If you can see Mike Farris live, find something solid to hang on to: he and his band will blow the roof off the place, and you might just well go with it. Look up, and you just might see Heaven. Bone rattling Southern Gospel with an undeniable, down-to-the-roots sound right out of New Orleans, Farris praises his Savior from deep within his soul, and draws from Southern roots music history. His sweet but mighty tenor can almost crack the heavens open.
If you can’t see him live, you’ll just have to stay back here on Earth and listen to Salvation in Lights. That’ll get your spirits up and hold you ‘til he releases his recordings of the Sunday Night Shouts at the Station Inn in Nashville. Honored as 2008’s Emerging Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Association Awards, Farris talks with PopMatters 20 Questions about his little slice of Heaven, right here on Earth.
Salvation in Lights
(INO; US: 26 Jun 2007; UK: Available as import)
1. The latest book or movie that made
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This was the last novel read by Rose (McGathy), my manager of 15 years. She passed away last year. For her to have read this book in the waning moments of her life, I just find that to be brave. She was a huge Cormac fan. I wished she could have lived to see No Country on film.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Jack Black’s Nacho. This is, perhaps, the greatest story ever told, by the greatest actor of our time. Nacho, is on a quest to find his purpose in life. Nothing can stop him. I, too, some day wish to capture my dream of becoming a world champion wrestler. I gain great strength from inspirational characters such as Nacho.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Impossible question to answer. Although, because our son is now diggin’ on the Beatles and we’ve been hearing a lot of that around the house lately, I woke up yesterday morning and the first thought in my head was how incredibly perfect Revolver is. It’s staggering how creative and prolific those guys were.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Highly regarded and revered Star Wars is at our home.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Boats on a lake, one on one with my wife and little boy, Charles Bukowski, C.S. Lewis, Paul, Thelonious Monk, yard work, 11,000 feet at Snowbird, Utah, Oswald Chambers, Ovation Channel, grace, blueberries.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
What accomplishment? If you’re referring to Salvation In Lights, it was made in spite of me.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
Being a great husband and dad.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Paul, David, Louis Armstrong, actually all black artists in the early days, who persevered America’s moral infections and wore a smile through all the shit they had to endure, all the while changing forever the world’s musical and cultural landscape.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
There are so so many great pieces of music and art. It’s mind bending, for me, when people ask such questions.
Let’s randomly pick a few, shall we? The Sistine Chapel, Sgt Pepper, Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, Al Green’s entire catalogue, Motown’s entire catalogue, anything the Clayton Brothers paint, Billie Holliday’s “If You Were Mine”, I would have loved to have produced the Buena Vista Social Club, Curtis Mayfield’s “So In Love”... this list could really go on forever.
10. Your hidden talents…?
I’m an Olympic caliber sled dog racer.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Raise your hands in the air. Now wave ‘em like you just don’t care.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I actually bought, stole and borrowed the same guitar once. I borrowed my dad’s guitar, the one I learned to play on, then kept it so long it kinda turned into theft, then, at some point I pawned it, then eventually bought it back, only to pawn it again, never to see it, evermore. I did, however, buy my dad a new guitar years later, so now my karma has been restored, somewhat.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Vivienne Westwood. That or a really nice pleather pant from any Goodwill.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Our son, Christian, my wife, Julie, and Stevie Wonder.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
The ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. The Golden age of American music.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Weekend trips with Julie. That works just fine.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Coffee, yes. Chocolate, mmm-hmm. Golf, fresh tomatoes, Italian food, all ethnic foods, great ice cream, pomegranates, and watermelon.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Anywhere on the Mediterranean will do, as long as I can have a place down South to come home to. You can’t make the music I make and not live in it.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
I would rather take the opportunity to say to the people of my country, “Hey!! wake up!! We are the leaders of our country!! We don’t have to take any of this shit!”
And then we’d kick everyone out of office, replace them with ordinary, smart, reasonable people, implement a flat tax effective immediately, reconfigure the way we pay for cable, so that we only pay for the channels we actually watch, and not continuing to subsidize idiotic shows (this would absolutely slow down the dumbing effect on our people, maybe), hold teachers to wayyyyyyy higher standards (standards we place on doctors and lawyers for a start), make Ben and Jerry’s free, then drop a nuclear bomb on Switzerland just for the hell of it.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
My kid is harassing me to go meet up with Nick (our bass player) and have lunch.