Mark Bishop On His New Album, Songwriting & Why His Songs Are Mini-Sermons

mark bishop

Gospel singer-songwriter Mark Bishop returns with his new album Beautiful Day, a collection of songs that encourages people to look for the positive, trust in God and serve as a witness of His everlasting love. The album realeases on Nov. 22; it is available for pre-order now.

Mark Bishop has one of the most distinctive voices in all of Gospel Music. He is also regarded as one of the preeminent Gospel songwriters of our generation. His songs have been recorded by several of today's most popular Gospel Music groups. Once you have heard one of Mark's thought-provoking songs, you'll immediately know why Gospel Music lovers consider him one of the genre's top singer/songwriters.

Mark's musical roots trace back to idyllic summer evenings in Kentucky, singing on the front porch with his family. It was then that the Bishop family began to form a musical foundation that would usher them to the forefront of Gospel Music. During their career, The Bishops enjoyed enormous success across all outlets, with twenty-seven national Top-40 songs, including twelve Top 5 songs and three Number 1 songs.

Since embarking on a solo career in 2002, Mark Bishop has not missed a beat. He has been honored with multiple nominations and awards in a broad range of categories from leading Gospel Music publications and organizations. He is one of the select few soloists who have been invited to perform on the Main Stage of Gospel Music's signature event, the National Quartet Convention. Over the past thirty years, Mark's songs are staples on Gospel Music radio, accumulating numerous hits on the national airplay charts.

Q:  Mark, thanks once again for doing this interview with us.  Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new album.  Did you approach the making of "Beautiful Day" any differently from your previous albums?

Thanks! It is always exciting to "release" new songs into the wild. Songs are like little birds... you create them, raise them and then send them out on their own. Where they go after that, only God knows. And yes, every album is different because our music grows and evolves in thought as we do. Since I write my music and always have, it's easy for me to look back and see how I've grown as a Christian and the songs can't help but to reflect that. There is always a core that is the essence of the artist, but from time-to-time, the artist decides to try a different brush or color.

Q:  What I really like about your songwriting is that you often write about issues in ways that are so impacting.  What or who inspires you to write?

Someone told me one time, in a joking way, that a Christian songwriter is actually just a frustrated preacher! I knew exactly what they were saying when they said it because it rings true. I look at my songs as little mini-sermons that last about three or four minutes each. I never want to waste the listeners time by repeating something they've already heard before ad nauseam. I like to approach biblical stories from a perspective that might shed light on the meaning behind them in a different way, and maybe by doing that, we can discover some great truth that God is trying to show us. As for inspiration, I grew up on this music, particularly The Rambos, The Hinsons, and a quartet called The Swanee River Boys, along with many others. But inspiration can come from anywhere if you are paying attention.

Q:  How many songs do you normally write for each album?  And how long would it take you to write them?

I am always writing songs throughout the year because I just do. If God has made you a songwriter, you can't help your self; you just write. Maybe it's a coping mechanism to help your own self figure out what this journey is all about. It's almost like a math question on the chalkboard at school; if you are into numbers, you won't be able to leave it alone. You'll work it out to see what the answer is. I pretty-much write all of my songs these days. The concerts feel very personal when you are conveying personal experiences through song and whenever the audience is right there with you in thought, something special happens. I don't really even think about how long it takes to write a song. Some songs come quickly; some have to age. They all grow at different speeds.

Q:  One of the songs on the new record I really like is "God Needs Ministers."  What's the song about and how did this song come about for you?

Thanks! I love that song too! It has such great energy. And the message is important to me. For some reason, when I think about this song, I remember that famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying, "We want you!". If you think about it, this song is a recruitment song for christians to be a blessing to those around them. Here's the thing, some folks think that it's up to the preacher, the teacher, or the singer to be the evangelist, but actually, ALL OF US are called to be a witness for Christ. I just wanted to remind folks that there is someone in their world that they are uniquely positioned to bless. And it does it in a super-fun "churchy" way.

Q:  You also have a fondness for story songs,  on this new record, you have "Lost Lost Lost" and "Home Grown Tomatoes"  Why are story songs important for you?  And do these stories come easily for you?

I guess when God calls me home they'll say, "yeah... you remember, he was that guy that wrote the story songs" and that will be that. I do have quite a few looking back. I didn't set out to write so many, but sometimes, that's just the best way to convey an idea. Ok... here's the scoop... every songwriter writes differently, according to how God has wired their brain. For some folks, the song comes down a conveyer belt and they add the pieces at the right time. For others, it's a coloring book and they are experimenting with different colors but still staying inside the lines.

For me, it's all about a thought that I think adds clarity to some scriptural truth and then I go looking for a musical way to say that. For me (and everyone is different), the music is there to serve the message in this case. That's why I said earlier that I approach songwriting just like preparing a sermon, only this sermon has to get to the point quickly. What's the best way to do that? Sometimes it's by making the narrative linear and telling a story. Too, we can sometimes more easily see ourselves in a story.

Q: A song that really challenged me is "I'm just Changing Mountains."I'd love to hear how this song came about for you.

Remember when I said that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere if you are paying attention? For years I have been recording music with a fantastic guitar player by the name of Jeremy Medkiff... super-talented musician and a guy that loves the Lord. He's been a great witness to me for all the years I've known him. We were imitating some of the mountain preachers from back home in Kentucky where I am from and in his preacher-voice he said, "I'm not in the valley brother Mark, I'm just changing mountains." And I cracked up. We all did. But still, that pithy truth stayed with me and finally while I was driving to a concert date on weekend, I started singing about it and before I knew it, I had the chorus. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are a work in transition. Where we are now is not where we will always be. As the song says, "God has something better waiting just around the bend."

Q:  We have recently just done an interview with 11th Hour.  So, it's good to see 11th Hour's Amber Eppinette doing a duet with you on this new record.  Tell us more about this song and why you chose Amber as your duet partner.

Why would you not want Amber Eppinette to sing on your album!? That girl can forever more sing! I just love 11th Hour's music. I grew up in a very spirit-filled church where there was a lot of excitement in the singing and they really remind me of that. There is a "churchy" attitude to what she does vocally and that really takes me to a happy place. I'm glad that she could find the time to come sing on the album because they are staying pretty busy these days. She actually sings on more than one song, but I think you may be asking about "Are You Ready For Perfect Love?". Yes... she just killed it... knocked it out of the park. It' a song that reminds us that we have yet to experience the ultimate feeling of love. We get it in drips and drabs down here and we love those around us in varying degrees, but one day, we will feel a tidal wave of perfect love come over us. So the question is, are you ready for it? The answer of course is "no"... but it's coming anyway.

Q:  What does a "beautiful day" look like for you personally?

Good question. As I look out the office window right now it is raining and overcast. Far from beautiful? Maybe not. What if I told you that our area has suffered a long drought with scorching temperatures well-above normal for the last month? And that the farmers desperately needed this rain that we are all happy to see? Guess what... it's a beautiful day! It's funny how one person's beautiful day might be someone else's terrible day. But everyone is on a different journey, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns and complications to overcome. A beautiful day is beautiful because of contrast. What's the old saying? It takes rain to make a rainbow? Remember what we already discussed; you're not in the valley; you're just changing mountains. But back to your original question... to me, the most beautiful days are the days where it's easiest too see God working in them. No doubt He is working in all our days, but sometimes, we catch Him at it!




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