Photo by Ed Ziehm
If you’re a baby boomer and listened to the radio, you’re likely more than a little familiar with the iconic groups, Buffalo Springfield and Poco. Buffalo Springfield was made up of Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, and Richie Furay. Poco consisted of Jim Messina, Rusty Young, George Grantham, Randy Meisner, and, again, Richie Furay.
After his stint with these two legendary bands, Furay went on to form his own namesake band that blazed new trails in contemporary Christian music, establishing his mark as one of its influential pioneers. In fact, it was in that genre that I became aware of his work. His former work earned him the distinction of becoming an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The latter provided him his ultimate calling as minister to a flock of Christians in Colorado. Both roles have given him the ability to influence people well beyond the end of his life.
For this interview, I chatted with Greg Harris (CEO of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is a friend of Boomerocity) about Richie. He said, “He, obviously, contributed greatly as a member of Buffalo Springfield but also went on to greater public recognition with Poco. Buffalo Springfield is the cornerstone of the folk and country that followed. It’s fascinating how much has grown out of the collaboration of the original band members and, then, the many shoots and branches that grew from their trunk to create an incredible music legacy of its founders. They’re even influencing the Americana genre to this day.
“They’re sound – and Richie still sounds the same as he did in the late sixties – is still as fresh and vibrant today as it was then. Have you heard Richie’s new album? Amazing and it proves the point I was just making.”
Greg is referring to Furay’s recently released eighth solo studio album. It’s entitled “Hand In Hand,” and is likely bound to go down as his best work yet.
I called Richie at his Colorado home to chat about “Hand In Hand” and other things going on in his life. I started off by asking him what would he tell Richie Furay/Buffalo Springfield/Poco fans about this album.
“This album is very current from my perspective. I’ve really been thought of as a love song writer, and these songs are definitely love songs. They’re about my love for life, my love for my wife, my love for my country, my love for what the Lord has blessed me with. It’s really all-encompassing. The music is as current and as fresh today as anything anybody could hear on the radio. I do have a certain style of music that I write, but it’s very current today. I just couldn’t be any happier with it. It’s really getting a lot of traction today.”
As for the feedback on the album, so far, Richie said, “It has been wonderful. Everyone, to a person, that’s heard the music has responded in such a positive way. It’s really blowing my mind. When I wrote the songs, I really felt that I had something special. I think the people that are now hearing this and responding to it are showing me, ‘Yeah, there is something real special about this project’.”
I have two favorites from the album, “We Were The Dreamers” and “Let It Slide.” Artists can’t really pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s too much like picking a favorite child so I didn’t ask Furay to pick on. However, I did ask which song would he use as a “calling card,” if you will, to draw people to buy the album.
“It’s really hard to separate one song from the other, because every song is special. ‘We Were The Dreamers’ is obviously the first song on the album, because I think that has to have a hook on it. People are going to listen to it and go to song 2 (“Hand In Hand”), song 3 (“Don’t Lose Heart”), on down the road until you get to ‘Let It Slide’. I think they gotta hear something that’s going to appeal to them. If anyone’s like me, it’s the music first of all. Is there a melody that I can relate to and embrace? Then I want to hear what the song is all about.”
Richie then gets on a roll about the rest of the album, excitedly telling me about each song.
“‘We Were The Dreamers’ is about starting Poco and what we wanted to do with that band. We wanted to make a bridge between country and rock, and I think that proved to be an honest goal as we’ve seen that happen. We see music coming out of Nashville today that took a very strong leap when, back in 1969, Poco was trying to cross that gap.
“Then, leading on, I think people are going to find that there’s a lot of interesting music that they built from one song to the next. On ‘Hand In Hand’, they’re going to hear about my relationship with my wife looking back who I’ve been married to for forty-eight years now. We aren’t standing on the Whisky A Go Go stage anymore looking forward. We’re on the stage of life- still going hand in hand, still in love with each other- but we’re looking from a different perspective now.
“You get Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Don’t Lose Heart’. I think the question Dan was asking in that song is, ‘Was everything I ended up going through worth it in the end?’ I saw the hope in the Lord, you know: ‘No matter what’s going on, you can trust that I’m still there with you. Don’t lose heart. I’m going with you.’
“‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is a different kind of love song. It’s a song about my love for this country. I think this country is the greatest country in the world. I know we have problems. I know we have things we can improve upon, but it really hurts me when I hear people cutting down and talking about this country in a negative way. We have very positive things that we can be proud of, but we are being divided right now. We’re polarized. We’ve got to start talking and thinking about the blessings that God has given us in this great nation of ours.
“‘Wind Of Change’ follows that same line. On the surface, it just sound like it’s about a guy taking a road trip going east. If you look deeper into the song, I think people will understand that I have some problems with what I see going on out east. Hopefully, there will be a change.
“‘Someday’ (that features Keb Mo) … Again, I’m just so thankful that during these troubled times I’ve got eleven grandkids. Number twelve is on the way May 1. I’m concerned about the way things are going and what my kids and grandkids are going to have to go through. But I’m very thankful, and I sum it up in that song, that I didn’t have to go alone. My wife has been there with me. I couldn’t make it without her.
“Each song, they’re all very important. They all have a special message and meaning. It’s a very universal CD for people to embrace.”
I asked the Hall of Famer if he considered “Hand In Hand” a CCM disc, secular/Americana or another genre?
“I think it’s definitely a secular/Americana CD. There’s no doubt about it. I say that because if you go back to ‘64/’65 when Buffalo Springfield was together, there was nothing we called or considered ‘Americana’. Americana became a genre of music later on, and quite frankly, we pioneered that along with country rock ‘n’ roll. I would say this is definitely a mainstream secular project. It has Americana roots all the way.”
I asked Richie what he hoped people get or take away from “Hand In Hand.”
“I hope that they’ll take away hope. With my life, I’ve gone through different changes, different struggles, different places where I’ve come to a crossroads in my life and asked ‘Which direction do I go?’ But I’ve always found that there was direction. I will say I didn’t know what that direction was at times, but I did come to find out it was the leading of the Lord. Regardless if this is a secular project, He is still guiding my life as the Good Shepherd. He is watching over me, and I know now who has been guiding me.
“In years past, I didn’t have a clue when I would take a step and go in this direction or that direction. Even before I became a believer, in Souther Hillman Furay I didn’t want the guy who was a Christian to be in the band. He had a Jesus sticker on his guitar, and I said, ‘I don’t want this guy in the band. He’s going to stop me from becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star.’ But it was there that God reached out to me.
“The Lord is so gracious. At one time, I thought maybe he was taking the musical aspect of my life away. God never takes away something that he doesn’t have something far greater for us. He’s shown me that by allowing me to come back and play music in this day and age, but also be part of a great church family in Broomfield, Colorado.
“What I hope the people will take away from this is hope. When they’re not sure where things are going in their life, there’s hope. They can read that in the music and the songs that I’ve been sharing.”
Some of you might be surprised by my comment at the beginning of this interview that Richie Furay is now a minister. I asked him to tell Boomerocity readers about his ministry.
“We have a small little church in Broomfield, Colorado, called Calvary Chapel. We are a part of the Calvary Chapel network of churches. When Al Perkins led me to the Lord back in 1974, my wife and I had been married for seven years and separated for seven months. It was a disastrous time in my life, and I had no idea what was going to be taking place in my life.
“Things started to change, and I really thought that music was pretty much going to be the end of the road for me. It didn’t turn out to be that way. In the meantime, there was a little bit of diversion there, and I said, ‘Lord, what would you have me to do?’ He opened up the doors, and I started a little home Bible study. Next thing I know, people are coming around saying, ‘When are we going to have church?’ I said, ‘You know, we’re kinda having it right now.’ They wanted something else, and as it turned out, we started a little church in Boulder, Colorado. Then we moved down to Broomfield, and it’s been so great.
“The Bible says the Lord will give you the desires of your heart if you just focus on Him. I love the opportunity he’s given me to encourage people’s lives with the
Photo by Ed Ziehm
teaching of the Word of God. I love the way Chuck Smith taught us to really teach the Bible book by book, verse by verse. It’s been real precious. Also, what has been really neat is the support I’ve gotten from a lot of my pastor friends in Calvary Chapel to continue to pursue and do the music I’m doing. Regardless if it has a Christian influence like ‘In My Father’s House’ and ‘I Am Sure’ or my music as it comes out today like this new project which is a mainstream secular/Americana project, the church supports me. The church is right there with me.
“Early on, neither I nor the church congregation that I had at the time understood, and I think there was some question about, ‘Can you do both?’ Sometimes, people want to say, ‘How can you go out, do this music, and still be a pastor of a church?’ It all flows. I’ve got a very unique position in life right now. I’ve got a very unique position in having a church but still going on the road, traveling, doing concerts. Quite frankly, when I go into a place to play, we have done worship services with my band. My band is the worship band at our church. They learned all of my music, and we go out.
“I’m not out there to proselytize when I go into secular venues. I’m out there to share my life, and the biggest part of my life is the fact that Jesus Christ has saved me and loves me. He has given me the desires of my heart. He gave me the gift of music, so we always get to share with the people regardless. If they hear ‘A Good Feelin’ To Know’ and ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’, they still hear. We’re there and we’re sharing this, because we know where the gift has come from. It’s come from Jesus.”
I always ask experienced artists this question at the end of interviews: Once you’ve stepped off of the tour bus for the final time and are at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy is? Richie was asked this, as well.
“Truly, I want to hear the Lord say ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ He didn’t tell me just to preach within the four walls of a church building. He told me to go into all the world and to proclaim his goodness, glory, and salvation. That’s what I want to do. I sincerely believe in my heart that is being accomplished by the response I get from all kinds of people. People who are believers, people who are nonbelievers, people who are Jewish, people who have no real understanding of faith at all.
“They come to me and say, ‘There’s something about you, and on that stage, there’s something that shines. Something that glows.’ At seventy years old, it’s really special to be able to stand up there and get that kind of feedback. I was just answering a person who I don’t even know from Montana who said, ‘I accepted the Lord a long time ago, but I walked away from the Lord. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to reach out to you to help me along and get back on this path’. If I can lead anybody to the foot of the Cross where Jesus’ forgiveness is, that’s what it’s about for me.”
Read the Boomerocity review of "Hand In Hand," here.