Mark: I’ve been singing and writing Gospel songs since 1983. We started singing as a family in our home church with no aspirations to sing beyond that. Our “Granny Bishop” became sick and was no longer able to come hear us in church, and so we recorded an album so she would be able to listen to us whenever she wanted to. A local radio station began to play that album. One day a gentleman from Nashville was up visiting that radio station and we were playing on the air. He liked our sound and got our contact information. He invited us to come to Nashville and record a “real” album and from that small seed, a long career began to grow. My dad has since retired and pastors a country church. My brother is involved in state politics here in Kentucky. I still enjoy traveling and singing Gospel Music.
Mercy: Could you share your salvation testimony?
Mark: I was 16 years old and like many teenagers, I was being pulled in different directions. We were a family raised in church and I certainly knew right from wrong. But I had many friends in high school who were going a different direction. They had been my friends all through school but now I felt like I had to make a choice of spending time with them, drinking and goofing off, or keeping my beliefs. One night during a revival at our church, I knelt at the old altar and gave my heart to the Lord. After that, my school friends kind of shunned me, but I tell you, I had real peace about making that decision.
Mercy: If you didn't become a singer, what would you be doing right now?
Mark: I had always loved to draw and paint. All of my friends and teachers thought that I would be involved in art somehow. I had taken two years of drafting in technical school and had credits toward an architectural school and then we started singing. After we started traveling and singing, things happened so fast that before we knew it, God was blessing that ministry mightily. We were amazed at what God was doing. We ended up having a very successful career and I have never regretted walking through the doors that God has opened.
Mercy: Who is someone that has influenced your singing?
Mark: We grew up with a lot of music in the house. I hav always been a fan of The Singing Rambos, and The Hinsons. I love an old quartet called The Swanee River Boys. We also loved the groups who were singing on the Gospel Jubilee show on Sunday mornings, like The Inspirations and The Florida Boys. Those groups probably had the biggest influence. Also, a bluegrass group by the name of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver had a lot of influence. When we started singing, we got to meet and become friends with many of those people and were able to tell them what their music had meant to us.
Mercy: What is your favorite song to sing and why?
Mark: That’s a tough one because that is something that changes through the years. I still enjoy singing the old hymns from the hymn book. They take me back to a simpler time, singing in church with family and friends. I love singing along with familiar songs on the radio that I remember from way back. Our group, The Bishops had a lot of great songs that I loved to sing… Lazarus Come Forth, He’s in the Midst, You Can’t Ask Too Much of My God, Reach the World… those still speak to me. I guess if you’re asking about my songs, I still enjoy singing Can I Pray For You, and I Got Here As Fast As I Could, and My Name is Jesus…. Right now, I’m enjoying singing songs from the new album Beautiful Day. It’s a happy album.
Mercy: What advice would you give a young person hoping to someday sing Southern Gospel?
Mark: First you need to have a heart for loving people and you want to stay focused on entering this ministry for the right reasons. This is not the music industry you enter if you want to get rich. You may be able to find a large enough audience that will enable you to pay your bills, but you have to sometimes be satisfied that what you are doing is being a blessing and an encouragement to others who need that. If you still want to do this and live out of a suitcase for the years ahead, then just sing, sing, sing. When we first started, we sang everywhere someone invited us to sing. We sang in churches, barns, back yards, county fairs, home comings… anywhere and everywhere. That’s the best way to win folks over and to start a “fan base”. If you start singing Gospel Music because you want to be “famous” and hear your own applause, it probably won’t go very far anyway. But there are rewards in this music in that it can be a medicine for the hurting. The world needs more of that.
Mercy: What is your favorite and least favorite part of traveling?
Mark: It can be tiring, all of the traveling. I am a homebody really, so I still get a little homesick when I am out on the road for a few days. I have had a travel bag packed since 1984 when we first started. Even when I am home, I live out of that bag because there is never any need to unpack it. But too, while I am driving to concerts, that is my quiet time with the Lord and that’s when I write new songs. I write all of my music and driving in the quiet is my chance to really listen for those gentle nudges from God about which direction a song should go.
Mercy: If you could meet anyone in the past or present, who would it be?
Mark: I guess the obvious answer to this question would be Jesus. So many questions, so many questions...
Mercy: What is the funniest or most embarrassing thing thing has happened to you on stage?
Mark: There are waaaaaay too many. All of these years, more things have happened than I could possibly tell or remember. Let’s see… I could tell you about the time that we were singing “Lazarus Come Forth” in Kodak, TN in an auditorium and Lazarus got up out of the audience and got on stage with us. I could tell you about the Elvis impersonator who opened for us in Canada. I could tell you about the snake-handling church in eastern Kentucky. Maybe I could tell you about the bats attacking the audience and the singers in Wooster Ohio. I wouldn’t know where to begin.
Mercy: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Mark: I like this question, although again, it’s hard to pick just one. There is a reason that the Bible is called the “Living Word”. That’s because it moves with us all through our lives and all of our different circumstances. A verse that means something to us now might not have been relevant last year. I guess if I had to choose one “evergreen” verse (besides John 3:16 which sums up our ultimate promise), it would be Romans 8:28 and the promise that God wishes the best for our futures. That if we love the Lord and have been called by Him to Him, all things will, in the end, work out for the good. What more can we ask for?
Mercy: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Mark: Just this… love the Lord. If you love the Lord, you’ll love one another. Get over the pettiness and the small thinking. Search out new ways to be good to one another. Overlook other people’s faults. We all have them. Be kind when there is nothing in it for you. Spread cheer. The world is negative enough. Be a ray of sunshine on someone else’s cloudy day. Tell someone that they are doing a great job. It costs nothing and could make a big difference for that person. Smile! It’s like a flower in the desert. Have I made my point yet? The best things that we can do in life have nothing to do with money, acquisition, power, fame, or influence. Jesus had none of these. Just love on everybody. It’s as simple as that.
Keeping up with Mark-