Andrew Farriss is best known for his stint as the keyboardist and lead songwriter for Australian rock band INXS. After gaining immense fame in the 80s and 90s, INXS lost singer Michael Hutchence to suicide in 1997, an event that inevitably changed the band and Andrew’s future.
On his first recordings in over 10 years, Andrew released his first solo album in March – a country-flavored outlaw album close to his heart.
From rock star fame to farming and country music, Andrew Farriss returns to his roots on the eponymous new CD.
We caught up with the iconic songwriter via email for this exclusive Q&A.
Your eponymous country solo album has just been released. Tell me about the album and why did you choose country?
I started writing songs when I was a teenager and have been writing songs ever since. And so, I have accumulated a lot of songs over the years, including country style songs. I particularly like Outlaw style country music and folk instruments combined.
I didn’t start by making an album, at first I re-recorded older (and much newer) songs – demos to present them to other artists. I was happy 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 and went to where Arizona and New Mexico meet the Mexican border to cross the Mountains National Monument. Chiricahua and the wilderness.
We rode horses six hours a day, six days in a row, and learned about the turbulent and moving history of this region. The Apaches, Mexicans, Mexican Army, American Cavalry, Cowboys near Tombstone, Outlaws, and Settlers were all trying to survive and make a living.
I was inspired and moved by the region’s turbulent history and thought that this part of 19th century American history was culturally very similar to 19th century Australian history.
The cover and even the vinyl of the album are very visual. Was the visual aspect of this album as important as the music?
Yes, I really wanted the album cover art, photography, graphics, and the vinyl itself to stand out, combined with practical clothing from that era – 19th century American history that was culturally similar to the 19th century Australian history.
The vinyl itself seems really important to you. Why so much effort on vinyl?
Vinyl was VERY important to me for several reasons. Vinyl is physical. It can be its own art form. You own it if you buy it. Technology is not better just because it is 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 it intentional?
“All The Stars Are Mine” has nothing to do with “The Gift”.
Are there any song ideas on your album that you had 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 had always assumed it was Michael’s voice with a weird effect on it. Did you consider singing the lead of another song on this album (“Welcome to Wherever You Are”) or any other INXS album?
Yes, I wrote and sang “Questions” on the INXS – Welcome album. What is different now for me as a singer is that I sing over my songs in a way that I have never done before and choose the song key that best suits my voice.
I’m a longtime INXS fan who is almost the exact same age (and grew up within hours of) your former Canadian singer (JD Fortune). We wanted this partnership to work. Unfortunately, it is not the case. Can you give us the final say on what happened between him and INXS?
I don’t know why JD didn’t work, hope he’s okay.
Some INXS fans would find your switch to country music a bit of a betrayal. What would you say to the die-hard INXS fan “I Hate Country”?
I am also an INXS fan, I have also owned a cattle and grain farm when it rains and I am a cowboy.
I also lived this life during the career of INXS.
I happen to like country music, especially outlaw country style. Check out some of the new and old Americana stuff – Bluegrass.
Modern country music was just conquering the charts before the release of INXS ‘latest album from the 90s. Have you ever wondered what could have happened if INXS made a country album or song? Did you write country music at the time?
In fact, INXS performed “Jackson” with Australian singer Jenny Morris and Michael singing a duet at the Sydney Entertainment Arena in the 1980s.
Is there an INXS song that could work if it was remade 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 have to find out from them, I guess, they were farmers like me.
You have always been the calm and introspective person. How does it feel to be the main guy?
I’m busier than shit through a goose!
I noticed that you booked a show in April at the Royal Hotel Queanbeyan. I looked on Google Maps and the front of the hotel looks like a western gunslinger’s saloon. Did it have to be intentional?
Yes, you get the idea and hopefully put on more shows when the restrictions ease.
Your new music is country flavored, but it’s more like a classic country sound than (say) “bro country”. I wanted to thank you for that, but also ask how different it is to write this style of music VS what you were known for?
I have been very fortunate to write and perform with INXS and am fortunate to be accepted by the country music community then and now – respect.
Not knowing Tamworth in Australia (where you have a farm) I had no idea it was home to the Australian Country Music Hall Of Fame. (Or that it 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
Based on a photo in your website bio, it looks like you always prefer to write music with a pen in your hand and a guitar in your lap. Has your songwriting process changed a lot in 40 years?
I go back to my roots as a writer. I use a lot less technology than in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.
Thanks for asking me – have a nice trip.
Photo: Michael McMartin
Photo: Michael McMartin