Richie Furay, rock star and pastor…
Richie Furay, funding member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, has just released Hand in Hand, a brand new album.
When did you arrive in L.A. and how was life there at the time? Was it an exciting period for a musician?
Los Angeles was a far cry from the concrete jungle of New York City when I arrived there in 1965. it was a warm, sunny day as I sat at the airport waiting (and waiting) for my friend Stephen Stills (who finally came) to pick up to start this musical journey that continues on today. Stephen had already made friends in LA who were music people so the ground work was already laid when I arrived – all we had to do was make the music. The scene was thriving – the Beach Boys, the Turtles, The Doors, The Byrds and there we were right in the thick of things – was it an exciting time, you bet it was. And as I look back and reminisce, I would say it was probably the best time ever to be making and creating music – maybe no other time in history has there been a more creative time. Friendships that were made then as starving musicians are still as strong today after some have gone on to world wide success and that speaks volumes as to “the scene” what was happening in our lives at that time. There wasn’t competition among the groups – we were as excited for our friends who were making it and getting airplay as we were for ourselves – it was a very supportive environment, one I will cherish always.
What about life in Laurel Canyon? Was it the 20th century Sodom and Gomorrah or a place full of young creative people who enjoy life?
2300 Laurel Canyon Blvd. was home, it was where we lived – whatever was going on down the street, I don’t have any idea. My remembrance of life in Laurel Canyon was – it was where we could afford to live and it just so happened a lot of other musicians saw it the same way; it was just one area of the Hollywood Hills that was convenient to get around town from and so a lot of folks settled there.
Your song “We Were the Dreamers” is about your Poco years. What were your dreams at the time and what do you think about them today?
Poco was a visionary group. When Buffalo Springfield broke up for good – it came as no surprise. I had always said as long as Stephen was there (because it was his band, in that he was the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield – and don’t let anyone tell you differently) but I said as long as he was there I would be there as well. We started the group in a little apartment on Fountain Ave. and I was determined to carry on it until was done. When it was over, it wasn’t as if it was the end of the world, music had taken root in my life and Jimmy Messina and I had already planned on the next phase. We had become good friends and enjoyed making music together that had more of a “country flavor” and so, using Kind Woman as our template we set out to explore the possibility of putting a band together with people who had the same vision.
Rusty Young, who played steel guitar on the Springfield version, was our first addition. Once George Grantham came on board and Randy Meisner, another LA musician, joined – we started the journey of pioneering a fresh, new sound in LA – country rock! I don’t think the dreams were so much in terms of money as they were of just integrating the music of Nashville and LA. Folks up north in Bakersfield, CA were giving a little different twist to the Nashville sound as well and it just seemed like a natural road to travel for me. I guess my satisfaction in the whole process is the fact that the current Nashville sound has so much of what we envisioned in 1969 that it can’t be denied – missioned accomplished.
“Don’t Tread on me” is a very dark song. Do you still have dreams and hopes?
I certainly don’t “see” nor do I hear “Don’t Tread On Me” as “dark” – I see it as shedding a little light on and addressing the current condition of our society and culture in America – and make no mistake, we are at a place of decision and crossroads in the direction we want to go. Though some see it through the eyes of hopelessness because there lives have been so stretched and challenged that many are at the point of despair (1st verse) and I “feel” deeply for them because they don’t see a way out of their situation, still, I believe there is hope. Let me be clear – it’s not the “hope and change” we were promised in 2008 which, in my estimation and from my perspective, is a disaster; but even in one’s darkest hour – there is hope. (I could go off with a theological answer here but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for – but Jesus Christ is the answer to every need man has – social, economic, political and religious.) And yes, “I still have dreams” (to quote a song I recorded in 1979).
Is there a need for change in America before we go past the point of rescue, I think we can all agree there is always room for improvement, but with that being said, the United States of America is a great country – the greatest country in the world and there is no reason to diminish that or undermine all the good we do and what we have stood for since our beginning. Can we improve as a nation, of course we can – but does that me we belittle our constitution and undermine the foundation our great forefathers put in place “for just a time as this”? It’s stood the test of time for over 200 years – why the sudden need for an overhaul or complete disregard? Why is it people have come from all over the world to embrace the American dream – what is wrong with the American dream? Why do people come from all over the world or look to the USA for medical help? Obviously other nations of the world recognize the greatness of America – why is it we can’t see the forest for the trees? What other nation has offered so much to so many that there is such a sentiment of disdain coming from within? This is what I don’t understand and what I wanted to address in the song. Sadly we are polarized as a nation and the potential of tearing us apart from the inside should be of concern. Still nothing in my heart will ever change “We’re the home of the brave; we’re the land of the free; we got a heart of gold – (so) don’t tread on me. With our head held high for the world to see – we’re the home of the brave, Don’t Tread on Me!
In the 80’s you became a pastor which is unusual for a rock star. What happened? Was it a complete u-turn?
I have planned very little about circumstances that have happened in my life; I’ve been a journey; followed the leading of that “still small voice” from within and have done pretty good as a result. I will say that if someone would have told me somewhere along the way I would become a Christian or a pastor, especially in the midst of pursuing a rock and roll dream – I would have told them they were crazy. Oh, how little we know as we travel along the road of life.
At the time I received Christ, I wanted nothing more than to be a rock and roll “star” – just like Stephen and Neil, Jimmy and Randy – I was driven! Poco seemed like a hopeless effort (you needed a “hit” record and every attempt seemed to fail so I quit that band and went off at the suggestion of David Geffen to put together another band with Chris Hillman and JD Souther – SHF. Little did I know at that time my marriage of 7 years was unraveling. Without going in great depth (it’s all documented in my book Pickin’ Up The Pieces) I was challenged as to what was most important to me – my family or my career – chose my family and at the same time that decision was made I made a decision for Christ and was born again! At this time I was being introduced to many people who were Christians and pastors but I still had no idea the direction the LORD was leading as my marriage was being restored and Nancy and I were finding the place of reconciliation!
I still believed my “destiny”, my calling in life was to put together THE rock and roll band for God and so I set out to that end. It soon became apparent that that was not the direction I was to move in and after three attempts (I’ve Got A Reason, Dance A Little Light and I Still Have Dreams) there was something else I was to consider. After much prayer I started a home Bible study and one thing led to another and it became a Calvary Chapel church fellowship in 1982. At the time I really though music would be a thing of my past and I focused exclusively on our church family! As it happen in 1996 doors opened again for me to record and two devotional projects transpired (In My Father’s House and I Am Sure). Shortly after that Heartbeat Of Love was recorded and I had two “careers” going at once which remain to this day. It certainly was a complete turn-around in one sense in that I became and remain the pastor of Calvary Broomfield and on the other hand I am still making music with my band – the Richie Furay Band (RFB). I am in a very unique situation and am grateful and thankful to the LORD for allowing me this opportunity – to share His grace in my life and testimony!
Why did you choose this old photo of your wife and you as a cover picture of the Hand in hand album?
Hand In Hand is an interesting story! After recording the project we “shopped” it around to various independent record labels (I’m old school and really wanted a record company involved.) After being told how much each one loved the music but were not interested in taking on a guy of my age I decided I would go the route of my last project and sell it on my website and at concert venues. For this I decided I’d spent enough money on it and took a photo of the “master” disc and packaged it up. It was at this time that EOne came into the picture.
RFB was playing at BB King’s in NYC and I was “working the room” because it was a Monday night and I realized everyone there was there because they wanted to be there and I was just saying “hello” to each table. The last table I came to I introduced myself and was told they had been invited by my manager, David Spero and that they were interested in signing the project! The rest is history. They did suggest a different cover than the one I had and wanted to come up with something that worked with the “title” song – Hand In Hand. Truthfully, every idea fell flat and I was getting worried. We were having long distance communication with the various ideas, finally, the photo which is on the cover was suggested. The folks at EOne had seen it on a FaceBook post I had done previously and suggested it – when I saw it, it just spoke of everything I was looking for! Nancy and I have been married for 48 years and are still going hand in hand to this day – more in lve than the day we met and, as the song says “yesterday may have come and gone, but hand in hand we keep going on and on”. I have been blessed with my bride who has stood along side me through all of the ups and downs of life and that photo just “said it all”!
What memories do you have of the Poco reunion at the end of the 80’s and of Buffalo Springfield reunion in 2011?
They were both wonderful opportunities to get together with friends that I made music with. I have been blessed to have shared the stage with some of the greatest musicians of our generation and to get together for a moment in time was an awesome experience. At the time, everyone had pretty much said and done it all and there were no presumptions in either situation – we just came together and showed we could do it – even so many years later. So often “reunions” just fall flat and don’t have the same excitement – but I have to say in both cases – this wasn’t the case; it was as exciting and fun for each of us involved as it was for the audiences who never thought they’d see such a reunion.
For Poco, I think having George Grantham join was the highlight – had had a stroke several years earlier and that he was able to join us on stage and sing with us, well, it was “one of those moments” for everyone on both side of the stage. As for Buffalo Springfield, certainly it was a challenge to see how things would go without Bruce or Dewey who had both passed away – it was soon put to rest with Joe and Rick (who has since passed on himself) who carried the weight of a fantastic rhythm section and, for Stephen, Neil and me – well, that 40 years had passed since we played together – it was a satisfying way to put an exclamation point on that part of our career!
You did not lose your creativity. How did you manage to do that after all these years in the music business?
Thank you. I have always taken pride in doing the very best I can – with integrity or don’t do it at all! I have tried to maintain a standard of creativity while being honest with myself whether or not I’m true to it. I really thought when I wrote the my songs for Hand In Hand that I had done that and so I pursued seeing it through. I hope I can continue to that should another collection of songs come my way!