Chris takes a few moments to talk with Mark Bishop about his new family-based band Forget the Sea and their debut self-titled release!
Chris Unthank: Thanks Mark for taking the time to talk to us again. Things look a little different for you now since we last spoke. Tell us about what’s been happening with your ministry lately.
Mark Bishop: The wonderful thing about writing and singing Christian music is that you never get bored with your job. I wish I had written the old song “I Love to Tell the Story” because that song fits me better than any song I know. Even after thirty-one years of writing songs about Jesus, I still feel like I haven’t told it yet the way that I want to. God is truly so immense and all of our individual stories are just little fish in the sea of His love. All of that said, in those thirty-one years, I have shared “the old, old story” in many different musical ways. Many know that I traveled and sang with my dad and my brother in a band for the first seventeen years. We definitely were blessed to spend those years together as a family sharing the good news. Then, when the group disbanded, I still had some songs to share and have enjoyed “reaching the world” as a soloist. All the while, my daughters have been growing up around Gospel music all their lives and I found myself where my dad was over thirty years ago; with two children who could sing. With dad, it was two boys; with me, it has been my two daughters. At the record company’s encouragement, we formed a little band and I have “rediscovered” the joy of creating uplifting Christian music with other people. It really has been a joy.
CU: Who is Forget the Sea? What does everyone do?
MB: The band is comprised of my two daughters, Haley Bishop and Courtney Isaacs, her husband John Isaacs on percussion, Josh Rison on guitar and banjo, Chris Withrow on bass and guitar and Russ Funk on keys. Actually, all of the guys play different instruments in our live sets. It’s like a game of musical chairs. The sound is a mixture of all the things we love about Christian music. We wanted the name of the band to be something other than just “a name”. We wanted something that could be a little mini-sermon in itself that would be an encouragement when you hear it. When Peter stepped out of the boat,everything was ok as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. Even though the storms were raging and the boat was tossing to and fro and his circumstances were less than ideal, he was unaffected by all that with his focus on Jesus. It was only when he took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink in to his circumstances. Our word is to encourage everyone to forget the storms, forget the waves, keep your eyes on Jesus and forget the sea.
CU: You, as an artist, have never been afraid to take risks and do things your own way, so fans of your music probably weren’t surprised to see you take another step musically. What caused the shift in sound for you?
MB: I love music. I really, really love Gospel music. I believe that God uses music in a special way to touch our hearts, to encourage us and to administer a dose of the proper medicine where it is sorely needed. I also believe that music transcends barriers of age, color, social status and all that. Maybe the best thing that an artist can do is to find that one thing that they do well and to just keep on doing that over and over. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I have always seen music as a way to explore the gamut of emotions that God has placed within us. I like to explore what makes one instrument make me feel one way, and a different instrument makes me feel another. How does a musical story take me to another place in just four minutes? What is the bond that is forged between the singer and the listener? Really, this new music is not so different from a lot of other music I have recorded. A lot of folks who have already heard the new album have said so. It has the “Bishop” DNA woven into it. But music is not a static thing. It moves and evolves and grows like we do. We are the same person we were when we were younger, but in other ways, we are different too.
CU: How much musical influence did your daughters bring to table?
MB: I can remember when The Bishops started back in the early 1980s. Kenny and I had such definite plans about how the group should sound and dad, bless his heart, was often caught in the middle trying to resolve everything. In the end, the collaboration of ideas was good enough for our family group to enjoy some success. The Bishops sound was not formed by any one person in the group and that’s probably true for most groups. But there is an excitement and energy that comes from melding together new and different ideas. That’s what I wanted to do with Forget The Sea. I know what I know about music. I have been making music for over three decades now. God has blessed me to be able to do so and he has richly blessed many of the songs. But to get my daughters involved in the process was a thrill beyond what I could have done on my own. Will it be a commercial success? Only God knows the answer to that. But I remember an old quote that I heard somewhere that holds some merit with me. “Work for something because it is good, not just because it has a chance to succeed.”
CU: Who would you say has inspired your sound as a band the most?
MB: That’s a great question with probably a thousand answers. To get all the influences I would have to ask everyone in the band because each one brought something from someone they like no doubt. But in the end, we may have been inspired more by a “where” than a “who”. The sound is definitely a product of our Appalachian heritage with a lot of acoustic, folk and traditional influences. No matter what, I sing like a country boy. I will never pass for a “northerner”. In the end, we didn’t want to sound like anybody in particular. We just wanted to sound like us.
CU: What has the response been like from fans?
MB: In a word, positive. I think what I have enjoyed the most are all of the new folks that have discovered this music. It has been very refreshing to see a lot of younger people embrace the sound and the feel of the band. You know, it’s not just the music… it’s the whole “vibe”. Some folks have found this band to be accessible where maybe before they were put off by the guy who looked like a “tv weatherman”. That was a real quote from a real review of one of my solo albums a while back. They liked the music but thought I looked like a tv weatherman. Funny. I can tell you this. Dad loves it. So have a lot of the more traditional audience. It’s really not as much of a departure; just a tweak here and there. I will always be true to my roots.
CU: What songs have resonated the most with you on this new record?
MB: All of them! I tell you, there isn’t a song on the CD that you will skip over. There is an overarching message through the album and every song is important to the whole. They are definitely not a collection of disparate songs just thrown together. You will hear what Forget The Sea is all about by the end. There is a lyrical and musical reconciliation of God in nature, not just in the nature around us, but the nature within us. We embrace that the world isn’t perfect and that God’s plan for our lives is not always plain to be seen. But we place our faith in the creator that everything is working out the way it is supposed to. Anyone who has heard the album knows what I am talking about.
CU: Are there any plans for you guys to venture in to other music markets?
MB: We are just playing and singing. Everyplace that we have gone to sing has been different. We wanted to make the best Christian Music album that we could, without any labels, without worrying about who or where the market would be. We wanted to just make good music that lifts up the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could make Christian music that anyone and everyone could listen to? That’s what we wanted to do.
CU: What kinds of plans does Forget the Sea have for 2016?
MB: Well, this will be a building year for us. Even though I have been singing for many years, in many ways, this is like starting over. I will continue to do solo dates because I still enjoy that too. I enjoy it all! I will continue to write. The Kingdom Heirs are doing well with a song God gave me called “The Chain Gang”. I’ll probably pitch a few more songs and scratch that itch. But I have to tell you, I have never had as much fun on stage as I have with my daughters and this new band, at least not for a long time. I think anyone who comes to see us will sense that very quickly. And folks can learn a little about the band at our site www.forgetthesea.com
CU: What has God been teaching you lately?
MB: What has He been teaching me or what have I learned? That could be two different things. As always, patience in things. I live such a hurried life sometimes. When you are a go-getter, it can be hard to sit back and just let things happen. I feel like I was better at that even when I was younger. Maybe it’s because as I get older I realize more that time is a finite thing and the hours and days and years are so precious. Fact is, I won’t always have my daughters as close as we are now and when we are on stage. So, I always feel this sense of urgency to get things done. But you know what? There is always a next chapter. And who’s to say that it won’t be better than the last?
For more information on Mark Bishop and Forget the Sea, visit them online at www.forgetthesea.com.