Mark Bishop's "Fields of Love", A Musical Journey of Faith"
Mark Bishop’s new Southern Gospel album, “Fields of Love”, is a unique album that takes its listener on a “musical journey of faith in the heartland”. I had the pleasure of talking with Mark on the Morning Show on the He’s Alive Radio Network and he spoke of the new CD.
“Fields of Love” is a concept album in that each song works together to tell a larger story. The 13 tracks on the CD tell a story, yet each song also stands alone. “It’s a story of a farmer and his family, his wife and son. It’s about a family that had faith, lost faith and their journey back to finding faith.” explains Mark.
“Fields of Love” is set in rural America. “We purposefully didn’t put this story in a time frame.” Comments Mark Bishop. “So as you listen to it you can imagine it going on now or back in the Depression era.”
“Fields of Love” is a Southern Gospel musical “story” about a man struggling with faith. “We all do that”, explains Mark. “Nobody I guess, unless you find the Lord on your death bed – every Christian knows that just because you become a Christian and you have the Lord in your heart. That doesn’t make you immune to the pitfalls, the valleys and the things that happen to us in life. Being a Christian, having Jesus, just gives us a better coping mechanism to deal with all the things that happen."
"This fellow – he’s struggling – and a lot of the album takes place not in the jubilation – although there is a great payoff in the end – a lot of the story is the man fighting for his life. He’s trying to figure it out.”
This groundbreaking Southern Gospel album contains some of Mark’s best writing to date. Mark reflects, “The fun was figuring it out. I’ve written songs for over 30 albums in the 24-25 years I’ve been singing. It can be easy to fall into a rut. You can churn out songs like a factory worker turns out Toyota Corollas.” Mark Laughs. “You figure out the process and you streamline it. This project was good for me, having to relearn how to write because cut #7 had implications in cuts 2 and 3 and vice versa. It was neat figuring out a new process.”
Mark continues, “I love the story type songs. Songs that attempt to take the listener from some place and to put them some place different. I had done this for quite a few years and had hits and misses in there. A lot of people remember the songs “Perfectly Honest” or the number one song, “I Got Here As Fast As I Could” and there have been others”.
“But you can only develop a character so much in a four minute song because you are constrained by the time limit.” Mark comments. “I had always wondered what it would be like to write a longer story and use the entire album – not just a song – to tell a greater story with each song being a kind of chapter contributing to the larger story.”
“Usually I go and sit on the front porch or I’m driving down the road with a pad of paper or I’ll sing the melody into a little recorded so I have that. I had to do this completely differently.
“I had to set up a storyboard in my office – a large bulletin board that had index cards with the songs and what had to be revealed in each song and what had to set up plot points in the later songs.
“It was just so much fun to write in that way. In order to keep the plot points in order I wrote a short story and that short story – a revised version, people will find inside the ‘Fields of Love’ CD”.
This story, an eight-page booklet included in the CD, tells the story from a different perspective then the musical version. The story in the CD is from the son’s perspective. It gives the listeners/reader a new insight into the struggles that take place in the musical version. Together, the audio and written stories create a world that totally captivates the audience.
“I have a friend at The Singing News magazine that listened to the project.” Mark reflects. “He said usually with concept albums they wear out their welcome and by the time I’m half way through I’m thinking ‘wow, I’m over this – I want to hear something else’ but he said I was so totally immersed in the world of this CD, this story, these characters and I wanted to live there. When it was over with I didn’t want to leave it.”
“Fields of Love” has a very rich sound. “We went full orchestration throughout this whole album just so it would feel like a movie and have the fullness and majesty – just like you would hear in a movie”, Mark Bishop explains. “We didn’t restrain any on the budget and got the best talent.”
Helping on the project are some of Southern Gospel Music’s finest singers. They include Debra Talley, Lauren Talley, Reggie Sadler, Dennis Kuzmich, The Kingdom Heirs and more. The project was produced by Crossroads Music veteran Jeff Collins and Mark Bishop.
The uniqueness of this concept album is not lost on Mark. “I’ve had different people call me up and give just a long list of compliments. They ‘love this’ and ‘its fantastic’ and ‘people are going to enjoy it’ and ‘it had me crying’ and ‘it had me laughing’ and ‘Mark it’s ahead of its time’ and I just throw the brakes on as soon as they say that because the thought of it scares me.” Mark chuckles, “ When someone says ‘its ahead of its time’ that means it doesn’t fit the market place. I think of Van Gogh or Picasso or whoever. Even though their work was celebrated they died paupers because they were ahead of their times”.
As Mark and I talked about the uniqueness of ‘Fields of Love” I mentioned that there was nothing like it in Southern Gospel music or even Contemporary music. Mark interrupted, “Why should we wait for them to do it? I love our music. Our music has so much to offer. I get tired of being the stepchild so many times.
“Southern Gospel music has so much to offer people. You will never hear greater harmony in any kind of music. So why should we wait for someone else to do it first? This is something that I always wanted to hear and I never did hear it the way I wanted to hear it. So I just wrote it myself to let everybody else enjoy it because maybe there is somebody else that wants to enjoy it like I did.”
I enjoyed it!
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