Interview with Richie Furay
To find out more about Richie latest CD, "In My Father's House", or to order it click HERE
It's always exciting to hear of a celebrity accepting Jesus in any of the entertainment fields and see them changed and used for His glory. Jesus music has had its share of "stars" that have been converted - a few that come to mind are Dylan, Keaggy, Glenn Schwartz and Richie Furay. Richie was a member of two very well known rock groups of the 60's and 70's - Buffalo Springfield (For What It's Worth, Bluebird, etc) and Poco (Pickin' Up the Pieces, Good Feeling to Know, etc.) I was thrilled when Richie so willingly agreed to take time away form his busy schedule of pastoring Calvary Chapel in Boulder, CO. to answer a few questions. I hope you enjoy this interview and rejoice in what God has done in Richie's life!
One-Way: Richie, thanks for your time! I was just checking out the web page about your new album, "In My Father's House." Tell us a little about the album.
Richie Furay: The songs on this CD were written over almost a 10 year period of time. My friend, song writing partner and worship leader at Calvary Chapel of Boulder - Scott Sellen - and I had been writing for some time but could never get anyone interested in recording the songs. When Calvary Music was getting started, Randy Rigby, another friend was going to be involved and was the one who got the ball rolling for us. After getting the songs together we went down to Nashville and put the "band" together who recorded the tracks in two days, - I was impressed. And the thing I was impressed about was they didn't sound like "studio" tracks for session #28 today. The players really gave me their all, and they were great musicians and people! We brought the tracks back to Colorado and finished them up and then it was finally released. The distribution wasn't anything to write home about for the first year and a half, but it's now available through a company called Pamplin!
One-Way: How long has it been since your last one?
Richie Furay: The last record I recorded was Legacy with Poco in 1989 - 1990! It was one of those "reunion" records! Before that, I guess it was in the early 80's when I recorded Seasons Of Change!
One-Way: I noticed Rusty Young plays on the album. Wasn't he one of the members of your early group, Poco?
Richie Furay: Yes! While I was in Nashville, I called Rusty and he was kind enough to come down and play some steel guitar and dobro. Sitting in the engineer booth and listening to him really brought back some great memories of when we recorded together. He doesn't play mush steel guitar today, but there's no one better on the instrument.
One-Way: It's great to see info about yourself on the Web; what do you think about this whole thing called the Internet?
Richie Furay: You know the Scripture says in the last days knowledge will increase, I guess this is part of it. I have to admit, I'm not very adept in getting around on the net, but some of the things I have been able to do, it's pretty interesting. One thing that is special is I've been able to talk to a lot of people who have been fans for a long time. It's nice to write back and tell 'em - thanks! (Let me say, when the Web is used in a proper way, it's a pretty neat thing. But I also know, like anything else, it can be abused and there needs to be caution when "login' on"!)
One-Way: Have you had a chance to visit the Decade of Jesus Music website?
Richie Furay: Yes, my son-in-law found the site and had me look at it some time ago!
One-Way: Okay, let's go back a little in time!... You were a member of two very well known rock groups in the 60's and 70's - Buffalo Springfield and Poco. Buffalo Springfield was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Give us a brief summary of those years and your involvement in those bands.
Buffalo Springfield (Richie is on the left)
Richie Furay: I must say I've had one of those lives that, quite frankly, there isn't much else I could think of doing that would make it any more exciting and fulfilling. Being a part of musical history and groups that have had such an impact on peoples lives (for the positive) is just awesome! I could never have planned it. We were young and living out our dreams that most people never get to. To be recognized and inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame - what can you say - it was an unbelievable honor. When you go through the facility and see your name written there with Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly and so many others - Wow! (Keepin' it in perspective though, to have your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life - there's no comparison.)
I dropped out of college the first semester of my sophomore year and packed up my suitcase and guitar and headed off to NYC. I wanted to be a folksinger, but when I got there, it was over. I tried to get some things going, but had to eat so I went to work at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in E. Hartford, Conn. for a few months. Realizing that wasn't what I had in mind for a life's career, I got in touch with Steve Stills who I played with in NY. He was in California by then and I went out to meet him and we started the Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young.
Those were exciting days. We became the "house band" at the Whiskey A-Go-Go within just several weeks of getting the band together. When we started, hardly anyone came to see us, but in a short time, there were a lot of well known musicians coming (Mamas and Papas, Byrds, Turtles, Frank Zappa). We really believed there was no competition but the Beatles. (We were young and naïve!!!) But it was an exciting time.. But because of "band things" that happen, we broke up after two years and three albums. I started a new band with Jimmy Messina called Poco.
Poco - Richie on far right
We wanted to bridge the gap between country music and R&R and added Rusty Young on steel guitar. We also wanted a full vocal harmonies, so we made sure everyone could sing. Randy Meisner and George Grantham filled out the group. Later of course, Paul Cotton and Timothy B. Schmit became involved. I stayed with the band for six albums, leaving because it just seemed like we were never going to crack the top 40 radio. A lot of my friends had gone on to very successful careers (besides Steve Stills and Neil Young, Jimmy Messina with Loggins & Messina; and Randy Meisner had joined up with the Eagles) and quite frankly, I thought, "what about me?"! At the request of David Geffen I got together with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther and we made two records for Asylum. After the two albums with Chris (Byrds) and J.D. (writer for Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles) I had to re-evaluate where my life was going and what I wanted - really wanted. Little did I know that it was during this time in my life that there would be eternal changes. It was during the time with this group that Al Perkins led me to saving faith in Jesus Christ!
One-Way: Do you still have any contact with guys like Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Jim Messina, etc.?
Richie Furay: Yes! As a matter of fact I was out at Neil's house in November to listen to and talk about a Buffalo Springfield Box Set he's been working on for some time now. (Not sure when it'll be released, it was scheduled for March, but it's been put off maybe even until next year.) I talked to Steve at that time and did a concert with him in San Diego a couple of years ago. When I did a "tour" of a few California cities last March, Jimmy came out and played with me in Santa Barbara, so I do see these guys, not frequently, but I do see them!
One-Way: Did you have any religious upbringing? Musical training and influences?
Richie Furay: I grew up going to a Methodist Church. No real musical training, although I take a few guitar lessons when I was 8-9 years old. As for my influences, they vary a lot. I can list someone like Hank Ballard to Dion and the Belmonts. Conway Twitty to Ricky Nelson. The Platters to the Del Vikings. Elvis to the Kingston Trio. Buddy Holly to the Drifters. Hank Williams to … … on and on and on …! As you can see, there's no rhyme or reason to it and I left a lot out. I really liked the early doo-wop harmonies. I remember going to NYC with my college buddies Bob Harmelink and Nels Gustafson, and the first time we sang our harmonies in the subway station - it was awesome.
One-Way: Was a music career something you set out to do at a young age?
Richie Furay: It seemed to be leading that way for about as long as I can remember. I think I really became serious about it one night when I was watching the Ozzie and Harriet Show and saw Ricky Nelson singin' "Be Bop Baby" at the high school dance. I got my group together right then and there. I was in the seventh grade singing with these guys who were all in high school. We played for the dances and I was allowed to bring my girlfriend. Wow! At college, I met Bob and Nels and we started a folk group, doing a lot of our own songs as well as Peter Paul and Mary and Kingston Trio. When we went to NYC during my sophomore year on an acapella choir tour - well, that was it when we sang in a couple of the clubs in Greenwich Village, I never looked back. Even though I had to do some time at Pratt & Whitney - I knew what I wanted to do.
One-Way: When did you get saved and what circumstances led to your conversion?
Richie Furay: (This might get a little long, but some of it's of necessity.) I got saved during the SHF days. As I said before, I was looking for and wanted nothing less than Rock & Roll stardom. To me, Al was gonna be a hindrance, but being faithful to the Lord, he didn't let any resistance from me bother him. After much patience, he befriended me, but I stood a far off, not letting him get too close and I really didn't take him too seriously! I remember one night though, asking him and his wife (at that time) over for dinner. Al was excited and had ulterior motives. He took me up on the offer saying he had some "tapes" he wanted to play for me. I just assumed they were music tapes, what other kind was there! After dinner as we were sitting around he asked if it was OK to play the tapes (plural) - I said sure and he proceeded to play a teaching tape of Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. To say the least, I was a bit stunned, but being polite, I let him proceed. Here I was, I hadn't been to church in years and now I was having church in my own home! The tape was interesting and full of facts concerning Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of prophecy (I still have the tape.)! When he got up to put on the second tape it was too much for me to handle and I don't even remember what happened at that point. Of course I didn't accept his offer to pray to receive Christ at that time, that came several months later after more of his "sharing"! I remember we were in Aspen, it was the summer of 1974, and we were rehearsing for a national tour. Nancy, my wife, had already accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. It happened shortly after the story I just shared with you. She was given a book of Hal Lindsey's (Satan Is Alive And Well on Planet Earth) and she decided she didn't want anything to do with any of that! She prayed for salvation with out me knowing any thing about it. Another situation took place at this time that began to "soften me up"! I had my guitar, a Martin D-28 stolen from my car one night while recording the first SHF record. It was the instrument that I'd written every song I'd ever written on! It couldn't be replaced and I figured it was gone but I still reported it to the police.
Photo credit: Sue Klukan
We went on a vacation to Hawaii right after the record was finished and it was there that I noticed something going on with Nancy that was a little out of the ordinary - she was reading the Bible every morning. It was something she insisted on doing, and it was OK with me, but, different! When we returned from our trip I received a call from our accountants saying they had found my guitar. Right!!!? They told me it was in a pawn shop in Pacoima. On the way out there Nancy said she'd been praying for it be found the whole time we were in Hawaii and that she had become a Believer. I told her if the guitar was out there, "I would seriously consider changing my ways"! Right!!! Sure enough, it was there - these things just don't happen but I had my guitar back and that was that! It wasn't until we were in Aspen that I received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior! Al invited me over for dinner this time. As usual, after we'd finished he asked me if I wanted to pray with him for salvation! Something very strange happened that morning when he invited me. It was like I heard the Shirrells singing "Tonight's The Night" in my ear. And sure enough, that night I did pray with Al. I don't know if was to "get him off my back" with this Christianity stuff, or what, but I prayed with him that night. It's so interesting that the very night before, he'd led two fans who'd come out to see me to Christ and when they told me - all I could say was "that's nice for you, but I have a lot of things to do before I could do anything like that"!
One-Way: Did you immediately jump into "Christian" music after your salvation?
Richie Furay: No! I continued on with the group. Although it was during this time that my wife and were beginning to have some marital difficulties and that did change my perspective and outlook.
One-Way: Did you ever question whether you should give music up or not?
Richie Furay: Yes! When Nancy and I separated, I could have cared less about anything I'd done musically. My full attention and focus was to get my marriage restored!
One-Way: Were there any particular Christian individuals or music groups that influenced you during the early days of your walk with the Lord?
Richie Furay: Not really! I was impressed with Bill Sprouse who played at Calvary though, but not really with any of the "Christian music" groups!
I've Got A Reason
Over & Over Again
One-Way: "I've Got A Reason" was and is such a great album and one of my all-time favorites. I remember the shock I had when I ran across it in the store when it first came out in 1976. It was so ahead of its time as far as "religious" albums went. I also loved it because some members of my favorite Jesus music group, Love Song (Jay Truax & John Mehler) were a part of the group. I always felt it sadly went by unnoticed so many. Tell us about that album, meeting the other members, working with Michael Omartian and reflections on The Richie Furay Band period in general.
Richie Furay: It was a great transition for me, meeting the guys who played in the band and Bill Schnee and Michael Omartian. Working with them surely gave me the quality album I was used to making. It was also an opportunity for me to play some lead guitar, something I really didn't do much in Poco. I also was experimenting a lot, trying to break out of the "country rock" mold people wanted to put me into. I've always believed that was just one part of my musical direction. I avoided the use of the steel guitar and leaned more on the keyboards. I've always been one to try new things and one thing I can say about my music and the records I've made, they don't sound like anyone else, I've always been unique in that respect. I've been an innovator, not an imitator.
One-Way: The band toured quite a bit, didn't it? Were there ever any plans to record a second album as the Richie Furay Band?
Richie Furay Band
Richie Furay: Not really, we went through the old personnel changes and I Just thought it would be easier to call it what it was, me with whom ever I would get to play with me. Though I've always had a "band" mentality, it just became easier to call it by my name and go on!.
One-Way: After that album you released two other solo albums in the 70's - "Dance A Little Light" and "I Still Have Dreams" on Asylum, and "Seasons of Change" on Myrrh in 1982. Did those make any kind of impact? Was there a reason why you chose to release your early albums on a secular label instead of a "Christian" one?
Richie Furay: I was still under contract to Asylum so I just continued to record under the label I was signed to. It was hard, especially after David Geffen left the label. I really felt he was someone who appreciated my talent and music and when he left to go on to other things I really felt abandoned! No doubt he was skeptical in the beginning because of my openness to share my faith, but when there's mutual respect you're not threatened. I assured David with "I've Got A Reason" he would have a commercial piece of product, but when he left Asylum , things went south in a hurry for me. No one was doing what I was doing and they didn't know what to do with me and weren't really willing to take a chance in support of my music. By the time "Dance A Little Light " got shelved with no support, I was really discouraged. I took the band on the road with no support from the company, economically it was hard. I was trying to support a band and underwrite a tour and it was a struggle to say the least. By the time the tour was about to end at the ROXY in L.A., I was really hoping for a release from the label.
The first night of our shows in L.A. all of the big guns from Asylum came and heard the band (we were awesome, I mean awesome) but I still believed they were all there to say "adios"! Just the opposite. They were all blown away and said "when are you gonna get back into the studio?"! I was devastated, I wanted to record, but I wanted to record for someone who wanted me. They hadn't given me any support; the only mail I got from the company were telling me how much in debt I was to 'em and - man, I just wanted out! I started to get the songs together for" I Still Have Dreams" and finally decided I would record one last record for Asylum, but I was gonna give them the most commercial record I could write! We recorded one version of it at Caribou Ranch in Colorado but when it was "finished" I thought it sounded too "studio" and told Asylum I wasn't happy with it and didn't want to release it. I figured that would really cause some trouble because I had spent some money on it. Instead, they came back to me and said: "fine, why don't you come out here and get some of the best musicians out here and try it again." So I did! I got in touch with a friend of mine who was doing quite well as an engineer, Val Gray, and he put together the "section" who were doing some of the finest records of that time and we set out to make what eventually became "I Still Have Dreams"! To this day it's one of my favorite projects. I was so comfortable with the band that I sang 80% of the record live while the tracks were going down. For that day, 1979 -80, it had some great songs that I believed were the potential for commercial for top 40. Once again, even thought the title cut did go top 40 (because of the work of one man, Charlie Readeron who also believed in me enough to leave his job security at Asylum to work with me) still they dropped the record for whatever reason and I was released from the label. It was a discouraging time but the Lord was at work.
One-Way: "I've Got A Reason" was re-issued in 1981 on Myrrh Records with a different cover. What was the strategy behind that?
Richie Furay: It was to buy me time while I prepared for "Seasons of Change", and from Asylum's standpoint, I guess, to "recoup" some of their money they thought they'd invested in me. I think Myrrh thought they might be able to break some ground and make some headway for me by re-releasing it into the Christian record market, but once again - nothing really happened. It sent signals to me that worried me a bit. They were heavily into breaking Amy Grant and B.J. Thomas and really put very little effort into making anything happen for my project. I suppose the fact that I wasn't willing to do long drawn out tours didn't help but, we all kinda knew up front where I stood with that. Anyway, that record remains a "collector's item"!
One-Way: Any chance we'll see any of your early albums on CD one day?
Richie Furay: I'd like that, but right now it's in Asylum and Myrrh's hands as they hold the masters.
One-Way: Many lives and hearts were touched during the years of the Jesus Movement and throughout the 70's; can you explain what made those times different than we see today?
Richie Furay: A real relationship with the One True Living God, that's what makes the difference, then and now! People were coming out of the 60's realizing whatever ideal they were looking for wasn't gonna be found or wouldn't last if they thought they had found it; there was no substance, no solid values and people began to search their hearts for a deeper more meaningful reason for life. When you add a "religious experience" to the equation, they wanted something different than what they'd been brought up with. Unfortunately there were many "religious experiences" in the "free life style and drugs of the 60's", but they wouldn't prove to be all that satisfying, and as time went on and as that generation got a little older, -- the search continued.
Little by little, because of what was happening at places like Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, hearts began to be touched by the real Jesus of the Bible, not just a denominational representation, but the real Jesus. Folks who'd seen right through the phoniness of days gone by were now seeing and hearing the real Gospel message presented for the first time (in a long time) and in a way they could relate to, and they were responding. It continues today, but certainly not in the same way or to the same degree. Today there's intense spiritual warfare going on. Satan isn't gonna just sit back and let his domain slip away with out a fight. He devised another plan, an old one mind you, but new to the generation he's dealing with. He's been offering people many "new" and attractive religious experiences, (without the Cross of course), and people are buying into it, falling for his age old lie of lie of success in life, fulfillment and happiness in the things this world offers. (Many are seeing through it, but many others are getting hurt.)
One very real problem we face as Believers, and particularly those who have a higher visibility and affect on their peers, is in maintaining our testimony in a way that people know something very different has happened in our life. Again, honesty is at the heart of the matter. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways! And a double minded "Christian" is really unstable. When those sincerely seeking to know Jesus are seeing more and more compromise in high visible "Christians", (saying one thing to their audience and doing the opposite) it weakens the influence any of us as Believers might have. When God blesses, when He opens the door of opportunity, gives gifts and talents to certain people, He wants the glory, not lip service! He expects the walk not just the talk and, quite frankly, the temptation to compromise is defeating many who would otherwise have a powerful testimony. We can never forget, this isn't about us, it's about Jesus Christ. I also believe in the early 70's when the Gospel was having such a powerful effect, there was more of an urgency in the message, an awareness of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. That kinda disappeared for a while but it's interesting how it's resurfacing again with the Y2K thing and the end of the decade, century and millennium. (That was a ramble wasn't it?)
One-Way: This website is all about Christian "oldies" music - do you still listen to any of the older stuff?
Richie Furay: Not really!
One-Way: What are your feelings on the whole CCM industry as we know it today?
Richie Furay: I'll keep praying for it. I'm glad I'm looking on from this side of the issue. I suppose there are some out there who are making a difference for the kingdom of God. I do like the music of groups like Big Tent Revival. For many, I can only pray and give warning. The world creates it's idols and Christian kids want theirs as well. What we see is the CCM industry marketing "artists" in a way to compete with the secular world. A word of caution to those who have aspirations beyond what God does - I know the "hope" of so many is to "cross-over" to reach the unsaved for Christ. But proceed with caution, because the temptation of being a "star" and the reality of being a "servant" is a hard thing to balance in one's life. Keep focused, keep in prayer and "don't think more highly of yourself than you should". There's the other side of the "industry" to whom these things apply as well. When you deal with a business like the CCM music industry, I know I found, it wasn't much different than the secular world - business is business. Many who are on the "business" side are only playing out roles they have seen on the secular side. They too walk a dangerous walk. It's hard to be different and be like 'em at the same time!
One-Way: Do you keep in touch with any Jesus Music artists from the old days?
One-Way: I know you've been pastoring a Calvary Chapel in Boulder, CO. since the early 80's so music has most likely taken a back seat to your pastoring duties. Do you still perform in concert? If so, what is a typical concert like and how can people contact you for bookings?
Richie Furay: I do "perform" in concert some. I have always maintained a bit of visibility in sharing at the Harvest Crusades and at various churches when the time allows. Recently I've done a few concerts in a little different setting. After releasing "In My Father's House" I had the opportunity to play the music with a band. It was interesting that a friend of mine who promotes secular concerts in San Diego called about this time and asked if I'd like to do a concert at the place he promotes. I gave some thought and prayer to it and asked if I could bring the band. After working out the details he suggested that I maybe "pay" up in San Juan as well at another secular venue - headlining the show. Well, the band worked out about an hour and a half of my musical history and we did these shows. It was a lot of fun and opportunity for ministry as well. I'm praying about what doors the Lord might open up as a result of these shows. We've done similar ones in Colorado and if the Lord's in it, we'll do some more in the future! Through them I've been able to reach out to and meet a lot of my old audience that probably wouldn't ever come to a church service. In this secular setting, I realize people have paid money to hear familiar music and I will not take advantage of them in any way, (in other words I'm not gonna deceive those who have come to these concerts to force any unexpected agenda on 'em.) Years ago I use to shake my finger and tell everyone "you gotta get saved", today I share a life that has been saved and let the H.S. do His work! I think the audience is much more receptive and willing to listen that way! Would I like to do more concerts in this way? Yes, if the Lord opens the doors. I won't force the door open on my own. I do believe I have a unique opportunity, but it has to be the work of the Lord. He took the desire away many years ago, now if it's Him lighting the fire again, I'm ready and willing.
One-Way: Speaking of pastoring, tell us a little about how that all began? What's it like?
Richie Furay: Pastoring is a wonderful challenge. You're able to help people grow in the knowledge of the Lord. You're able to give them hope when things seem hopeless. The Bible says: "Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." Well, He is faithful to His word. There was a time when I would have told anyone they were crazy if they told me I'd be doing what I'm doing today - but these verses hold true. I wasn't looking to be a pastor, I was just looking for a church that opened the Bible. When I couldn't find one that shared the Word in the same way I'd heard it shared at Calvary Chapel, I started a home Bible Study. That's turned into what we have today as Calvary Chapel of Boulder.
One-Way: You've been doing music since a young age, both in the secular and Christian arenas, what advice could you give to young musicians starting out in the music ministry today?
Richie Furay: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you"
One-Way: Can you tell us a little about your future plans? Any new music in the works?
Richie Furay: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and … ; Yes there is music in the works, both secular and contemporary Christian!
One-Way: Tell us a little about your family, hobbies, interests, etc.
Richie Furay: My family is the most wonderful blessing of my life. My wife, Nancy and I have been married for 32 years. We have four daughters, Timmie Sue, who's married to Dave; they've given us two grandsons - Jackson Thomas and Lucas James. Katie is also married to Vincent and lives out in California. Polly and Jesse are my two other daughters.
One-Way: Well, Richie, you've seen it all and done it all, tasted the limelight as a young musician, and the fame and fortune that go with it all. Meeting Christ kind of changed it all, eh? Looking back 20-30 years now, how does it all look to you now? I know, hard question! :o)
Richie Furay: The Lord has blessed me and my family "exceedingly abundantly above all that could we ask or think", we only hope our lives can influence others for Christ in some small way of thanksgiving for all He's done for us!
One-Way: Richie, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Any parting thoughts to our readers?
Richie Furay: God bless you!