Mark Bishop on Fields of Love

Hello everyone, Mark Bishop here. Settle in.

First let me say that this year has been a year of firsts for me. Along with the fantastically talented and creative people that I have worked with at Crossroads and a few of my label mates, we have finished an atypical recording that we believe will bless many people. Add to that, this is my first time “blogging”, and I am quite sure that I don’t know what I am getting myself into. Take it easy on the new guy.

The Fields of Love would be about thirty-second on my discography. I recorded many of those albums with my family and the more recent ones as a soloist. Back in 1984 when we started, I wasn’t the primary writer for our group. I contributed a couple of songs for that first album or three and then as I developed the craft, I began to contribute more. By the time of the group’s “retirement,” my family and record company had supported and encouraged me to contribute a higher percentage of each recording’s content. I love to write. It’s my thing. I was happy for the arrangement.

Writers enjoy being creative. Some writers can cover the same subject over and over and never get tired of it. Some writers have wanderlust and must try new things. I won’t claim to be Daniel Boone, but I believe that a writer owes it to themselves to stretch out every now and then and explore new territory. Even if you must… gasp!… disregard the marketplace. I won’t say that that is what we have done here with The Fields of Love, but certainly when I was writing this thing, the “marketplace” was the last thing on my mind. This was a labor of love. I have written a lot of songs and have had my share of commercial success in our industry. But that was not what I was swinging for when I worked on this. I knew that it would defy traditional templates set up in our “business,” but the creative side of me - not the business side of me - won out.

I am grateful for the posters who have appreciated this recording as an effort to do something innovative. Whenever someone steps up and trots out something new, you can expect a certain amount of folks to try to chip away at it. I don’t take that personally… they are just trying to see if it stands up. Experience has taught them that a lot of things don’t stand up. I appreciated Doug’s review. He noticed many things that we hoped the listener would. He also pointed out things that he would have liked to have heard done differently, and drew light on what he saw as shortcomings.

Anyone who knows me knows there is no one more critical of my work than me. I strive to the best of my ability with each outing. Sometimes I hit the mark and those days are wonderful, but very often I fall short of what my perceived goal was. Here is what experience has taught me, though: God can use it anyway.

I have always enjoyed conceptual albums. Very often though, for me, they would get too clever for their own good and branch off into a section that had to be interpreted. That’s fine and all, but it always left me unsatisfied as a listener. Whenever the lyric would stop and the music would go from bombastic to ethereal and then to something else, I always wondered if I was where I was supposed to be in the story, linear thinker that I am. I would think to myself, “Did something happen? Are we supposed to be in heaven? Somebody tell me something!”

I had a simple goal for The Fields of Love: I wanted it to be accessible for other listeners who were like me. I wanted a story that didn’t try to be too cute and “artsy.” I didn’t want folks to have to work too hard to follow the story. Sure, there are subtle Easter eggs to be discovered when you listen through repeated times, but it is a story that progresses just about the way you would expect. The fun is in the trip.

It took a lot of people to pull this recording off. I had to bring in craftsmen more talented than me into the team just because of the scope of its creative ambition. But I fully realize that if it fails to engage the listener, it will be remembered as my folly. That’s ok with me. The Daniel Boone in me has been satisfied.

One poster recognized it as an experiment. Someone said it could be a new formula. Others recognized in it the potential to be some sort of dramatic presentation, such as a cantata or a musical play. We don’t know. Jeff Collins, my co-producer on the project, and I only set out to make the best audio representation of the story that we could. After that, the market will dictate if there is a life beyond our work on it. Regarding its immediate marketing to our base of Gospel Music fans, some have asked the question about singles to radio. Well, in a rare case of foresight on my part, I made sure that there would be a couple or so songs on this album that would work when heard out of context of the story. There are at least two songs on The Fields of Love that can stand on their own. I knew that to get Chris White and Mickey Gamble on board (someone always has to pay for these dreams), I had to deliver a couple of radio songs.

Worst case scenario: we do the “Southern Gospel thing” and record an album where two songs will be sent to radio and next year we will do it again. Some years are hits… some are misses. I’ve had both before. Best case scenario: the listener at long last gets more than they bargained for. They get more than the two songs they’ve heard on the radio, and eight songs to fill needed slots on a typical recording (a fast song, a ballad, an opener, etc.). They get an experience that takes them somewhere along the emotional lines of one of those Hallmark movies or a Broadway musical. The best part being that it is all done in a story that efforts to reinforce the listener’s faith and beliefs. That’s something that we have always stood on the outskirts of, looking in. Well, we just wanted our people to enjoy that too.

I wish that I could tell you about all the wonderful people who worked on this album. Instead of going on longer, I will just invite you to learn more about the concept and the crew and the story and all at the website www.thefieldsoflove.com. We haven’t advertised the site yet, and we’re still putting the finishing touches on it. So you folks will get the first look. It might help you though to catch the spirit of the thing. Thanks and enjoy!

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Trackbacks & Pings

  1. SouthernGospelBlog.com » CD Review: “The Fields of Love” (Mark Bishop) on 06 Jun 2008 at 7:01 am

    […] to the song, prompting the question of whether Bishop would release any singles from the album. He said he would–that he had made sure to include two radio-friendly songs on the project. It’s […]

Comments

  1. Craig wrote:

    I downloaded the CD and really enjoyed it. I grew up around southern gospel but rarely listen to it anymore. I regularly read this blog just to keep up with what is going on. Fields of Love sounded very interesting and very atypical of the genre. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I liked and was moved by the story and music of this CD. Thanks for making available.

  2. CVH wrote:

    I haven’t listened to the project yet but I appreciate Mark’s comments and his willingness to follow his creative instincts. No professional musician can afford to risk that much every time out nor should they. But I’m guessing a lot wouldn’t even try. Some artists spend entire careers cranking out the same project over and over, contributing to the overall lack of innovation and the narrowing of creative scope that has been occuring in SG and Christian music for the last few years.

    On the other hand, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time either; there has to be a level of continuity and familiarity or you’ll lose your audience (and probably not be able to attract a new one that often). The goal, over several years and projects, is balance.

    I applaud Mark for taking a chance and working hard on something that is obviously so close to his heart. I’d be willing to ‘grade on a curve’ for whatever conceptual or creative shortcomings it may contain precisely because he was willing to take a risk and satisfy this part of his calling. No project is perfect; but even if it falls short, there is something too often missed in this industry in what he has attempted - artistic integrity.

  3. Mark Gray wrote:

    Seldom would I ever critique anyone else’s work. Greg Bentley at Crossroads
    tuned me on to the ministry of Mark Bishop about 6 years ago. I have to say that was the beginning of great admiration for a young man obviously more concerned about ministry than entertainment. His music is entertaining, but the Gospel is always paramount in the lyrics he so skillfully pens down.

    Greg sent me this newest musical endeavor this last week and I took about a 45 minute break to devote listening to it without interruption. One problem though was I was driving my Chevy truck while listening. I nearly had to pull over at least times as I was either blinded by tears or incapacitated by waving arms during a shouting spell.

    I was raised listening to Gospel music. My family had a Sunday morning ritual of biscuits & gravy, Gospel Caravan and the Gospel Singing Jubilee. I don’t think I am a novice when it comes to knowing great Gospel music when I hear it. OK, here goes. I have NEVER been so moved by any recording as I have been by “The Fields of Love.” I have to say this latest from Mark Bishop is his Opus! I believe it is the best overall project I have had the honor of listening to. On the way to the airport this morning I had my wife and daughter listen to it without interruption. Both responded as I did and my wife went through at least one travel size Kleenex package.

    I whole heartily recommend this wonderful new masterpiece from Mark. Great job Mark and I hope Crossroads lets me keep some on my own table so I might introduce others to this unbelievable new CD.

    In His service,

    Mark Gray
    Psalms 104:33

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