The Richie Furay Band Returns to Southern California
by Terry Roland
There are some days in this life that are simply golden. Contacting veteran country rocker, Richie Furay, for an interview in 2007, led to a series of articles chronicling his continuing legacy over the last ten years. For this writer, being a witness to what followed has been like days of gold.
During a 2010 interview with Richie for a feature article in No Depression, he spoke with a hint of disappointment that old friends Neil Young and Stephen Stills, co-founders of the iconic Buffalo Springfield, hadn’t returned recent calls to request to open for their respective solo shows with his own Richie Furay Band. But, a few months later, in the fall of the same year, his legacy began to shine a bit brighter when he received a now famous text from Neil Young which simply read, “Call me.”
As a writer, promoter and a fan of Richie Furay’s unique musical odyssey, the Buffalo Springfield reunions of 2010 at Bridge School and the 2011 summer California tour along with the band’s Bonnaroo appearance, was the best that could be envisioned for an artist who has long been a catalyst, innovator and influence for so many well known and successful country rocks acts including The Eagles, his own Poco and Pure Prairie League. For anyone who has heard his solo releases over the last 30-plus years, it’s clear that Richie Furay stands alongside Stephen Stills and Neil Young as an equal in terms of distinctive and original artistic solo achievement. But his path has taken spiritual turns which led him into a pastorate in a Colorado church where the music still pursued him in unexpected ways. It grew up around him so clear in its providential markings, it would be impossible to avoid.
With his multi-generational family band on the road each year, a series of fine new albums ranging from “I Am Sure,” an upbeat and country-fused album of inspirational gospel music; “The Heartbeat of Love,” a masterpiece of a solo studio album that effortlessly embodies and advances the best of the country-rock genre he helped create and “Alive,” a live double album with material spanning his five decade career, Richie Furay shows no sign of slowing down. He’s not waiting for another text message from Mr. Soul even though one may be coming soon. His own claim to fame keeps him on the road and in our hearts.
Even with an anticipated 30-city Buffalo Springfield national tour on hold, he speaks with pride and artistic satisfaction of his recently completed eastern tour and upcoming west coast dates with his own band. As well he should. The Richie Furay Band(RFB) present a dynamic stage show with performing skill and musicianship that demonstrates their near decade together. Their concerts allow the audience to be entertained and enlightened as to the legacy Richie Furay continues to forge as a solo artist and a contributor to some of the best American music of the last 50 years.
The Richie Furay Band will be coming to Anthology in San Diego on 1/31, The Canyon Club in Agoura on 2/2 and San Juan Capistrano’s Coach House on 2/3. His band includes Scott Sellen on lead guitar, Jesse Furay-Lynch on background vocals, Aaron Sellen on bass and Alan Lemke drums.
RF: We all had a great time. I think if you asked any one of us…Stephen, Neil, Rick or Joe, they’d all same the same thing. For everyone, it was just about the music. There were no hidden agendas, no egos and nobody asserting themselves like it was their deal. It was just about the band.
TR: Were things as playful behind the scenes as they were on stage?
RF: Yeah. There was a lot of private time when everyone went their own way at times. We all had our own buses, which was new for me! But, there was a lot of good-natured fun.
TR: People who were following things on the forums reported how Neil was giving everybody some kind of squirrel name.
RF: Yeah. That was funny. I borrowed an amp from Neil for my band’s tour back east and I found a package of underwear tucked in the back of the amp titled, “Squirrel Underpants.” I used to say, you know, you gotta be very careful with the amps because the squirrels might get back there and tear up the wires. So, somebody left this package in the back of the amp. I’m not sure, it might have been Neil or the road manager.
TR: There was to be a fall tour and then it was postponed to this year sometime. What’s happening with it?
RF: I’m not going to be the one to talk to about this. I’m waiting to hear myself. First it was going to be after the first of the year and then it was changed until this year. Then I saw Neil was making other plans. I know we’re really all up for it. Stephen was kind of upset that it didn’t happen yet. But we’re ready. Whatever way it goes, I’m okay with it. I’m so enthralled with my band. Even though touring with them is a lot more work. I got spoiled touring with Buffalo Springfield! But, from what I hear, we have a 30-city tour in the works. I can’t really say anything more than it’s on hold for now.
TR: So, what’s happening with RFB and recording?
RF: Scott and I have been writing and tossing ideas around. We’ve written a new song called, “Still Fine,” we played at our shows last year. I’ve got nine or ten more songs with recording in mind. So, after we finish with this tour, we’re looking for an opportunity to record.
TR: Did the Buffalo Springfield tour inspire you to write?
RF: Yes! Being on the road with them sparked a lot of new writing for me. A lot of it came from doing those songs together. I’m still working on some songs built around riffs I’d be playing during sound checks. So, they’ll be recorded, I know, I’m just not sure what form they’ll take.
TR: So, I hear some implication of possibly recording an album of new material with Stephen and Neil as Buffalo Springfield?
RF: Well, I’m not exactly sure. Who knows what’ll happen? It may take that form, but I’m not going to sit around and wait for Buffalo Springfield to record them. It may end up becoming something none of us even expected! Life has a way of being so much more than what we think or imagine it would turn out to be.
TR: I know in the past history with the band Neil’s been, well, kind of unreliable at times. But, it seems that things have changed quite a bit with him even being such a huge catalyst of the reunion happening.
RF: Yes, well, I’d say we all mellowed out quite a bit. I think that showed during this tour. We were all really together as equals and the egos were not involved.
RF: Sure. I really just enjoy so much playing with them. They are so unique. You know, we have this group of five individuals that crosses generations and then we’re family with Jesse, my daughter and then Scott’s son Aaron on bass. And Alan Lemke is just such a talented drummer. I’ve gotta say, if we weren’t all family and friends, going on the road wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
TR: As I was thinking about it today, it seems so unique that this band kind of grew around you. Doesn’t it seem like some kind of divine providence?
RF: Yes. Well, I believe it was something divine that brought us all together. Scott is a member of my church and over the years we’d play together there as a duo in church settings. Then, I got a call from Kenny Weisberg in San Diego. Kenny promoted all of the shows at Humphrey’s By The Bay for 15 years or so. He told me, “I’ll find the best billing for you.” He invited us to open for Stephen (Stills) as an acoustic act. Next we opened for Emmylou Harris with a band I put together for that show. Then it was with Jimmy Messina. That’s how it started. At the time Jesse was in New York City and Aaron was in college in Kansas. Aaron found that music was going to be his niche and he came home. He really takes after his dad. He can pick up an instrument and learn it. He’s written a song for Jesse’s solo album called, “A Girl Like Me.” We recorded it in Nashville. So, we had the four of us with Alan Lemke on drums. Then, Jesse came home from New York and joined us as a backup vocalist.
TR: It’s really something to me that Scott came out of your church. He’s this tailored multi-instrumentalist who writes with you and expertly interprets your music.
RF: Yes, it’s really amazing. I used to always say, “Too bad we’ll never be able to play “Crazy Eyes,” live. He just said, “Yes we can.” Next thing you know he’s working out the keyboard, the banjo, the lap steel and the various movements in the song. I just never dreamed we’d be able to pull that off, but we did thanks to Scott. It’s been a really fun run for these last ten years.
TR: I know you’ve been hard at work on a solo album for Jesse.
RF: Yeah, we’ve got seven songs done. Then, we had to stop for a while Jesse had my beautiful granddaughter. We’ve got three more songs to do to complete the project. It’s all been recorded in Nashville.
TR: So, we’re looking forward to your return to Southern California.
RF: Yeah, I’m sure hoping folks will come out to see us at The Anthology in San Diego and in San Juan and L.A.
TR: Has your audiences been growing?
RF: Yes. We’ve been playing to full houses back east. I’m looking forward to the same thing in So Cal. I really just want people to come and go away feeling younger than when they came.
TR: I’m looking forward to seeing RFB again! It’s been a couple of years. And I want to thank you because it was doing that first interview with you in 2007 that led me into writing about music.
RF: Yeah. That’s right. I remember! I was Cameron Crowes’ first interview too! That came out in Rolling Stone, they said it. So, be ready…anything could happen now. He went on to become a great director and producer. Members of my band went on to join The Eagles. So, welcome, you’re in good company!
(This article originally published in FolkWorks)