Staff writer Victoria Bowlin had the opportunity to sit down and talk with singer/songwriter Mark Bishop! They talked about what’s going on in his ministry right now and about his new project!
Victoria Bowlin: Mark, tell me a little about this new project.
Mark Bishop: This year marks my 33rd year in the Gospel Music industry, beginning in 1985 with my dad and my brother in our family group, The Bishops. I feel blessed to have been a part of something I love so much. Being a songwriter, my journey of faith is very transparent to everyone who listens to any new music we put out. Not only have folks heard my vocals evolve and change, they’ve heard hopefully a spiritual maturity in the messages of the songs. A Different Light harkens back a lot to the sound that our family had when The Bishops put out albums, so there is some nostalgia there. As far as the title is concerned, I think the world is looking at a lot of flashy attention-grabbing stuff these days. We need to be a different light.
VB: What is your favorite song on the album?
MB: Of course I like them all, or they wouldn’t be on the album. Each serves a different purpose, like the books and chapters of the Bible. No doubt, as people listen to the album, they may arrive at favorites, but I’m invested in writing and singing messages that can work like tools in a toolbox. For some applications, this tool is needed. For another job, I’ll need this song. In concert, you’re constantly reading the room from the stage or platform. Is someone hurting? Is it a time of joy? Is it time to smile? Is it time to cry? I want to be able to get us there by using a song.
VB: Where did your inspiration come when writing these tunes?
MB: Well, as a songwriter yourself, you know that inspiration can come from anywhere. A line on the radio or television; something you’ve read or something someone said in a conversation. I seldom hear a sermon that I don’t get an idea for a song…sometimes several. Reading the scriptures is the same way. I always come away with some thought that I’d like to write about, if I can find the words. I’m not necessarily a “hook-line” writer. I don’t write around a song title. I usually have a story that I want to tell or a point, like a preacher or a teacher, that I want to attempt to express. But every songwriter I know comes at it differently. That’s what makes their style unique. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to write a song. All that being said, regardless of how you write a song, if you are a Christian songwriter, then you must be inspired by the message of the gospel.
VB: What do you feel God has been trying to teach you lately?
MB: How much time do you have? Seriously…listen to this…it will help you, if not now, later. Sometimes we are like that duck out on the pond who looks all placid and together above the water, but beneath the surface is churning and paddling for all he is worth. Think about all of the social media and Facebook posts of all the people who portray this perfect existence, and their real life doesn’t begin to resemble that at all. That is a fake world. It doesn’t exist. And yet the world’s “fake-ness” consumes so much of our thoughts and who we are, especially for this generation. I believe that the world is absolutely starving for something that is real. Is God trying to teach me something? Maybe. But lately, as Carolyn and I have recently become grandparents, priorities have shifted. Some things that were out of focus have come into clearer view. I’ve had a long and fulfilling career to this point, and I intend to keep creating more music that speaks to the highs and the lows of the Christian journey. It’s really kind of easy to know what God has been trying to teach me. It’s right there in the songs.
VB: Which song does your audience seem to like best from the new project?
MB: Just being released, that’s hard to say. A lot of people really like the story in “The Refrigerator Door.” I’ve always loved telling stories of how God uses small things to accomplish great things. The Bible is filled with such stories…a sling and a shepherd boy…the jawbone of a donkey…a woman at a well. A lady recently told me that going to one of my concerts was like watching one of those Hallmark movies. Ha! I took that as a compliment.
VB: Do you consider yourself more of a singer or a songwriter?
MB: I don’t know how to answer that. I enjoy both. I am a communicator. I use both skills to the best of the ability that God has given me to share the Gospel message.
VB: Did you have any co-writers on this album?
MB: Just me and the Lord and the experiences he’s helped me through.
VB: Did you have any special guest vocalists on this project?
MB: My dad, who hadn’t been in the studio for seventeen years, came in and recorded a song with me. He knocked it out of the park. My dad is my hero. Anyone who has met him can tell you that he loves the Lord, and he genuinely loves people. If I could be half the man that my dad is, I’d still be a great person. And one of the things about singing as long as I have is all of the great Gospel Music friends that I have made through the years. I had a song on the new album that harkened back to that old Hinson family sound, so I asked my friend Chris Freeman (who sang with The Hinsons for all of you whippersnappers) to come in and sing with me. That girl can forever more sing. That was a lot of fun too.
VB: Who is your biggest influence?
MB: Again, my dad. Rightly so, I’ve learned more from him than anybody about how to listen and how to treat people. He is patient. He is loving and no observer of a person’s station in life. I wish that I could be as soft-spoken as he is, but really, I don’t think I could do what God has called me to do if I was. Musically, the influences are so numerous, who can count them? We all are an amalgamation of so many things we’ve culled throughout the years. I grew up a fan of The Rambos, The Hinsons, The Paynes and to this day, one of my favorite old quartets was The Swanee River Boys. But I have so many talented friends in Gospel Music. I’ve watched them all and learned things. We have some of the most talented people in the world on our stages.
VB: What do you hope to gain from this new album?
MB: I want to be helpful to someone who might be out there trying to figure things out. There comes a point in your journey that you realize, despite the world’s urging, that it’s not about “gaining”. You do not find lasting happiness in acquisitions, or purchases, or promotions, or notoriety or any of those things that are only “here for a season”. Maybe this is something that our dad tried to instill in us by his words and his actions. It’s not about stuff. It’s not about coming out on top. The more I read in the scriptures and the more I understand, not only the narrative of Jesus’ life, but just the “gist” of what He was saying, our ambitions are empty and unfulfilling unless our goal is to help one another. If there’s anything I’d like to gain from this new album, it’s for someone to come up and say that a song spoke to them and helped them on their own journey.
VB: Great answers, Mark! Thank you for taking a minute to share your heart with us and help us better understand what this new album means to you. Take a listen to Mark’s new album. It will bless your heart!