RICHIE FURAY: THE BOTTOM LINE IS LOVE
PCCís Vintage Interview with the Co-Founder of Buffalo Springfield, Poco


By Paul Freeman [2006 Interview]

One of country-rockís greatest singers is a man who is often an unsung hero.

The unassuming Richie Furay possesses one of rockís sweetest voices and heís the writer of some of its most beautiful tunes, including ďKind Woman,Ē ďA Childís Claim to Fame,Ē ďA Good Feeliní to KnowĒ and ďPickiní Up The Pieces.Ē

The co-founder of two legendary bands - Buffalo Springfield and Poco - also was teamed in the 70s supergroup The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther). That band made some fine music, but didnít enjoy a Crosby, Stills & Nash type of commercial success.

Furay went on to record many outstanding solo albums. After his conversion to Christianity, he became a pastor at Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado and created deeply moving devotional music.

He did participate in the 1990 Poco reunion album, ďLegacy,Ē but basically had left the rock world behind. Towards the end of the decade, he began performing his classic material again. His focus is still on his ministry, but he continues to perform his hits and more recent songs with The Richie Furay Band, as well.

Furay participated in the brief Buffalo Springfield reunion tour in 2011, following Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Furay getting back on stage together for a thrilling, harmony-filled, 2010 performance at Youngís annual Bridge School benefit concert in the Bay Area.

In 2015, Furay released a new album, ďHand in Hand.Ē He and his wife Nancy are pictured together on the album cover, early in a relationship that has lasted half a century. They met at a Los Angeles Buffalo Springfield concert in 1967.

PCC interviewed Furay in 2006, prior to his Montalvo Arts Center concert in Saratoga, California, with Linda Ronstadt. That followed the release of his first secular album in many years, the beautiful ďHeartbeat of Love.Ē

POP CULTURE CLASSICS:
Congratulations on the new album, ďHeartbeat of Love,Ē itís a beauty.

RICHIE FURAY:
Thank you. Iím excited about it, the fact that it has so many of my friends on it - Neil Young, Steve Stills. And Kenny Loggins is on it. Along with Timothy B. Schmidt. Mark Volman from the Turtles. Jeff Hanna from the Dirt Band. Paul Cotton and Rusty Young from Poco. So Iíve got a whole crew of people on different songs on the CD.

PCC:
There must have been a great feeling recording it.

FURAY:
Well, it was kind of fun. I would be listening to some of the tracks come back after weíd recorded them and I said, ďMan, I can sure hear Tim sing on this song.Ē So I called him up and he was excited to do it. And then I just started down the list. For Neil, I re-recorded ďKind Woman,Ē which I did with the Springfield years ago. And I couldnít get him on it then, because he was off and about doing something [laughs]. So I said, ďI think Iíll try to get Neil on this one again and see what happens.Ē And sure enough, he was ready to go. He wanted to do it. So everybody that I asked was very excited to be on the project. And I was very excited to have them.

PCC:
So each of them, in their own settings, would add their tracks to what you already had laid down?

FURAY:
Yeah, weíll you know how it works. If I had to get everybody in the studio or get any of them in the studio on a particular date, at a particular time or whatever, I think it would never have happened, but because of computer technology and Pro Tools, recording that way, all I had to do was send them a WAV file. Basically, Iíll lay a part on there and say, ďThis is what I hear. You can put on there whatever you think fits. But this is what I hear.Ē And basically it just went from there. So I was able to get a disc out to each guy and theyíd put their part on, send it back, and there you go, mix it in.

PCC:
What would you say was the general feeling or focus on the ďHeartbeat of LoveĒ album?

FURAY:
Well, I think it speaks for itself. I write love songs. I donít write political commentary or social commentary. Itís a collection of love songs that Iíve written. A couple of them I wrote for my daughtersí weddings. Thatís the general theme.

PCC:
That must be a cherished gift to give - a song at your childís wedding.

FURAY:
Well, I have four daughters and it kind of spooks me - three of them are married and Iíve written songs for two of them. But it kind of spooks me, because, Iíve got to outdo this one, if I have to write another one [laughs]. So weíll see how it goes. I have three down, one to go. But yes, itís very touching to be able to sit down and just create a song for the wedding. So Iím excited to do it.

PCC:
And at the upcoming show, will you also include some of your classic material?

FURAY:
Absolutely. Iíll cover just about all of my background, from Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Souther, Hillman & Furay, and some of my solo work, as well. Weíre going to try to squeeze it all in, man.

PCC:
You werenít playing that material for a number of years.

FURAY:
Weíre down at a place called Humphreyís in San Diego tonight. And a friend of mine from Colorado, Kenny Weissberg, promotes the concerts down here. So heís the one who got me started back in this about eight years ago, stepping out to come out and play again. So I owe him a lot. So I have been performing some of this material over the last seven or eight years. But I donít do a concert tour, so to speak. I come out and play two or three times a year.

But with this new CD, Iím hoping that it will generate some excitement to the point where I can do a bit more touring. Itís exciting to be able to come out and play with Linda up there. It gives me an opportunity to play for a wider audience that maybe I wouldnít be able to play to.

Iíve been piggybacking with Jimmy Messina on occasion and with Poco, going out and playing with them. So Iíll do my own set and then Iíll come out and sing a couple songs with them. Thereís a lot of different ways to do it, but Iím really grateful to be able to have this opportunity to go out and play to maybe a broader audience than Iíve been able to play to in many years.

PCC:
You must get a lot of feedback from people about how much your songs have meant to them.

FURAY:
Itís incredible, Paul. It really is, when people do write and tell me, ďMan, this song, me and my wife were doing thisĒÖ or ďI met my girlfriend with this song.Ē It takes me back to when I was doing the same thing [laughs], listening to a doo-wop song or something.

PCC:
What was the music that inspired you to first pick up a guitar?

FURAY:
Back in the mid-50s and early 60s, Iíd have to call it rockabilly, from Gene Vincent to Elvis Presley to Conway Twitty to Ricky Nelson, that type of music. But then it wasnít long before I got into the doo-wop, the New York Dion and the Belmonts type thing. Iíve had a wide range of music that I really enjoyed. And then, of course, what got me off to New York to get the whole thing started was the folk music craze. So it was a wide variety of music that Iíve listened to, but I think originally, it was like the Buddy Holly rockabilly, Gene Vincent, that type of music.

PCC:
Linda Ronstadt was coming up around the same time as you, mid-60s, early 70s. How do you view her role in the evolution of country-rock?

FURAY:
Well, obviously, you know, she was an influence on a lot of folks, with the music that she was doing. Of course, at one point in time, she had Don Henley in her band and I think Al Perkins might have even played with her. She was very much a country-rocker at one time. And sheís got such a vast, wide range of music that she plays, too, for goodness sakes, including the Nelson Riddle albums. But back in the day when we were playing a lot, she was definitely doing her style of country-rock music. She did quite a few songs with J.D. Souther, who I made music with. So that was her style, the style of the day.

I believe that I was one of big pioneers of that. And a lot of people went on to certainly make it a lot more successful. But we were certainly pioneers of the country-rock movement. And itís kind of neat to just see where itís been taken today and that the music still has some lasting effects on people.

PCC:
Was it frustrating that the genre didnít have more commercial success back in the day? Like Buffalo Springfield became an iconic band after the fact.

FURAY:
Well, yeah, for me, personally, there was a sense of frustration 20-some-odd years ago, that Poco just seemed to not be able to land the AM radio hit song. Finally, after I left the band, they did have a couple of hit records. But that was a big focus back in those days. AM radio made the difference between the size audiences that you could play to and how you could get around and all of that.

And there was a frustration on my part. But it led me certainly to other places that I donít look back and regret any of it at this point in my life. I am very thankful and very happy to even be out playing music today. I think I have a product that people will still enjoy and I think Iíve got a band that plays it well. So Iím just excited that here I am at 62 and able to still get out and play after being away from the music business, so to speak, for so long.

PCC:
Back in the 60s, both on AM radio and on shows like ďShindig!Ē and ďHullabaloo,Ē it was so eclectic, so much musical variety. What kind of creative landscape was that to come up in?

FURAY:
Well, I think that was what made music so exciting in those days. You didnít have to be boxed in. And when somebody tried to box you in, you would make an album that was different from what they said you were. But yeah, youíre right. It was very eclectic. And there were so many different styles of music. It was a great day to be part of the music scene, the mid-60s right up to the late 70s.

PCC:
The chemistry with Buffalo Springfield, what made that such a magical group? Was it partly the tension? Was it just the talent?

FURAY:
I think it was the talent. You know, Paul, it was a group that you could not plan to put together to have the success that Buffalo Springfield had, to have spawned the talent that came out of that band. You know, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, they speak for themselves in what they have done, in pursuing their careers. And, of course, Jimmy Messina played a role in Buffalo Springfield in the last days, and certainly went on to have a great, successful career with Kenny Loggins. But it was nothing that you could really have planned. If we had planned it, other than Stephen and I met each other in New York and then met Neil along the way and decided that we would put a band together.

Could we have thought that we were going to spawn such success stories? I doubt it. Iím not sure how it would have turned out for me, had I decided to stay in the business, so to speak, what would have happened in my career. Of course, I had a change in paths.

But Buffalo Springfield was a very unique band, to be together for two years and to wind up in the Rock and Roll Hall of FameÖ and one hit record, basically.

PCC:
The music is still so revered. Could the magic be recaptured? Is there a chance of a reunion?

FURAY:
People are always asking me that. Who knows? But I donít know that you could really recapture what it was at that point in time. I just donít think so. We would not have the original band, obviously, as Bruce [bassist Bruce Palmer] passed away. So we wouldnít have the original five guys. We did try a reunion in around í85, í86, something like that, and it just didnít connect. It didnít work. So some things, you should just let well enough alone. People remember us for what it was. And let it be what it was.

PCC:
The bandís induction into the Hall of Fame must have been a gratifying experience.

FURAY:
What an awesome experience it was. The only disappointing thing about the Hall of Fame night was that Neil decided at that point in time that he wasnít going to show up and be there with us. Again, that was a disappointing moment. It would have been great to have had him there. But he had his reasons and chose not to come. That kind of put a little asterisk beside it for me. It would have been nice to have had him there. But to have been recognized for our musical contributions - what an awesome thing.

When I left Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1964, to be a folk singer in New York and then to finally end up having that recognition, it was something you couldnít have planned for, you couldnít have thought about. Itís amazing. In those days, we certainly werenít thinking about anything like that. We were just thinking about whether we were going to be able to put another meal on the table [laughs].

PCC:
And you probably never thought that, all these years later, the music would still be appreciated. Both Buffalo Springfield and Poco have such timeless appeal. Do you attribute that to the melodies, the harmonies, the heart of the music? What makes it so timeless?

FURAY:
You know, itís hard to say. I think itís happy music and I think when people are going through tough times or countries are going through tough times, I think they look to something that can maybe divert their thoughts for a while. Iím not talking about just a country, but even like in a family situation or a home situation. Even in school. People write me telling me that the music we did way back then carries them through many crises in their lives.

And obviously there has to be some kind of melodic and some lyrical content to it, but I think itís something that diverts people from a stressful crisis moment at the time. They can just put this music on and listen to it. People write me about even my devotional music to tell me, ďThis has just gotten me through some of the biggest crises in my life. I just want to thank you for it.Ē And thatís very touching and very humbling to me, to think that something I created would mean so much to someone else. It really is kind of humbling.

PCC:
Even outside of the devotional format, how does your faith generally color music now?

FURAY:
Well, Iím sure that I want to have a positive aspect to my music. And so this collection of songs now - I think my wife of 39 years has probably had more songs written about her than any other person [chuckles], I donít know - but thatís how it colors it. Iím speaking about love, because thatís the bottom line for me - itís love.

PCC:
And your perspective on what you want out of music, has that changed over the years?

FURAY:
No, Iím just happy to be able to do it. Iím realistic. But even though I think there are commercial songs - what I would say were commercial from years ago - Iím pretty realistic to know that Clear Channel is not going to be playing any of my music, you know? I understand the market. So my expectations arenít Ö Iím not out there looking that I have to have a career. Iím out there, because I believe I have something to say and communicate to an audience. And if they want to hear it, theyíre going to find it.

They can go to my website and see that there is current music. Itís not just music that I made 30 years ago or something. There is current music out there. And itíll speak for itself. As we do these shows, people can see, ďThis guy can still play. He can still sing. He can still do this thing.Ē

PCC:
And thereís an autobiography.

FURAY:
Yes, thereís an autobiography that was just released in April, ďPickiní Up The Pieces,Ē by me with a guy by the name of Michael Roberts. So thatís current. Thatís available on the website.

So there are a lot of current things that are happening right now. Itís amazing. Iím not sure why itís all happening at this point in time. But Iím just going to enjoy the ride.

For more on this artist, visit www.richiefuray.com.