Richie Furay Looks to the Future as a Documentary Celebrates His Past
The Buffalo Springfield and Poco co-founder preps an album of country covers and surveys his storied career, thanks to a new, star-studded documentary.
Long before Americana was a festival buzzword, Richie Furay helped redefine the boundaries of roots-rock music—twice. Although his first great band, Buffalo Springfield, lasted barely two years, from 1966 to 1968, and released only three albums during their time together, they laid the groundwork for the genre, offering a loving blend of country soul and rock-and-roll swagger. And, soon after that band splintered, he formed Poco, which not only churned out their own classic originals, but also seeded future chart-toppers like Loggins and Messina and the Eagles.
Even though Buffalo Springfield helped set the stage for two of its leading men, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, the third member of the band’s fabled front line— singer, songwriter and guitarist Furay—never reached the same heights, despite his gorgeous upper vocal register and spoton harmonies.
Following years at the helm of Poco and the short-lived supergroup Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, as well as a solo stint as a prototypical West Coast singer-songwriter, Furay became a pastor in Boulder, Colo. and turned his attention to making devoutly Christian-themed albums that were often ignored by a secular audience. However, in recent years, he’s returned to mainstream music with a series of efforts that have reconnected him with many of his original listeners.
This past November, Furay made his way to Blackbird Studio in Nashville to record a set of country songs made famous by artists like Rick Nelson, Keith Urban and Garth Brooks. The resulting album also includes an updated take on his composition, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” a Poco classic.
While it’s an unusual tactic for Furay, who has never been known to record other musicians’ material, it’s significant in a variety of other ways. For starters, it reunites him with veteran producer Val Garay, with whom Furay originally worked on his heralded solo album, I Still Have Dreams.
“I’m so excited to be working with my longtime friend Val Garay again,” Furay offers. “We worked together in 1979 and here we are together again some 40 years later, doing a country classics project—recording songs that have had an impact on me in some special way. We recorded the basic tracks and lead vocals [14 songs in four days], and to say they sound great would be an understatement.”
The sessions quickly grew into an all-star gathering, boasting guitarists Tom Bukovac, Chris Leuzinger and Waddy Wachtel, bassist Glenn Worf, drummer Victor Indrizzo and Dan Dugmore on guitar and pedal steel. The LP also features a reunion of sorts with former Poco bandmate, and longtime Eagle, Timothy B. Schmit and Souther-Hillman-Furay collaborator J.D. Souther, both of whom add harmony and background vocals. He expects other artists to join the proceedings as the sessions continue in LA and then wrap up in Nashville or LA within the next three months. While an exact release date has yet to be determined, Furay says, the album is slated for release later this year.
Furay acknowledges that it may not be exactly what his audience has come to expect, but he’s confident they’ll embrace it. “It’s going to be an interesting project for my fans, but I think they’re going to love the fact that I made each song my own,” he says. “Trust me; we’re not talking karaoke.”
He has a few other projects in motion too, including a live audio recording and concert film of his November 2018 performance of Poco’s third album DeLIVErin’ that’s expected to arrive early this year. In addition, a documentary about his career is currently being prepared for release in 2021. (Funding for the film is being generated through GoFundMe.com.) According to his management, its aim is to share “the significant contributions that Richie Furay has made to music by influencing and inspiring other musicians that went on to the great commercial and financial success that eluded him.” A trailer, narrated by Cameron Crowe, is currently available on his website.
An array of artists from throughout Furay’s orbit stopped by Blackbird Studio to be interviewed for the project while Furay was working, including Souther, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band co-founder Jeff Hanna, Eagles/Flying Burrito Brothers guitarist Bernie Leadon, John Ford Coley, Steve Cropper and the Delevante brothers. It also made for some long overdue reunions.
“While we were recording, it seemed like every couple of hours one of my friends was coming through the studio. At first it caught me off guard, but then I remembered they were showing up to do interviews for the documentary. Seeing all those people coming by—to share some memories and thoughts about how our lives intertwined—really touched my heart,” Furay acknowledges.
Indeed, with this new flurry of activity, Furay has reason to be optimistic about the possibility that he’ll finally receive his long overdue recognition.
“Over the years, I’ve crossed paths and worked with a lot of the most talented people in the music business,” he muses. “What a wonderful life and, to each one of them, I say thanks for being a part of it.”