#004 - Interview with RICK  FARIS by Sandi Millar - Lesson Pros

#004 - Interview with RICK FARIS by Sandi Millar - Lesson Pros

Guitar player for Special Consensus
by Sandi Millar

SANDI: How did you get started playing music? 
RICK: My dad taught me and my three other brothers how to play bluegrass. He is a consummate musician on many instruments, including the fiddle, which he played with Reba McEntire in the mid-80s. Because of the friends he knew at the time, I didn't know anyone who didn't play music until I was five years old. It's just what everyone did, as far as I knew. 

SANDI:  What other instruments do you play? 
RICK: I play guitar (my first instrument), mandolin, dobro and banjo. 

SANDI: Who was your Inspiration?
RICK: Really, it was the jams and other friends my age but also musical heroes that picked and encouraged youngsters like I was then. I.e., Adam Steffey, Roland White, Kenny Smith, and Ron Block. All those folks I met at festivals or at IBMA in Louisville, KY

SANDI: Who were your musical heroes?
RICK: My friend Kent Coffey, who my dad played within the Coffey Brothers bluegrass band, was my guitar hero growing up. He is still one of my favorite guitar players. He also introduced me to the album Church Street Blues by Tony Rice, and it changed my life. 

SANDI: Have you played with other bands?
RICK: I played for 12 years with my family and Faris Family and filled in with a group called First Impression out of MO while they went through personnel changes. Lots of fun picking with those guys. 

SANDI: Are you a full-time musician?
RICK: Yes, I am in the bluegrass band Special Consensus. I have been with Greg Cahill (band leader of Special C) for 7.5 years and have played mandolin and guitar with him all over the world!

SANDI: What is the one thing or series of events that led you to play bluegrass full-time?
RICK: I was looking for a gig. The family band had decided we would come off the road after brother Eddie Faris went with Ricky Skaggs in January of ‘09. I was asking some friends if they had heard of any band openings. Jess and Brandon Bostic heard that one of the Special C guys was leaving, and I contacted Greg about an audition.

I was asked by Greg if I played mandolin, and he said he needed a mandolin player. I said, ”I don't play mandolin!” He said you've got two months. To which I replied, “If I stink, I ain't even coming and wasting your time.” So I worked on the material CD for about 10-15 minutes and gave up after the first fast song. I said, “What am I thinking...I'm not even a mandolin player, and I want to audition for a band who plays all over the world on an instrument I don't play?!?!”

My wife said in reply,” You've been working on this for 10 minutes and you can't give up!” She then said, “I will do all the housework, and you just lock yourself in the office and learn to play that mandolin!” She was working a full-time job as a Walmart ZMS manager doing all the cooking, cleaning, and everything else whilst also being 7-8 months pregnant!!!  She is the reason I am where I am today. I could never have done this without her. She is amazing!

SANDI: If you could have done anything but music, what would you have done? 
RICK: I think I would have built guitars for a living, maybe cabins, or been a logger or blacksmith. As a kid, I also wanted to be a police officer. 

SANDI: If you could play any stage that you haven't played yet, what stage? Why?
RICK: Merlfest. I love that stage and have watched countless videos of my heroes from that stage. The other one would be the Grand Ole Opry. I haven't played it yet, but it is definitely on my bucket list. 

SANDI: Favorite stage you have played? Why?
RICK: Darrington Bluegrass Festival in Darrington, WA is the prettiest view of the NW mountains and a log cabin stage. Pretty cool!

SANDI: What instruments, picks, strings, pickups, etc. do you use? 
RICK: I play a Faris Guitar that I made of “wild grained” East Indian Rosewood back and sides with an Adirondack spruce top. It was my 15th guitar and the first Rosewood guitar I ever made, and I love this guitar! I use a Bluechip pick CT 55. I don't like the sound of a pickup, but I am about to install a pure mini Western K&K pickup and an external clip-on mic to run through a blender. 

SANDI: I know you make and repair instruments. Tell us about that. How did you get started? What do you do?  What is the name of your company? Do you have a website? 
RICK: I started building and repairing guitars at the age of 15 because I couldn't afford a better one at the time. I apprenticed in a local luthier and fellow bandmate of my dad's band, Original Recipe, named Leo Posch from McLouth, KS, and we reverse-engineered a ‘37 D-18 the best we could. It sounded amazing so I kept with it and haven't looked back since!

I also had help going to other builders and music shops, asking for critiques and opinions on what I could improve or change. That was a huge help! I am focusing just on building at this time and trying to get caught up on my 2.5-3 year waiting list for my guitars. You can find me on Facebook. Website to come soon.  

SANDI: Favorite hobbies besides music?
RICK: Music pretty much consumes my life. My favorite thing to do in my downtime off the road is being a dad and husband! I do love to run though!

SANDI: Are there any mentoring workshops, instructional camps, etc, that you give, and/or do you teach private or group lessons?  
RICK: I have taught hundreds of workshops now at festivals over the years and do enjoy getting to help people discover music in a new or different light. I also teach at music camps like Walker Creek Music Camp in California, 108 Mile Camp in NW British Columbia, Sorrento Bluegrass Camp also in BC Canada, Nashville Mando Camp in Ridge Top, TN by Megan Lynch Chowing, and Bluegrass Camp Germany in the Bavarian Alps. I also give private lessons when I have time at home or abroad on the road. Just keep track of our schedule at www.specialc.com

SANDI: We talked about Skype a little. Do you see that in the near future? 
RICK: That would be fun. I would get to connect with many more folks than I get a chance to just happen across on the road or at the house. 

SANDI: Do you have any causes that you support?
RICK: I am pretty partial to Autism fundraisers, as my son was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. My wife and I have done several fundraisers and walks to help raise money for the various studies and pledge drives they have done. We have also done some fundraisers with the Red Cross after a tornado or disaster has hit Kansas. 

SANDI: What would you say to someone just starting their music career?
RICK: Keep the fire! It can be hard and discouraging sometimes. Keep learning. Even if you just learn one new song a week, a new lick, or a new way of playing a scale, that's a lot of learning when you look back at a year's worth of that!

SANDI: What is your favorite thing about The Bluegrass Lakes Festival? 
RICK: the camaraderie and fun shared by those who play music and also those who are just there to enjoy the music. I saw many friends and fans from Canada and the States who traveled 10+ hours to see us and share a moment with us.

It's pretty incredible to share space and time with someone who really wants to be there in that moment and just exist together. It's really special at Lakes festival in that it's a lot like family. No matter how you feel about politics or religion or any other divider that is put upon us by our culture and current times there is always bluegrass!!! There's a lot of love in bluegrass, even if sometimes it's just the love of the music. 

SANDI: If you could change anything at The Bluegrass Lakes festival, what would it be?
RICK: The rain. Ha ha ha. We had such a good time jamming and hanging out in past years because it was so beautiful outside. Everything else is just amazing. 

SANDI: How long have you been with Special C?
RICK: In December 2009, we immediately started recording album 35. As of August 2017, I have been on four different albums. We plan to start recording another Special C album this fall for a spring release in 2018! 

SANDI: How is it working with your bandmates? 
RICK: It really is a lot of fun. We all like the same things (albeit to different degrees) and really get along well. That wasn't always the case with this band. The current lineup, I feel, has the same goal in mind. We are all just having a great time trying to make the best music we know how to make. Nick is a train dork, and we love that about him, bless his heart. Dan always has a line to make us laugh, and we can all laugh at Greg, and that makes life fun. 

SANDI: Do you or have you ever felt nervous on stage?  Any advice for those who do get nervous on stage? 
RICK: I do get nervous on stage occasionally. I am able to overcome about 98% of it on any given night. If you have the practice time spent to backup your natural talent, then you can lean back and take solace in that. It can be an uphill climb if you are focused on entertaining the crowd and not having fun. I always try to clear my mind and be jovial before a show. Stretch my hands and arms to relax the muscles and limber up. Also focusing on something like breath control helps to calm nerves and gives you aiming to occupy your brain with. 

SANDI: Have you ever been interested in just being the frontman of a band?
RICK: I have thought of it many times. I see Greg Cahill and his tremendous work ethic and think that maybe when I’m ready to take on the responsibilities all that entails(i.e., Making sure three or five guys can make enough money to take home to their families, vehicle breakdowns, keeping a record label happy, etc.) that I might take on that labor of love. 

SANDI: Favorite thing about being on the road?
RICK: I'm torn between two things on this. I love getting to see different parts of the world (Ireland is one of my favorites) and having time to read. It makes the time pass much faster than it ever has. 

SANDI: What is your least favorite thing about being on the road?
RICK: Being away from my family back at home. I miss them terribly but I get to see them usually anywhere from 2-4 days a week. 

SANDI: Are you a songwriter? How long? Favorite song you have written? Do you belong to any great songwriting organizations?
RICK: I have written many songs and some I'm pretty proud of. I started writing songs when I was about 16. There were many of them recorded by the Faris Family. In fact, the last studio album we did, Black Horse Inn, has, I believe, 6 originals by me and the family. I don't organize much on this aspect. I would love to write some cowrites and have talked about it with many other bluegrass songwriters. Skype sessions may be in the near future if I get some help haha. 

SANDI: Who is your favorite songwriter?
RICK: I would have to say Chris Stapleton is right up there in terms of his bluegrass songwriting, but I would have to say my favorite would be Keith Garrett!! That guy writes from the heart and about some hard subjects sometimes. I can't forget Larry Sparks, too! What a beast of a songwriter and singer. 

SANDI: What is your favorite thing about being a musician?
RICK: Being able to put myself out there for people to know a part of me. I have always been introverted and had to work pretty hard to overcome being shy around folks. It has forced me to interact and grow as a person and musician. I would say also that music transcends language barriers and that is probably the most amazing thing about music. Even if you can't speak a word of English or any other language, you can speak music as a musician. You can have so much conversation and never exchange a word. I love that!

SANDI: What are your future plans as a musician?
RICK: I plan to learn as much as I can about music and write more. I have found a lot of joy in that lately. 

SANDI:  Last thing, any great road stories you care to share with us? 
RICK: Not any that are G-rated. Ha ha ha! We have too much fun. ; )

For more information on Rick Faris
Website: Rick Faris Website
Email: farisguitarco@gmail.com

For more information on Special Consensus
Website: www.specialc.com 
Email: greg@specialc.com

Bookings: Contact 
Maria Nadauld 
@ Above the Bay Booking

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