a line from the INXS song “The Gift”: “All These Stars Are Mine”. Was that intentional?
“All The Stars Are Mine “has nothing to do with “The Gift”.
Are any of the songs on your album ideas you had kicking around during the INXS days?
Only one song: “Come Midnight”.
I just realized this year that YOU are the voice on the INXS song “Questions” I’d always assumed it was Michael’s voice with a weird effect on it. Had you considered singing lead on any other songs from that album (“Welcome to Wherever You Are”) or any other INXS albums?
Yes, I wrote and sang “Questions” on the INXS – Welcome album. What is different now for me as a vocalist is, I sing on my songs in a way I hadn’t done before and choose the song key that best suits my voice.
I’m a life-long INXS fan who is almost the exact same age (and grew up within a few hours of) your former Canadian lead singer (JD Fortune). We were rooting for that partnership to work. Sadly it did not. Can you give us the final word on what happened between him and INXS?
I’m not sure why JD didn’t work out, I hope he’s doing well.
Some INXS fans would find your move to country music a bit of a betrayal. What would you say to the die-hard “I hate country” INXS fan?
I’m a fan of INXS’ too, I’ve also owned a cattle & grains farm when it rains and I’m a cowboy.
I was living that life during the INXS career too.
I just happen to like Country music, especially outlaw style country. Check out some of the new and older Americana – Bluegrass stuff.
Modern country music was just taking over the charts before the last INXS album of the ‘90s came out. Ever wonder what might have happened if INXS did a country album or song? Were you writing any country inspired music back then?
Actually, INXS performed “Jackson” with Australian singer Jenny Morris and Michael singing a duet at The Sydney Entertainment arena sometime during the eighties.
Is there an INXS song that could work if redone as a country song?
“Shine Like It Does”, also “Never Tear Us Apart”
Can you give us an update on what your brothers Tim and Jon have been up to?
You need to check in with them I guess, they’ve been farmers like me.
You were always the quiet, introspective one. What’s it been like becoming the lead guy?
I’m busier than shit through a goose!
I noticed that you have a live show booked in April at the Royal Hotel Queanbeyan. I looked on Google Maps and the hotel’s façade resembles a Western gunslinger saloon. That must have been intentional?
Yes, you’re getting the idea and hopefully doing more shows when restrictions ease.
Your new music is country flavored, but it’s more akin to a classic country sound than (for example) “bro country”. I wanted to thank you for that, but also ask how different is it writing this style of music VS what you were known for?
I was very fortunate to write and perform with INXS and I’m fortunate to be accepted by the Country music community past and present – respect.
Not being familiar with Tamworth in Australia (where you have a farm) I didn’t realize it is home to the Australian Country Music Hall Of Fame. (Or that this was even a thing). If you could take one thing you love from Nashville and put it in Tamworth, what would it be? (And vice versa).
My Wife – Marlina
From a photo on your website bio, it appears that you still prefer to write music with a pen in hand and guitar on your lap. Has your songwriting process changed much in 40 years?
I’m going back to my roots as a writer. I use much less technology than I did during the eighties, nineties and noughties.
Thanks for asking me – safe travels.