As an original member of pioneering Australian rock band INXS, Andrew Farriss co-wrote the majority of the band’s catalog and nearly all of their hit singles. After the 1997 death of lead singer and primary lyricist Michael Hutchence, INXS continued on until 2012 with various singers fronting the band. An inductee into the Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Farriss has released a couple singles since then, but hasn’t been especially active, until now.
Farriss recently spent time in the US – the homeland of his wife – and recorded a new, five-song solo EP in Nashville, Love Makes The World. The record is steeped in the vibe of the American West of old and includes either lap steel (played by Farriss himself) or pedal steel guitar on every track, with Nashville session players like guitarist/banjoist Larry Beaird (Randy Travis, Rascal Flatts) and his son, bassist Eli Beaird (Luke Bryan, Willie Nelson). In a trans-Atlantic phone conversation with American Songwriter, Farriss discussed the new record and the inspiration behind it.
“Michael Hutchence and I wrote a lot over the years,” he said. “I don’t know how many songs we wrote together, maybe over 300. Michael didn’t play an instrument, his voice was his instrument, and he was a great lyricist and an amazing performer. But for me as a songwriter … after Michael passed away, I realized that I didn’t know what I was gonna do with myself. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll write songs.’ So that’s how I ended up in Nashville. My wife Marlina comes from Dayton, Ohio, and her family was only about five-and-a-half hours’ drive from Nashville. And it used to be one of our tour stops when I played in INXS, and I always loved going there.”
“Over the years, I always loved country music,” said Farriss, who lives on a working Australian cattle farm. “It’s music that I’ve listened to because it doesn’t sound like INXS music. It’s different. I listen to lots of different kinds of music. I listen to music from all around the world, all different genres. With INXS, I worked in 62 countries during my career. But with the country music thing … as a songwriter it’s different for me.”
Farriss performed at the Bluebird Café and started making contacts in the Nashville songwriting community. “When I got to Nashville, I met a bunch of guys and gals, some unknowns, some well-known,” he said. “I would get in the room with them, and I would say, as a songwriter, I was fortunate. I was lucky to get in a room with some of these people.”
Then the Farrisses took a trip to the Desert Southwest near the Mexican border, where they went exploring on horseback, and the trip left a definite impact on Farriss. “We could see the old stagecoach routes, and we literally rode along them. I saw where Geronimo surrendered. We were where Cochise’s stronghold was. We were at a national monument area, saw Fort Bowie. And I got an education on the back of a horse. You’ve got the Apaches, you’ve got the US Cavalry, you’ve got the settlers, you’ve got this incredible infusion of cultures all happening at the same time, people trying to make sense of all this. It changed my whole perspective.”
“Then I went back to Nashville,” he continued, “and I got into a room with guys, and they say ‘Hey Andrew, what do you want to write about?’ And I said, ‘I’d really like to write about the Old West,’ and the cats stared at me like, ‘Dude, you’ve lost your mind.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but that’s really what I wanna do.’”
So that’s what he did, and the result is the Western-influenced Love Makes The World.
“This isn’t about pop music,” he said. “This is about a culture that runs very deep, and it’s multicultural. I guess what I’m trying to say is that’s how I ended up doing all this. I went from thinking about being a songwriter, and being fortunate to write in the country music genre, to suddenly recognizing that I wanted to try and write about culture, and about how Australian history, in some ways, is very similar to US history.”