By Miles Pike
Over my years of road ministry I’ve worked with many popular artists and not very many have struck me as just good ole folks. Being a country boy myself, I love being able to sit down and talk with fellow singers about the Lord, music, hobbies, and just feel at home with them, like they are a long lost relative. Mark Bishop is one of those types of people. To know him is to love him and his sincerity shines out in his music, his concerts, and his Christian life toward others.
Mark is a longtime fixture in Southern Gospel music and one of the most successful. I could list many accolades that the fans and industry have bestowed upon him through his years with The Bishops and now as a soloist, but you can go to his website and read his bio about that. I want you to have a minute to get to know the man behind the mic. I was honored to have a few minutes to have an interview with him recently and you can listen in below…
Miles:Â I am a big fan of your music and songwriting, but like many of those familiar with the Southern Gospel field, I first knew you with your family trio, The Bishops. I spent many an evening as a teenager sitting on the front row when the Bishops would come to town. Let us know how the family is doing and if you get together to sing occasionally.
Mark:Â Thanks Miles for the compliment. I’m glad that you enjoyed our music. We had a lot of fun when the group was out traveling; of course it was a lot of work too and many, many days away from our families. These days, my dad is pastoring a little country church here in east-central Kentucky and that’s where my family goes. Mostly my wife and daughters go because I am usually out singing somewhere. My brother Kenny works in the state capitol, involved in politics. He has always enjoyed that atmosphere. After the group disbanded in 2001, I kept our three-day festival in Berea, KY going and for a few years we would get together and sing for that, but we haven’t sung together now for a few years. Everyone has just gone their own direction.
Miles:Â I’m sure you’ve written hundreds of songs since you began your musical journey. What are three of your favorites and why? And what song do you wish you would have written?
Mark:Â That’s always a tough one because I like them all depending on the mood that life and circumstances have put me in. A song to me is really just a snapshot of what the songwriter was experiencing at that moment of their life. But it’s true that some songs seem to become more timeless. Favorites? I guess I have always enjoyed singing “You Can’t Ask Too Much of My God” because it is such a wonderful realization that He is literally bigger than any problem I will ever have. It has a catchy tune and I felt as a songwriter that the first verse in that song was very clever and worked well as a hook to get you into the rest of the song.
I also enjoy singing “Can I Pray For You” just because I still have so many people come up and request it, saying that it had truly ministered to them in a time when they needed to be encouraged. What more could you ask of a song than that? Another song that I enjoy singing was from that same album. It is called “I Got Here As Fast As I Could” and it tells the story of a person’s entire lifetime in just a few short minutes. Yet still it somehow seems to convey the ups and downs of a life well lived and experienced. It has a certain amount of melancholy but a happy ending that promises us a wonderful reunion someday with the ones that we love. I guess every song has a story, but these are three that still resonate with my audiences today.
Miles:Â Obviously it is God that blesses us as we work for Him, but what do you consider your most noteworthy accomplishment in the time you’ve been on the road?
Mark:Â This will probably sound like I am trying to be clever or something, but I honestly have never focused on accomplishment in my music career, to the degree that I might have had more number one songs or more accolades if I had only been more ambitious. That’s not to say that the Lord hasn’t blessed me with a lot of things; by myself and with the group, I have had a lot of wonderful things happen in my career. But that was the Lord. It certainly wasn’t me. Maybe this is the introspective songwriter dude coming out, but when I think about myself at the end of this journey and I think about what were the important things, my answer will be: “Was I a good husband to my wife and was I a good dad to my daughters? Did I shower them with love and attention at every opportunity? Did I make them feel good about themselves?” Well, honestly, I’d take that over whatever my songs might do after I am gone. My love for my family runs achingly deep.
Miles:Â What are some interests or hobbies that you have that may be a surprise to the fans of your music?
Mark:Â Well, I don’t know if it would surprise anyone or not, but I love sports. I am a Kentucky basketball fan (of course) and a Cincinnati Reds fan. We love going and watching games when we can. It’s a relaxing evening when we are at the ballpark. My daughters have always played fast pitch softball so we spend a lot of evenings at the ballpark watching them. When I am home, I serve as the announcer at the high school home games. I love to hunt and fish when I have the time. I love to work in the yard, believe it or not, doing landscaping and getting my hands dirty. I guess I got that from my dad.
Miles:Â What do you think about when you are singing? What is a Scripture verse that has helped mold your thoughts and actions toward an audience and toward what you do as a minister?
Mark:Â Well, I try to be in the moment when I am singing so I just totally immerse myself in the lyrics and the melody. The lyrics most of all because as anyone who has seen me can attest, I am really up there just telling stories. It just so happens that I am telling them with a song. As far as scriptures go, they are as unique and specialized as songs so that really depends upon the situation. If I feel like I am facing an uphill battle, I might think of Philippians 4:13… or there have been times when Corinthians 4:16 through 18 have given me comfort. I really find myself enamored with all that the Apostle Paul had to say to the church. It’s some of my favorite reading in the Bible.
Miles:Â What else is going on in your ministry that you would like to share with the readers?
Mark:Â Of course I am always writing songs and I am already working on new material for my next album, though we don’t have a date set for its release. [Editor’s note: article first published in April 2013] My current album I Can Rejoice is doing well and praise the Lord that the radio stations are playing the songs. I am excited about a few upcoming concerts that I think folks will really enjoy. At the end of June, I will be joining some of my songwriter friends and peers, including Phil Cross, Gerald Crabb and Squire Parsons, for a special Song of A Lifetime concert in northern Georgia. That is a concert that folks won’t want to miss and will be worth the drive from about anywhere. Folks can learn about that at my website or at our Facebook page. Just search for Mark Bishop Music and you’ll find us. We are also looking forward to next year’s Singing at Sea cruise. Come join us for that. If folks would like to keep up with our music ministry, they can subscribe for free to our email newsletter that comes out about once a month. They can do that on the main page of our website.
Mark:Â I don’t tweet or twitter but by that I guess you mean something succinct? I’ll just say, “Be true to your heart and your beliefs, don’t sell yourself short. You’re stronger than you think.”
Be sure to visit Mark’s website at www.MarkBishopMusic.comÂ and read more about him and see where he’ll be in concert near you! You won’t regret taking an evening to go sit and listen to what he has to offer.
Thanks for reading and if you would like to suggest someone to me for a future interview, email me atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Miles Pike
First Published April 2013 on SGM Radio website. For current features visitÂ http://www.sgmradio.com/