Mark Bishop is known as one of the most successful singer-songwriters in Gospel music. Starting his solo career in 2002 after the retirement of The Bishops, Mark never missed a beat and is still hitting the top of the charts with each release. Releasing on January 13th, Seasons: A Collection of the Best is just that: a collection of Mark's top charting songs.
The songs include Singing News number ones "Can I Pray for You," "I'm Listening for the Call," and "I Got Here as Fast as I Could." Every song on this collection is a fan favorite. It also includes two brand new songs: "That's When It's Time to Pray" (the first radio single) and "The Other Room." Both are sure to find their way onto the charts and into the hearts of Mark's fans.
Q: Mark, congratulations on the release of "Seasons." Why have you decided to release a "best of" compilation now?
Some folks might remember that I sang for 17 years with my dad and brother in our family group, The Bishops. Well believe it or not, I have nearly been traveling that long as a soloist now. Time flies when you're having fun! As we discussed with the folks at Crossroads the past 33 years of music ministry, and all of those wonderful songs that we have been sharing, I guess we got a little nostalgic. Those songs still hold up today. The message is timeless. I have so many recordings out there now, and some of them will probably soon be out of print so we wanted to be sure to keep the "best" of those in circulation.
Q: With so many songs you have had recorded, was it difficult to choose just 10 of them? What criterion did you use in your choice?
That was a hard process. We had quite a few songs to consider. We pretty-much kept it to songs that were very popular on radio because we knew that those songs would be the ones that most folks remembered. But then, we wanted the CD to be balanced with up-tempo, ballads, story songs, etc... too. It was important to make sure that we not only chose the right songs, but that those songs would make a good album listening experience.
Q: Let's talk about the two new songs on the record. Let's start with "That's When It's Time to Pray." Tell us what the song is about and how the song came bout.
For all of the folks who already had these songs and the albums they were recorded on, we wanted to make sure that they had something new to listen to too! I've written a lot of songs about prayer in my "career" as a singer/songwriter. I guess because it's such an integral part of our Christian lives. The song is an upbeat, positive affirmation about the great weapon we have in prayer. As long as we can pray, no battle is over. Think about it! When we fall down, just go ahead and stay there a little while and pray while you're there! As the song says, there's always something more we do when we pray. I love, love, love singing this song. It really pumps me up. We know that God is on our side and we should never give up without praying.
Q: "The Other Room" is the other new song. What's the song about? And how did the song come about?
I'm getting older brother... we all are. Thoughts of our limited time down here start to become more frequent. I have many loved ones who have crossed the threshold between life and ever-lasting life. I began to think about how it's such a large step for us, and yet for God, it must seem like only the difference between standing in one room and then another. Really, in a spiritual way of thinking, there is just a door between us and the other side and those that we love who have gone on are waiting just beyond that door. It gives us a great hope to know that the ones we have been separated from are not really all that far away.
Q: The release of a greatest songs collection marks a time of reflecting back on the past. Over the years, what were some of the highlights for you as a singer and composer?
Well, it's funny how that works. I hear a song and it takes me back to what was going on in my life when I wrote it. It's almost a little time machine. I hear a song and think, "Well, Courtney was born when this came out" or "Haley started school when this was written". Reflecting on 33 years of writing and singing Gospel music, I feel very blessed to have travelled with my dad and brother, sharing the Gospel all those years. I feel blessed to have sang in all of the amazing places that we did; places that some hillbilly boys from Kentucky could never have dreamed of singing. I have always been reminded at every response to an invitation after a concert as to why we do what we do. It's easy when you do this for a living to sometimes get caught up in a numbers game. It is a business in as far as bills must be paid. You never want to get bogged down in that though, at least I don't. I guess I'm saying that the highlights aren't #1 songs or prominent concert appearances when it's all said and done. It's getting in the trenches and working for the Lord. That's really the only thing that satisfies what God has placed in your heart in the end.
Q: What about your future? Are there any special projects you still have not done and would like to do?
Who knows about the future? I love what I am doing and I plant keep on doing it, as long as God gives me strength. There may be a time when I get tired of the travel, but the music will be with me until He calls me home. I write all of my own songs, but I would like to someday do an album of old favorites of mine. Maybe a few hymns; maybe a few old songs that I grew up with that minister to me on different levels. Our part of the country has a rich heritage of old-time music that reflects an Appalachian sensibility. Maybe we will get around to it. But I'm always writing new songs too; more than I can record, so we want to get those messages out while they are fresh too! One thing is for sure, there is never a shortage of ideas about how to present music in a new way around here! I am blessed to be teamed up with a great "record" company who truly fosters creativity. We have recorded some amazing and truly innovative projects together, even when the economic feasibility of it wasn't apparent. But when it is all said and done, did you lay it all out on the table? If you can't answer "yes", then you've cheated someone out there of the best thing they've ever heard.
Q: Over the years, how have you grown in terms of being a songwriter and performer?
Go listen to the song I wrote on that first Bishops album in 1984. You would have to say that I have come a long way. Anyone who creates something from the inspiration that God places in their heart and mind would tell you that you never stop learning and growing. You write or draw or paint or rhyme or dance or cook or any number of creative things knowing that you'll never fully arrive. There is always more to learn. You may be considered accomplished, but even then, you'll realize you don't know anything yet. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know. The cool thing is, in creativity, there is no wrong way to do it. There may be a more commercial way to do something, but as far as exploring your "craft", even when you mess up, you have helped yourself to get better.
Q: Over the years, how has your faith in Christ grown?
How could you travel and share these songs and hear the stories that people share and not have your faith grow? I feel blessed to travel from one group of Christian people to the next, all across the country. I have heard the testimonies and seen the tears. God is good, everywhere. From one denomination to the next-and I sing in a lot of different churches-nobody has the market cornered on God's grace. He is touching lives everywhere. How have I grown in Christ? I think it's in that I really have no desire to amass things at all. My heart is just not there. I would be a terrible lottery winner. I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life. I like very simple things and my joy comes in making people happy. Not just from the platform or the stage, but people in general. I enjoy making someone smile. I think that comes from God.