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Of Mercy and Exodus: A Mike Farris Reader

BF: There’s a version of “Selah” on YouTube with Audley backing you.

MF: I’ve been really blessed that way, too., to have so many great musicians. I want the best musicians I can find to play, ‘cause that’s what drives me- the music, you know? You get the rhythm going, the band going, the guitar player- that’s what just drives it over the top.

But you were talking about the writing process- it’s real crazy how it happens with me. There’s no really no rhyme or… I really don’t see the vision until we get into it, and then all of a sudden, I see it kind of forming in front of me, and then I go “Oh…” I have a rough draft in my mind and then it kind of just takes shape and I’m just always overwhelmed. We’re in the studio cutting horns or something and I’m almost just crying, you know, I’m so happy. It’s like, man, I had this idea, but this is so much better, that I’ve let this go and allowed God to kind of ‘let things happen’. It takes care of itself.

When I wrote “Selah”- “Selah” was written… when did 9/11… was that 2001?

BF: 2001, yeah.

MF: Yeah, I never really dreamed that it would have fit on that record the way it did. It fits [well] on what we do- it’s just crazy, man.

BF: You’re still a creative artists, who’s entering a prime of your own in terms of composing and performing. Yet, when you backed Patty Griffin up on her Austin City Limits taping, she referred to you as a legend.

MF: [laughs, nearly chokes on dinner]

BF: Right over the microphone for all to hear.

MF: When’d she do that- Austin City Limits?

BF: She said it on her Austin City Limits taping. So how do you consider yourself at this stage in your career? You’ve got a past you can be proud of, or at least step back and appreciate, yet you obviously have so many more visions for what the future could hold, and you’re in the middle of just seeing what happens. Where do you see yourself on your journey right now?

MF: Well, I was gonna ask you the same thing- I was gonna get your advice on it.. [grins]... ‘cause it’s like… I don’t know. I really don’t. I beat myself up so much in my head- I’m so up and down with it. Like, “I’m not good enough do this, I don’t know what I’m thinking”. And I really struggle with that- “Am I good enough?” or “Are these songs good enough?”, and it holds me down. It’s really a form of bondage, and… it’s my fear. I think I have a fear of succeeding in something. Thankfully, I have a loving, beautiful wife who’s just wise, wise, wise, man, and she kind of guides me on. Right now, I see… I want to develop this old spiritual music and I want to take it more primal.

BF: No one ever did for the old gospel classics what bands like Zeppelin or Cream did for the blues classics. Take Cream’s “Spoonful”- it’s got a primal sort of energy to it. Is that something you see yourself doing- not going all big arena rock, but adding that “electricity” to it?

MF: If anything, I feel like I want to make it more big and grand like on a super, Earth-shattering sound that I have in my head, which is like these tablas going on, a real rhytmic thing that’s just relentless. You know, it’s like, everybody said James Brown was a genius. James Brown was a genius and all he did was just stayed on the one and never move. He’d go to the bridge, he’d modulate every now and then he’d go back to the one and just stay there. And everybody was like- “that’s GENIUS!” [laughs].

Tina Haase Findlay: And with a whole lot of attitude!

MF: {Yeah…] And people were like “Woah- that’s different”. You know, you don’t have to have any changes at all man, it’s just primal. That’s where I see myself taking things, maybe.

BF: There was once a producer, whose name I cannot remember, who coined the term “Billboards for Jesus” because of the bands he’d have to work with for the labels who hired him. Have you ever heard that term?

MF: No!

BF: It’s the old “If you like the Black Crowes, then you’ll like… [insert] Third Day” kind of thing.

MF: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

BF: So, you’re stuck between two industries right now- the Christian Music industry, and the secular record industry- how do you keep the faith? It’s a clichè, but what does that mean to you, in the middle of fighting that war?

MF: I think it’s doing, truly man, what shakes you to your core. What knocks you off your axis and puts you in a place of ecstacy that you’ve never dreamed. If you ever reach that point, then you know you’re doing exactly what the God of this universe has put you on this Earth for. And it ain’t about money- it ain’t about nothing but peace and happiness, man, and joy. I mean sheer, sheer joy, and when you feel that, when you reach that place- ‘cause I think that’s our journey in life- the whole thing, from start to finish, is going, looking around, and trying to find that place, that makes us happy. There’s one little place in this world preserved for you. It’s out there somewhere and you may be living in it now, I don’t know, but it’s waiting for you, and you won’t really ever know true peace and happiness until you find that place and then- boom. And I think that’s what it is for me. I have found something that moves me like nothing has ever moved me, and this is what I love to do. And I don’t care what it is- just find it. Money- it all takes care of itself, you don’t really have to worry about any of that stuff.

You know, in the Bible it says, over and over again, “don’t worry”. “Don’t fear. don’t worry, turn to Me, lay your burdens on Me, don’t worry, don’t fear”. Over and over and over. It’s very important for us to not worry and not fear. Lay those things down and go and find that place that makes you happy.

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