Riding a horse along the old stagecoach routes up to the Apache Pass on the Mexican border does something to a man.
It certainly did something to Andrew Farriss.
He has based his debut solo album on his travels through the Old West, where he felt the creative juices pulse through his veins as he retraced the steps of pioneers.
It's a far cry from his days with INXS, when he travelled the world as the band's keyboardist, backing vocalist and primary songwriter.
Farriss, who last year was made a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the performing arts as a musician, composer and producer, lives on a remote property in north-western NSW and runs a working farm. He has lived on the land for many years, so country music has never been far from his heart. But spending weeks riding with his wife Marlina and cowboy Craig Lawson through the Chiricahua Mountains was a turning point. The history of the area captivated Farriss, as did the barren beautiful landscape.
"I became quite enamoured with it, it became very real to me," he says.
"We were riding six or seven hours a day. We even found old bullets on the ground. It was then I thought 'This is real, it's not a Hollywood movie'.
"When I went back to Nashville and I continued writing, some people said 'Let's write a country pop hit' but I didn't want to do that. What I really wanted to do was write about the outlaw country that I just saw."
I don't want to chase what train everyone else is on, I want to stay true to what I do as a songwriter, and keep a frontier sense of freedom.Andrew Farriss
The concept of the outlaw and cowboy country resonated with Farriss because it felt like home. He drew parallels between what he had experienced in the US and what he experienced every day working on his farm.
It was a case of Australiana meeting Americana, and it inspired him to pursue a new musical frontier.
Farriss had more than 200 songs already penned when he decided to create the body of work that would result in his debut solo album.
"In Nashville they approach things a little differently than we do," he says.
"They weren't that concerned about the INXS legacy, they just took me at face value as a bloke who writes songs. So when I started singing these songs to them they were like 'Why don't you just sing?'. I had already realised that it wasn't that easy to find a singer that suited these songs. When I listened to my voice as a country singer it was a lightbulb moment for me. That's when the pieces of the jigsaw fell together."
Farriss released his debut country single, Come Midnight, in 2019 and follow-up single Good Momma Bad at this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival. The latest single, Run Baby Run, hit the airwaves earlier this month. His solo album was initially flagged for release in March 2020 but COVID put that plan on hold for 12 months. Instead, Farriss released a five-track EP, Love Makes The World, that spawned two hit singles. His self-titled debut album, released this week, features a selection of eclectic songs with a unique blend of rhythm, roots, Americana and country influences.
For Farriss, it has never mattered what style of music he is writing. What is important is how the song makes you feel and the story it is telling. It is this ethos he adopted when it came to compiling a collection of songs that brought to life stories of outlaws and freedom.
"One of the reasons many people have warmed to country music, is that it isn't just happy songs," Farriss says.
"It is the sad songs; it is the gritty subjects that some genres of music won't go near. That is something that attracts me as a songwriter. I don't want to chase what train everyone else is on, I want to stay true to what I do as a songwriter, and keep a frontier sense of freedom.
"When I was putting the album together, I steered away from cliches, plus I wanted to put my own personality in it. If my album doesn't sound like anyone else, then that is good."
Andrew Farriss is touring nationwide in April and May, including a show at Lizotte's Newcastle on April 16. Tickets are on sale now.
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