We sat down with Andrew Farriss to talk about his music career and his 4,000-acre farm in the Land Down Under.
The co-founding member of rock band INXS recently released his first solo album with a rich country-flavored Americana sound.
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on the release of your first solo album, Andrew Farriss. I’m sure its rich country-flavored Americana sound came as a surprise to people who know you only as a member of the rock band INXS.
Andrew Farriss: I love the fusion of different influences in music. I’ve always been like that. I think even with INXS — which I don’t want to talk about too much — but one of the things that the record labels used to say to us is, “Why do you guys keep changing your sound? You’ve had a hit on the radio, why don’t you just keep doing that same kind of music?” And I wouldn’t be rude to them, but I’d just sit down and think, “Because it’s boring to do that. And why not explore? Why not look at different things?” Like, one of my favorite albums of all time is Willie Nelson’s Teatro record, which was produced by Daniel Lanois.
C&I: Which at the time seemed like such a radical change of pace for Willie, with its spare, atmospheric sound.
Andrew: Yeah, and I love that record. In fact, I had a sort of an existentialist conversation with Ed Eckstine, who at the time was looking after the Motown label, and he said to me, “Hey, Andrew, what’s your favorite music at the moment?” I said, “Well, to be honest, I love the Teatro album by Willie Nelson.” And he goes, “What?” He couldn’t get his head around it. So I said, “Because I love the way that Willie had the guts to go outside his safety zone and just explore something.”
C&I: Well, you’ve certainly explored an impressive variety of music for Andrew Farriss — everything from the rootsy grooves of “My Cajun Girl” to the funkiness of “Good Mama Bad” and the country-pop sound of “Come Midnight.” It must have frustrated you when you weren’t able to release the album as originally planned last year.
Andrew: It did. I mean, I was moving like a train, really going. I was going to keep releasing videos like I did for “Good Mama Bad” and “Come Midnight,” and release songs off the LP — and then COVID hit. And it really hit hard everywhere, all around the world. And so the record label people said to me, “Andrew, we were thinking it probably is a good idea if you just stop pushing your album for a little while. And let’s just see where this thing is going, because everyone’s gone home to isolate.”
C&I: But you kept busy by releasing a five-track EP titled Love Makes the World, which has your wonderfully uplifting song “All The Stars Are Mine.”
Andrew: Yeah, I stopped for a while, and talked about it with my wife, Marlina. She could tell I was pretty upset because I’d worked for two or three years to get to that point to make all this stuff come alive. So I just started working on the farm. I thought, “This is all too hard. This business is just nuts, and now the world’s gone nuts.” And then as I was walking along one day, I started thinking about “All The Stars Are Mine” and the other tracks — other songs that I had written over the years, but never recorded. And I don’t know, call it intuition or something, but I started thinking about the lyrics of those particular songs, and then I realized they all had a common thread: They’re all talking about all we’ve got is each other.
C&I: You’ve owned and operated a cattle ranch in your native Australia for several years now, right?
Andrew: Actually, I own what we call a station, a farm. It’s about 4,000 acres, about four hours inland from the coast, and I’ve owned it for 28 years. I had a small hobby farm before that, because my mother got cancer. At that point in my life, I was doing really well with INXS and I had some money, so I bought that place so that mom and dad could live on the property with me, because she wasn’t well. But, anyway, it didn’t work out that way. I ended up with the property and at first I was — well, I didn’t really come from a farming background, so I freaked out a bit. But over the years it’s grown to be an incredibly important thing to me, actually.
C&I: How many head do you have at the station?
Andrew: At the moment, we’re carrying around about 430. Normally, we carry about 100 more cows than that, but that’s under capacity. It can normally hold about up to 600, but we tend to understock it, because you just don’t know with the variations in weather what’s going to happen to you. We’re coming out of like a three-year drought, the most severe drought in living memory, and it was scary. But things are looking better now.
Visit facebook.com/andrewfarrissmusic to hear the artist’s new tunes.
Illustration: courtesy Jonathan Fehr
From our July 2021 issue