Disciples of Sound

    Richie Furay: Buffalo Springfield and Poco Founder Gets Back In the Country

    Issue 167

    In the promotional trailer for the forthcoming documentary on the life of musician Richie Furay, narrator Cameron Crowe says, “unlike his bandmates and those he influenced who attained international stardom and are enshrined in music history, Richie’s name never became a household one.” This unfortunate fact remains one of rock’s great mysteries. As a member of two seminal bands, Buffalo Springfield and Poco, Furay helped not only create some of rock’s most lasting anthems, he helped shape a sound that would inspire bands like the Eagles and acts like Loggins and Messina. While there is great debate about who actually fathered the country-rock genre, there is little argument over the role Richie Furay had in forging a sound that continues to inspire up-and-coming bands.

    Furay now comes full circle on the country front with In the Country, his first studio album in seven years. It presents his take on a number of songs that were made famous by others, and the result is an album of bright, breezy and open songs rooted in positivity and purpose. The first single and lead track, “Somebody Like You,” (originally done by Keith Urban) is a wonderful showcase for vocals that remain sweet and pristine and perfectly pitched for this kind of project.

    The 12-song set features his versions of country classics like “The River” (Garth Brooks), “I’m In a Hurry and I Don’t Know Why” (Alabama), “Your Love Amazes Me” (John Berry), and “I Hope You Dance” (Lee Ann Womack). Also included are the crossover hits “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver) and “Walking in Memphis” (Marc Cohn), as well as Rickie Nelson’s 1958 smash “Lonesome Town” and the Julie Miller-penned Americana gem “Chalk.” There are two exclusive digital bonus tracks: Furay’s new rendition of Poco’s signature song “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” and George Strait’s hit, “I Cross My Heart.”

     

    To bring this project together, Furay teamed with multi-Grammy-winning producer and friend Val Garay (Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, James Taylor), and recorded at Nashville’s legendary Blackbird Studio (see John Seetoo’s article in Issue 125). Garay assembled a group of first-rate Nashville session aces: drummer Victor Indrizzo, bassist Glenn Worf, keyboardist Steven Jay Nathan, pedal steel player Dan Dugmore, and guitarists Tom Bukovac and Chris Leuzinger. Some of these folks even played on the original cuts of the songs Richie selected!

    Special guest appearances include John Berry, who duets with Furay on his hit “Your Love Amazes Me,” while country superstar Vince Gill joins Furay on “Lonesome Town.” In The Country also features Jason Scheff (Chicago) and Furay’s fellow Poco alum and Eagles bassist/vocalist Timothy B. Schmit.

    Copper had the opportunity to speak with Richie about this project, about how his faith helps inspire his musical journey, and whether there just might be one more Buffalo Springfield reunion tour left in the tank.

     

    Richie Furay, In the Country, album cover.

    Richie Furay, In the Country, album cover.

     

    Ray Chelstowski: It’s been seven years since your last record. What prompted you to pursue this project at this time?

    Richie Furay: It was Val Garay. I’d known Val since the Buffalo Springfield days and he came to one of my shows and asked if I’d like to do another record with him. We did my 1979 I Still Have Dreams record and hadn’t worked together since then; but we’ve been friends forever. So, he suggested doing this country hits record. When we finally got on the same page we both made lists of songs that we thought would work, and the very first song on his list was the first on mine as well. So I knew we were on to something. It’s one that I heard when I was fishing up in Montana in the early 1990s. The song was John Berry’s “Your Love Amazes Me.” From there we sorted out 14 songs.

    RC: This record has a real focus on country music from the 1990s. Was that intentional?

    RF: That was a time when I was probably listening to more country music. This was the music that my kids were listening to as well and I just latched on to it. It was kind of a challenge doing these songs from these really great artists. People were going to be familiar with the originals and I needed to just make them my own. We didn’t want to go in and do “karaoke.” We wanted to make the songs sound fresh and I think and hope that we captured that with this project.

    RC: What were the criteria for a song making the list or not?

    RF: First of all, I had to identify with the song in some way, either through the artist or the music. And these are all songs that have left a mark on me. It really goes all the way back to Ricky Nelson. I couldn’t wait for Ricky to come out and sing at the end of [The Adventures of] Ozzie and Harriet. He had a big influence on my life and that’s why “Lonesome Town” made the record. Another song I brought to the table is Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis.” It’s also not a country song but we took what he had done with the piano and had guitars take over the riff that runs through most of the song. I think everything in the end came out kinda cool on that one as well. These songs are ones that I just identified with. Today people make their own little streaming playlists and I look at this like my playlist except with me singing the songs.

    RC: The sound on this record isn’t overproduced. It feels very open and breezy.

    RF: That was part of the original plan. Honestly I think that a lot of country music today comes out of a mold, and I can’t say that I really like that mold. So, what we tried to do was make everything as live-sounding as possible. I actually sang about ninety percent of the record live while the tracks were going down. Of course, they were tweaked, but it gives the record a whole different feel because I am playing off what’s being played, and what’s being played is working off of my vocals. So that helps us get that vibe that you’re talking about and it’s something that I think is really special.

     

    RC: Where did you record the album?

    RF: We did it at Blackbird. I had done most of my previous recording at either Quad [Recording Studios] or House of Blues (Recording Studio]. What a fantastic studio! The people are great and it’s just a great room to work in.

     

    Val Garay behind the board at Blackbird Studio. Courtesy of Clyne Media.

    Val Garay behind the board at Blackbird Studio. Courtesy of Clyne Media.

     

    RC: Vince Gill and Timothy B. Schmit make appearances on the record. Is there anyone else that you had hoped could join but their schedules didn’t align with yours?

    RF: We talked about a lot of people. A few times we discussed Keith Urban. And recording in John McBride’s studio, we were told that Martina was going to sing on our record. But things happened. Timothy has always been so gracious and generous; he is always there to accommodate if he can. I also wanted J.D. Souther to come in and sing with me on “Lonesome Town” and we just couldn’t work out schedules. So, Timothy then suggested calling Vince and he was right on board, which was really cool.

    RC: You remain in great voice. What’s your secret?

    RF: You know, I gotta tell you that it’s God’s grace. I tried to take voice lessons when I moved back to Colorado but it didn’t work. It seemed to change the whole character that I feel like I have in my voice so I just abandoned that idea.

     

    Richie Furay and John McBride of Blackbird Studio. Courtesy of Clyne Medi

    Richie Furay and John McBride of Blackbird Studio. Courtesy of Clyne Media.

     

    RC: You are almost as well-known for your faith as you are for your music. How does your faith guide how you approach music?

    RF: Well, I respect that the Lord has given me the gift that he’s given me and I think that my relationship with him helped me actually chose the songs that are on the record. They aren’t religious songs but they are songs that have deep moral reflection in them. With everything I do I want to respect Him. Even when I do a concert I don’t prophesize. He’s given me gifts and I tell them that I’m happy to share them all.

    RC: What haven’t you done musically that you still have an eye on completing?

    RF: Oh, I don’t know. I just had one very special moment three weeks ago when I got to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage. It was the first time in 50 years. Listen, the journey has been incredible. I mean, Buffalo Springfield opening up for the Rolling Stones at the Hollywood Bowl without having a record contract? Being one of the first rock bands, with Poco, to play Carnegie Hall? I can’t think of what I want to do because so many awesome things have come my way.

    RC: Do you think there’s one more Buffalo Springfield tour in you?

    RF: Well, I’m getting together with Stephen [Stills] and Neil {Young] next week, but it’s not to do a record. I have a documentary that’s coming out next year and we’re wrapping up some of the interviews. Stephen, Neil, and I are getting together at Stephen’s house to do an interview that Cameron Crowe is going to moderate. So, I’m going to see them, but to tell you the truth, we did a tour together about 12 years ago and it was great fun. But as far as us getting together and doing it one more time, I doubt that that’s going to happen.

     

    Richie Furay. Photo courtesy of Aaron Rappaport.

    Richie Furay. Photo courtesy of Aaron Rappaport.

     

    Header image of Richie Furay courtesy of Aaron Rappaport.

    4 comments on “Richie Furay: Buffalo Springfield and Poco Founder Gets Back In the Country

    1. The first time I heard about Richie Furay he was singing in a group, Souther Hillman Furay. Too bad he couldn’t get John David Souther to sit in with him. Souther is a composer and singer who should have an article written about him as well. One of the greats!

    2. You always knew when Furay was singing lead — one of the great/unique voices in rock.
      I followed his whole career in real time and particularly liked the Poco albums — upbeat, relentlessly happy music/melodies.
      As far as I’m concerned, Poco invented country rock. Listen to their ‘Pickin up the Pieces’ album, cut — ‘Grand Junction.’ And their next album ‘Poco’ cut – ‘You Better Think Twice.’
      A good survey of Furay’s music is the 2021 album — “Richie Furay 50th Anniversary Return to the Troubadour (Live).”
      It’s great when the good guys do well.

    3. I’m sitting at my desk listening to Music From Big Pink while reading the new edition of Copper. I read it from front to back so I started with this piece. I do a search on Qobuz and they have the deluxe edition with two bonus tracks. I queue it up after Caledonia Mission via Roon. It took me two cuts to move to the main listening chair. My system is set up in my loft where my desk is in the back so I can listen while working.

      I rarely listened to country music in the 90s so I was not familiar with most of these songs other than Take Me Home, Country Roads. This album is very good. I really like the vocals which makes sense as I am a big Poco and Buffalo Springfield fan. The musicianship is first rate as well. The production has just the right touch for these songs. Thanks for featuring it. Now I need to buy the CD for a local copy.

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