As a founding member of groundbreaking act Buffalo Springfield, not to mention Poco and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, Richie Furay holds a pivotal spot in rock & roll’s archives. Having been a primary contributor to these seminal groups, he’s partially responsible for the merging of country, blues, folk, and psychedelia that birthed our modern musical landscape. Songs like “Good Feelin’ To Know,” “Kind Woman,” and “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” are classics that have influenced a generation of artists.
Although his sound is said to have helped shape music’s future, it’s the recording industry’s past—namely country music—that spurred the man to pick up a guitar. In particular, he mentions Ricky Nelson as one of his primary inspirations for pursuing his craft. He couldn’t wait for the end of each episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, when the teen idol would play a number. Other influencers include Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly.
On his most recent album, In the Country, Furay returns to these roots, serving up country music covers with all the love and respect he insists they deserve. His friend, producer and recording engineer Val Garay, presented him with the concept when they bumped into each other at an Autism awareness event in Los Angeles. To see if their visions meshed, they independently listed songs they felt were worthy candidates and then compared them. To their surprise, they each named “Your Love Amazes Me” by John Berry as No. 1 on both their lists. Furay saw this as a sign the recording was meant to be. The album proudly features the Berry tune.
Over time, the pair hashed out the rest of their selections. Some are much older than others, but all are considered classics. Furay speaks enthusiastically about each. Take what he says about Sammy Kershaw’s “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful.” “The thing that gets me about that song is the simplicity,” he chatters. “I think of my wife. She’s so beautiful, inside and outside.” Every time he performs the number, he imagines he’s singing directly to her. Other songs that made the cut include John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You,” Alabama’s “I’m In a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” and Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis.”
In the Country’s 14 tracks were recorded in just four days. Garay insisted they lay them down at Blackbird Studio in Nashville. Although Furay had assembled albums in Music City many times before, this was his first experience entering the storied space. Furay appreciated the way the studio accommodated live vocals. The final track, a fresh version of “Picking Up the Pieces” by his own band Poco, was eked out in a single take during the session’s final day. In fact, nine of the tracks on the album, Furay sang vocals live with no overdubs. He insists there’s usually little that can be improved when the emotions fall just right. “You can wear a song out if you go into the studio and play it too many times,” he declares.
Leading up to the platter’s release, Furay delighted fans with a performance at Nashville’s City Winery. During the show, he played old favorites alongside select cuts from the new recording. Among them was the John Berry tune, which was delightfully bolstered by an appearance from the original artist himself. The song’s co-writer, Chuck Jones, was in attendance that night, as was Manuel Cuevas, the fashion designer famous for his flashy garments donned by rock and country artists. Furay proudly sported one of the icon’s jackets that explosive evening. The 78-year-old’s spouse was also present to soak up the celebration. Furay drew laughter by revealing he met his future wife when her boyfriend at the time dragged her to an early Buffalo Springfield concert. The musician’s daughter was also at the gig contributed background vocals on stage.
The day after, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee enjoyed another milestone: performing at The Grand Ole Opry. Although Poco graced the Opry many moons ago, Furay was no longer a member of the band at that time. Upon learning that Furay had never strummed on that hallowed stage, John Berry’s manager, Brian Smith, got the ball rolling on making it happen. Furay had dreamed about this day since childhood. “It was absolutely a thrill.”
Later, the album enjoyed the official Record Store Day treatment at Nashville’s Vinyl Tap, with Furay signing exclusive vinyl pressings for adoring fans. Many who were present, though, were simply seeking libations at the cafe. “There were a lot of people who didn’t know who I was,” laughs the star. “After a while, I started interacting [with them] and we sold quite a few albums.”
A documentary on Furay is currently in the works. His longtime manager, David Stone, initiated the project. Cameron Crowe provides the narration for this definitive portrait. “I was his first interview,” reveals the artist of the renowned music journalist and director. Crowe’s involvement was secured after the two reconnected through social media and then reunited in person after a show at Los Angeles’ Saban Theater. Although they hadn’t seen one another in decades, Furay insists it was “like we had been friends forever.”
Part of the reason Stone felt Furay’s life was worthy of memorializing on the big screen as a cornerstone of the country-rock genre as well as his journey into religious life. Many are unaware he spent the years between 1983 and 2017 as senior pastor at a nonsectarian Christian church in Boulder. During that time, he could not have imagined his current glorious return to the stage.
Likewise, he never could have anticipated a Buffalo Springfield reunion in 2011. Furay tells of a moment during that tour when he was trying out some guitar licks. “New song, huh?” That was Neil Young’s take when he heard the notes. Although it wasn’t at the time, Furay soon rushed home to make it into one.
Although he talked about retirement from touring, Furay qualifies that he’s learned to never say never. Indeed, at the time he spoke with Music Connection, he still had gigs on the books. “I love to see people who appreciate my music,” he spurts. “As long as it’s something that’s reasonable, I’m going to get out and play.”
For more information, visit richiefuray.com