Fans of any musical act will look at their most successful album as a turning point for the group. The direction a band takes afterwards can have rippling effects that will play out throughout their career. If expectations aren’t met, it could be devastating.
In 1987, INXS achieved international fame with their hit album Kick. The record features staples such as “Need You Tonight,” “Never Tear Us Apart,” “Mystify,” and “Devil Inside.”
The album marked a change in workflow for the band as they abandoned their traditional approach of writing songs as a group with vocalist Michael Hutchence and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Farriss taking the lead. The band took a chance with the duo writing all the songs on the record and it paid off.
“It’s ok writing songs when there’s no pressure. When the pressure comes on that’s a whole different conversation,” Farriss told RADIO.COM in an interview.
Following the success of Kick, INXS faced a level of pressure they had yet to face in their career. Not only did they have to live up to the acclaim of that record, people were relying on them to make another successful record. “I think part of you has to pretend it’s not happening and it doesn’t matter. And I think part of you is very aware of it as you’re doing it,” Farriss said.
It’s an interesting dynamic the group was presented with. Trying to match their creative output from before their hit record while in a high-pressure situation. “We weren’t in a big hurry to run into the studio after Kick,” he admitted.
There was a three-year gap between Kick and X, something that was intentional on the band’s part. When it came time to write songs for X, Farriss and Hutchence left Australia for New Zealand. This was to get away from any distractions and put their efforts solely on creating the album.
“We put a bunch of demos together and then it began to make more sense,” Farris said.
“The X album began to come together after that. Before that it was rocky, I love the X album and what I love about it is the energy of it. I really like the way that it doesn’t sound like Kick.”
While sales of the album didn’t reach the heights of Kick, it attained tremendous success having gone double platinum in the United States with over two million copies sold.
Farriss cited standout songs on the album like “Suicide Blonde,” “Disappear,” “Hear That Sound,” “Bitter Tears,” and “The Stairs, “ and said “ I know the other guys in the band feel the same way too.”
Now that the album has marked its 30th anniversary, Farriss admits that some of the songs have taken on a new meaning as time has gone by. “Some of them, and I’m sure the other guys in the group feel the same way, a lot of them take on an emotional aspect as well,” he says. “I can remember where we were, what we were doing at the time with a certain song. What we were playing, what we were thinking, how we recorded it.”
“We had a secret weapon on that album too, Charlie Musselwhite,” Farriss said.
The legendary blues harmonica player happened to be in Sydney while INXS was making the album and they asked him to come into the studio. When Musselwhite was playing, Farriss couldn’t help but be amazed. ”I’m sitting there in the control room listening to him playing the blues-harp. He does it so effortlessly,” he says.
“Chris [Thomas] the record’s producer he’s going ‘Andrew shut up!’ I had to leave the room because I kept going ‘the guy’s a genius!’” Farriss laughs.
The legacy of X speaks for itself. As Farriss celebrates the milestone, he’s also embarking on another one. The very first solo release of his career.
Farriss will be releasing his debut EP Love Makes The World on October 2 and is using the songwriting lessons he’s learned from his past when it comes to dealing the pressure of releasing your first solo material.
“The best way to deal with a pressure situation is to relax and enjoy yourself in the songwriting process and not to get too in your head about it,” he says.
Because of this, Farriss has a collection of songs he feels speaks to the moment the world is going through in 2020. “I’m not trying to be the Dalai Lama, but I felt with these five songs it’s a good time to put them out because the world is going through something at the moment that I haven’t experienced in my lifetime where all the countries are trying to cope with the pandemic,” he says.
Originally, this EP was going to follow a full-length studio album. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. His management suggested he delay the release of his album because everyone involved in the promotion of it was forced to go home and self-isolate.
Farriss already had the songs from his EP written and recorded, which brings us to the other part of his decision to share it. To try and send a positive message. Farriss describes the songs as having this “1960’s in the flavor of the lyrics.”
From touching on taking care of the environment, to dealing with loss and opening up your emotions, and the cycle of life, the messages in his music aim to be uplifting.
There’s also an element to his solo material that may surprise fans familiar with his INXS work. It leans heavily into Country music.
This was a deliberate choice for Farriss and was largely inspired by his time horse riding along the Mexican border.
Farriss and his wife took a trip on the Mexican border where Arizona and New Mexico met up. The couple would get up early in the morning and ride horses throughout the entire day.
Their trip was led by a wrangler named Craig Lawson, who taught the couple about the extensive history of the area. The vast history of the area and the sheer amount of wilderness inspired Farriss and spawned several trips back to the area. The experience had such an impact on him that Farriss is dedicating his full-length LP to Lawson.
When Farriss returned to Nashville, where he was recording his solo material, people asked him what he wanted to write about. “I really wanted to write about what was going on in the 1880’s in the Old West,” he said. Farriss said people would seem confused by his desire to do that. It wasn’t just taking from his experience riding horses in the Southwest, it was also going back to the roots of country music and taking a modern approach.
“Very early Country music and the way it came about to me is the most fascinating element of it,” Farriss says. “The instruments were originally classic instruments, from Europe for a lot of them. You had violins becoming fiddles, then a guitar mixed with a drum became a banjo.”
Farriss challenged himself as he said “to go back in time and explore, but with today's technology and how to put all these things together.”
Andrew Farriss will be releasing his debut solo EP Love Makes The World on October 2. You can pre-order the EP now.