Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting Webb Savvy: A Multi-Generational Master Class

I recently received the following press release, which, upon reading, I promptly followed up on. The opportunity to interview legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb could not be passed by.

Jimmy Webb
photo by Jessica Daschell Walker


To set the stage for what follows, I present you with the press release in its entirety; partly for informational purposes, partly so you can share in the excitement I felt upon reading it:


“Legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb brings his “Songs and Stories” tour back to the NY metro area with two shows - March 13 at the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore, and March 24 at City Winery in Manhattan. 

Webb has topped the country, disco and pop music charts with a list of artists astounding in its diversity (“MacArthur Park,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Up, Up, and Away” among his many iconic songs) and remains a trailblazer among songwriters 50 years after his first hit. To say that Webb is one of the last of a breed would imply that there is or ever was anyone quite like him. He is the only artist ever to have received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. His book, Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting, in addition to being a good read, is considered a “bible” among musicians.


Now in his sixties, Webb looks back on his days as a Midwestern teen navigating fame and fortune in Los Angeles with vignettes of a music industry coming of age, enhancing his virtuoso performance of iconic tunes with riveting tales of the inspiration behind some of pop music’s biggest songs and singers, and a humorous tour into the days and nights of a songwriting prodigy. Getting to know the man behind such generational touchstones as “Worst That Could Happen” or “The Highwayman” in concert is also a lesson in pop culture, an insider perspective on the Nixon Sixties, the Rat Pack heyday, the London Mods, Laurel Canyon and more, told by a charming yarn spinner who hasn’t lost sight of his roots despite decades of international fame. More than a concert, an evening with Jimmy Webb in performance is a master class you can sing along with.”


Author’s Note: Thanks to publicist Susan Hellman for such a well-written piece!

A master class you can sing along with ...
photo by Bob Barry


The more research I did into the man and his career, the number of questions increased exponentially to the point of near-absurdity: Jimmy Webb’s songs are woven into the fabric of our collective unconscious 50 years deep, so to speak, and with his lifetime of singular experiences to share, the concert’s description as a master class is spot-on to me! Furthermore, how does one begin a conversation with such an individual—especially given a pre-set limit of 15 minutes? As it turned out, we spoke for closer to a half hour, and without further ado, I present you with our full conversation. Read and enjoy!


Roy Abrams: In November 2013, you gave an interview during which you said, “I’ve spent 15 years doing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman,” and I just can’t do it anymore.” You’re still performing them live, so in what sense did you mean?


Jimmy Webb: What I specifically had referenced to was recording them. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to not perform those songs at one time or another. I was specifically talking about my next record and my recording career that I intend to pursue after this book I’m working on. I have all new songs. I repeat the remark in the spirit in which it was made. I certainly don’t want to record “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” again. I did it with Glen (Campbell) on Still Within the Sound of My Voice, which was a historical piece.


RA: Understood!


RA: You just mentioned that you’re working on a book?


JW: Yes, I am working on a book. It’s a memoir; it’s for St. Martin’s (Press). I haven’t really done a lot of publicity about it so far, but the word is out about it so there’s really no reason not to talk about it. It’s something that they really like, to be honest with you. They really like it a lot. I very much enjoyed working on it. Once I got into it, I sort of got used to the stresses and strains of writing. I’ve devoted a lot of time to it. And it’s supposed to be done September 1 of this year, so it looks like I’m going to be devoting even more time to it. It is essentially, in scope, is my youth as the son of a Baptist minister and how that kind of morphed into a career in the recording industry in my teens. My intention is to end this chapter at this book, with my transposition from the West Coast to New York City, which happened around 1981. But I lived the whole California thing to the hilt. You know, the “California Dream” was no dream! I was so lucky to be there at the right time, and just enjoy some of the relationships I had with the Fifth Dimension, Glen Campbell, David Geffen (who was my manager) … just loads of other people … Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of America, and Brian Wilson … I really lived it; it was almost like a storybook. “OK, California Dream coming up!” you know?


RA: Speaking of California and another David … David Crosby—the song that you contributed to A Thousand Roads, “Too Young to Die” … that was, for me, a very profound one. That album came out the same year that my Mom passed away. I used to go out to the cemetery every Sunday, I’d have that album, and that song would invariably be playing as I was pulling up. How did you first cross paths with Mr. Crosby?


JW: Well, David, Graham Nash, and sometimes Neil would be hanging around, out, or however you want to put it, at David Geffen’s house. Stephen Stills was a good friend of mine. He was the last person to leave my 30th birthday party. The sun was coming up and he was still sitting in my living room, playing the piano. So, it was a very, very small community. Joni Mitchell was very definitely a part of that circle. And then, later on, (so were) James Taylor, Peter Asher. Linda Ronstadt … all were friends. In fact, on Christmas Eve, there was always a caroling party that came to my front door where I lived. The carolers were James, Linda, Peter Asher, Joni Mitchell, I think sometimes Jackson Browne; it would be a slightly different group every year, but there they would be at the front door, singing, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” … it was bizarre! [laughs] We would serve some hot chocolate to them, and it was like … it was just so many big stars in one place. Off we would go in their car to someone else’s house! David and I have known each other for a long time. I used to take him for a couple of flights in my glider when I was flying sailplanes, which I did kind of manically for about ten years. I was inseparable from my sailplane and the high desert; living out on the desert, sometimes to the chagrin of my wife and sometimes to the detriment of my career. I love the high desert and I love to fly.


RA: How did you end up at the Beatles’ recording session for “Honey Pie”? What was that experience like?


JW: Well, it’s a long story. I don’t really know the exact details. My manager at the time had contacts that went back to the hipster days of Lenny Bruce … I’m not really exactly sure how he worked that out. I got permission to go over there, which was kind of unusual because The Beatles didn’t really like people hanging around their sessions that much. [laughs] I don’t have a lot to report on that score because not a lot was said. I did sit in the control room and see them working on “Honey Pie” for a while.


RA: When you record these days, are you an analog guy, an analog/digital hybrid; what do you prefer?


JW: What the British call valves we used to call tubes. I love the sound of tubes and people who say that tubes don’t sound differently; they just don’t know what they’re talking about. They have a rounder, smoother … when you hear Wes Montgomery’s recordings, you hear tube amplifiers. The whole analog scene of “let’s go back to analog and start using acrylic records” – I’m not too sure about that, because I think that CDs have been very serviceable except for the jewel  boxes, which should have never made it. But they actually deliver a complete sonic portrait, from all the high frequencies to all the low frequencies. I don’t like the dead, quiet segments when I realize that there’s absolutely nothing there. That makes me feel a little creepy. Now, you always had a kind of a hiss or groove or pop or something that carried you through … something that you attached to as a listener, even though there might be “silence” … when digital recordings are silent, they’re really silent. They’re creepy silent. And that to me doesn’t sound natural, because the world is full of all kinds of noises, even in concerts. There’s a rustle, there’s a sound of humans moving their feet, crossing their legs, turning the pages of (the concert program) … there’s always some sound. So the idea of there being no sound, packets of absolute silence, is odd, alien. I think, in an ideal world, we would use valve desks, we would have control desks that are tube-powered amplifiers, all of our instruments would synthetically have some analog characteristics built-in to the sound because it’s warmer and more reassuring to the listener. I think that was your second choice, I’m a sort of analog/digital slash guy because I like the clarity of digital recording but I don’t want to give up the “holding hands in the dark” magical quality that just sounds like the ‘50s; it sounds like another generation.


RA: I understand that you like working with young people. Who are some of the young artists with whom you’ve recently worked?


JW: Well, I just worked with Rumor, Sarah Joyce, on my album Still Within the Sound of My Voice, she came in with me on a duet on the title, so she’s definitely a “young person” … she was under thirty then. There are countless, nameless individuals who I’ve worked with in seminars and on-site for the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. I give master classes to a lot of the universities where I play concerts; I go in. You know, if kids ask for them, I do critiques. I’m not terribly comfortable criticizing them but if they really want me to do it, I’ll do it. I’ve hardly ever met anyone who was satisfied with the critique, by the way! They’re like [adopts surfer-dude accent] “You don’t understand what I meant!” All right, let’s not do the critique! [laughs]


RA: As the Vice Chairman of ASCAP, can you talk about your dedication to preserving the rights and the craft of the songwriter?


JW: First of all, as you noted, I have been working in this capacity as a Board member for about 15 years, which kind of corresponds neatly with the amount of time that I’ve been sober. Beginning with Napster, I feel that (they) were the canary in the coal mine that caused people to start believing that, possibly, something really disastrous could happen to the industry. With Napster came the face of devaluation of copyright, and each twist and turn in the road, it seems that we faced an even more tearing monster; monsters out of Greek mythology. The last one that we encountered and are continuing to cope with is streaming, and the rates that Pandora and Spotify had sort of discussed among themselves … it’s really difficult for me to go into technicalities, but ASCAP serves under a consent decree. We can’t do anything that falls outside the purview of our consent decree, which is a kind of Code of Conduct that is issued by the Justice Department. We have probably one of the longest-standing consent decrees in the world. We’ve been under a consent decree for 71 years. A bunch of songwriters, we live under the same consent decree … because we’re dangerous people! [chuckles] My point being that under this new regimen of streaming, the most draconian financial measures that we could have ever possibly imagined have been inflicted on us. And we’re down to .078% of the total purchase price for a performance. We’ve had things happen like, you had an artist come along like Katy Perry or someone of that ilk, and they would have a couple of hundred million performances, and Pandora would eventually (God knows how long this would take)… but eventually they would get a check for six or seven thousand dollars. This was patently unfair. In fact, that’s when the tide of public opinion in America started turning in favor of songwriters, was when they realized that this disparity was so outrageous that not even a 4-year old child would say, “Oh, well, you get 50 cookies and I get one cookie.” Is that fair? The chutzpah involved …. One young girl, I remember, she got 6,000 performances from a completely homemade production and she was so excited and she waited for a check and waited for a check and finally Pandora sent her a check for $1.78. It was very common for artists to receive checks for 25 cents or 50 cents or $1.20, very common. These sounded like shocking stories, but then it got to be that this was happening to everybody.


RA: Is it reasonable to say that this current environment is almost a throwback to the way songwriters were treated back in the early days of rock and roll?


JW: Yeah, except that we were better off then! We still made more money then than we do now. So, with the exception of a very few artists who are sitting right on top of the pinnacle, the Beyonces of this world really have a big shovel and take such a bite out of the market that there’s very little left over to be divided between the remaining songwriters, but you had some stirring examples of protest against this, when you had Taylor Swift pull all of her masters that she owned, and her publishing which she owned, off Spotify. You can’t be ordered to put your music on there, it’s just that it’s one of the only ways to monetize your music; it’s where, seemingly, that that’s where the big money is, yet it’s only there for a few people. And Taylor Swift sort of struck a blow for all songwriters and pulled all her assets off Spotify. It was like, “Hey! I didn’t know you could do that—“


RA: I have a newfound respect for Taylor Swift—


JW: —Well, of course you can! She’ll make more money; she’ll make one hundred times more money selling her own merchandise than she will selling downloads on Spotify.

photo by Bob Barry

RA: For this current tour, I can fully understand the enjoyment the audience gets from your shows. What does Jimmy Webb get from them?


JW: Well, it’s not a complete mystery. First of all, I enjoy doing it. I really enjoy performing and I’m getting better at it. My voice is holding up very well and I might go so far as to say has improved as I’ve gotten older, and it’s really quite strong and capable of delivering some “money’ notes, like the high note at the end of “McArthur Park”, I can hit that note, and hit it every night. I’ll be hitting it tonight; I won’t be worried about it, I’ll just hit it! So, over a period of time, it’s a combination of the fact that I’m more comfortable with it, I enjoy it. I make some money at it. I don’t make a fortune with it, but I certainly cover my costs. I get an opportunity to tie it in with my social media and increase my fan base. It doesn’t necessarily exactly have the same function as it did back in the day, when one when out to make their living playing concerts, but it is tied in with social media, which is a place where you do, in a sense, make your living. Social media has become the femoral artery, if you will, of the music business, and I guess the third reason that I would tell you, and probably the most important, is that I really enjoy the contact with the audience. I always go out and see them after, and they always have stories they want to tell. It’s very important for them to tell their stories, and I love to hear them speak on how their lives were changed or how they interacted with certain songs, how much their father loved the song, and how they played it at his funeral, God bless him. All this stuff, which sustains me and makes me feel like it’s worthwhile creating another solo album, which is what eventually I’m going to do after I finish this book, I’m going to create another solo album of all original material called Nostalgia. And I’m writing from the point of view of a man in his sixties, not “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to go back and do all that again?” That’s not the line I’m pursuing artistically, I’m looking at relevance with people who are no longer young. And I have a huge audience out there with people who are no longer young. And so I want to write music for them and for the way things have turned out for them. I don’t think that the muse stops speaking to you when you reach a certain age. I think you’re always obligated to be pertinent to your times, and reflective of the age that you live in and the age that you are. I can’t go out and write 16-year old love songs anymore. I think I do have something to offer and as long as my health allows me to create, then I’ll continue creating for my contemporaries, and I’ll try to be relevant in my own world. I can’t be relevant to some 18-year old in San Bernadino, California; I don’t see how that’s possible. I can be relevant to my peers. That’s what I want to do!


—Roy Abrams

Long Island, NY





Friday March 13, 2015 at 8 pm

YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts

37 West Main Street, Bay Shore NY

Tickets: $45 reserved seating; (631) 969 1101 or http://boultoncenter.org/


Tuesday March 24, 2015 at 8 pm

City Winery (with Karla Bonoff)

155 Varick St., New York, NY

Tickets: $35-45; (212) 608-0555 or http://citywinery.com/




Saturday, March 7, 2015

Richie Furay: A New Understanding

Richie Furay
photo by Shanna Lemke
An extraordinary gift was placed in my hands a few weeks ago, while researching the life and career of an artist whom I was about to interview. This research resulted in a profound change in perspective on a band that I thought I understood completely. Through a most unexpected manner, I had achieved a completely new way of understanding the familiar. That the medium in which this experience occurred was music struck the deepest of possible nerves, imparting a life-changing aspect to the experience, given how my mind works. Deep thoughts, perhaps, but they are as accurately as I can convey some of what has been coursing through my mind since the interview took place; here you have it!

The Buffalo Springfield, an integral contributor to my life’s soundtrack, was—up until a few weeks ago—projecting the dual-polarity between Stephen Stills and Neil Young to me as the main musical force in the band. Richie Furay’s contributions always stood apart as unique, even as he was masterful at the subtle art of the blend, but never before as noticeably influential to my ears since spending three weeks hyper-absorbing the sounds of his subsequent musical journey: Poco, the archetypical country-rock band Furay founded with Jim Messina and Rusty Young in 1968; the streamlined songcraft of Souther/Hillman/Furay; and a series of compelling, highly personal solo albums, beginning with 1976's I've Got a Reason, culminating in Hand in Hand, Furay's first release in eight years, due out on March 31st.

What I understand now about the Buffalo Springfield is this: Richie Furay was an enormous influence upon the group’s sound, equally as much as his friends Stills and Young. To the same degree, I feel that Furay’s influence upon music has been profound, yet in his unique way, masterfully subtle.

In addition to his music, Furay experienced a deep spiritual awakening decades ago and has been the pastor of a small Colorado church for the past 33 years. He is happily married to the same woman for nearly 50 years, has four adult daughters and nearly a dozen grandchildren, and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (for the Buffalo Springfield) and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame (for Poco). His new album, Hand in Hand, represents a man whose voice contains the strength of his convictions—about life, love, family, and country, richly infused with spiritual awareness.

Currently on tour to promote Hand in Hand, Richie Furay and his band come to New York City on March 18th for a performance that evening at City Winery. I had the opportunity to speak with Richie by phone a few days before the tour’s launch, and immensely enjoyed spending time with this friendly, unassuming, deeply spiritual soul.

Roy Abrams: Congratulations on the new album! I love it!

Richie Furay: I’m really proud of it too, man! Who would have thought that, at this age, man, I’d come up with some more songs? [laughs]

RA: It’s a timeless–feel collection of songs, centered on a familiar theme for you (love) but also, given its position in the track listing, non-partisan patriotism (“Don’t Tread on Me”). What was the inspiration behind this one?

RF: You know, Roy, I really have a love for our country. I just see us, for whatever reason—I don’t know, I don’t want to put my finger on anything that would be offensive, but I just see so many people today who are disillusioned, they’re hurting, they’re out of a job. People are just hurting, and plus we’ve got all these other entities coming in from all around the world, and it’s just … This is a great country, and I don’t like any idea of belittling this country in any way, shape, or form. Do we have flaws? Absolutely, we have flaws. There’s no doubt about it. There are things that I think we need to work on, and that’s really the thoughts behind the song. I just want people to know that we’ve got a great country here, and we should be proud of this country, and we should stand up for it in all ways that we possibly can, and try to bring some unity back to what I really see as a divisiveness in the spirit of America right now. I want to see it be unified.

RA: How have you reconciled your love of rock 'n' roll, which when it started was branded the Devil’s music by some, and your religious faith?

RF: You know, Roy, I don’t have a problem with it at all. I remember the Apostle Paul, who said, “It’s a very small thing to me that you would judge me.” Not speaking of you, but others who come from that perspective. Usually, it’s a very legalistic Christian perspective that would say [adopts outraged voice] “You can’t do that and still be a Christian!” You know what? I can, and it’s my life. The Lord has given me gifts, He’s given me talents, I think He knows my heart; He’s the one who looks on my heart to see where I’m at and what I’m doing. I want to share this gift, and I don’t think it offends Him at all that I would share my gift in a secular way as well in a way where maybe I would write a devotional song or something that is very specific toward my love for Christ. Believe me, Roy, early on after I became a Christian, people were very much throwing these kinds of things at me, and I didn’t know quite how to deal with them then. I just kept pressing on, thankful that I had some good friends who were other pastors, who said, “You just keep doing what you’re doing.” So it’s just my life. I just write songs that are about my life and there’s nothing wrong with that.

RA: Your love of God is reflected in your songs in a manner that strikes me as quite similar to George Harrison’s. What is your opinion of George’s faith-oriented songs?

RF: Well, I think that certainly we had a little different perspective on our faith, but I think he again was just expressing his life. He was expressing the things that he learned in life and he was trying to share the same things that I was sharing. You know, I’ve been really blessed in all that I’ve done. I’ve been able to see my dreams fulfilled as far as being a rock ‘n’ roll musician, and I’m still able to make music and have a great band to play the music. I’ve got a family … all of this has to be taken into consideration. My wife and I will be married 48 years on March 4th. That’s just like unheard of. I’ve got four great daughters, one of them sings with me today, and I’ve got eleven grandchildren with one on the way, I’ve got a great little church here that supports me. As I look back on my life (and as I look forward, too), it’s just like, wow, I’ve just been blessed. So I can’t really get hung up on people that would have any kind of opposition to what I’m doing. I’m sure that George Harrison felt the same way. He wrote songs about what was on his heart, and I write songs about what’s on my heart. It’s just where I’m at!

photo by Shanna Lemke

RA: Speaking of George, did you feel a Harrison-like scenario unfolding in the Springfield where the other two songwriters crowded you out, so to speak?

RF: You know, I didn’t think about it at the time, but certainly in years past when people have made that comparison. You’ve got these two guys (Stills and Young) who are, like you say, very prolific songwriters—they were at that time, and I think that Neil still is prolific, but I didn’t think about it at that time, you know, Here are these two guys, am I going to find a niche to be able to get a song recorded. Over the years, people have said, “You know, you’re like the George Harrison of the Springfield!” I understand what they’re trying to say, though! [laughs]

RA: Music journalist Terry Roland, in the May 2014 issue of Americana Music, said of your singing: “In his own unique way he is as much a soul singer as country.” It’s a statement I completely agree with. I’d like for you to talk about your singing style. Early on with the Springfield, I think what set you apart was your phrasing. In an era where many made being indecipherable their stock-in-trade, you paid such close attention to the detail of each syllable. Where did that come from? What singers influenced/inspired you?

RF: I’ll tell you right off the top I got a lot of that influence from Stephen (Stills). And Stephen was influenced by a guy named Tim Hardin. Tim had interesting phrasing as well. I really respected Stephen at the time, and I think it just evolved to my own style. And I am, I’m very conscientious about phrasing and how words and phrases fit together and how they flow melodically. I’m very concerned with that, even today, and I want that to be a part of my legacy, I guess, part of what really is important to me. It’s how I have a phrase that can melodically just kind of flow without feeling awkward or having a staccato to it that doesn’t belong there.


RA: With Poco, your voice seemed to get much bigger and rounder. Was it just a matter of confidence? Did you go for any vocal training? What was going on at that time?

RF: I agree with you and I think that over the years, even today, that it seemed to develop a sound that early on, it was an immature voice; I think it has matured. I tried, when I moved to Colorado, to take some voice lessons because I would end up losing my voice because of not singing maybe “properly.” I tried to do it, and you know, Roy, I couldn’t hang into it, you know. It seemed like they wanted to change so much about what the characteristic of my voice was, I just couldn’t adapt, and so I just kind of let it go. I like the way my voice sounds better now than it did early on in the Springfield days, and I’m not sure that everybody can say that about the way they’re singing at 70!

photo by Rebecca Sapp

RA: What do you do to keep your voice in shape? Your voice sounds so youthful. Why do you think that is?

RF: There’s nothing in particular that I do. It is my instrument, I’m very well aware of that. I try to take care of the best I can. When we were doing the Springfield tour, Neil was running around doing these little exercises with his voice. Timothy (Schmit), when he came out for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame show that we did, has these little exercises that he does. I know that Timothy had some serious situation with his throat which has prompted him to do this. I’ve never been able to do too many exercises. I’m like the old guy that back when we were going to school, in gym class, you didn’t do a lot of stretches, you just got out and played ball. Now, you’ve got to stretch and do all the things to prepare you, but I just hit the floor running! I’m not going to change anything right now, though!

RA: How was it doing those Springfield shows a few years back? It certainly seemed you were all enjoying it. Seeing the YouTube clips, it’s immediately apparent that there was a sound between the three of you that was distinct and separate from CSNY, Poco, etc., in both the vocal blend and the instrumental sound. Your three guitars never get in the way of each other. It seemed like you were just getting warmed up. How was it? Was there a possibility of working on new material?

RF: Well, that’s where some of my album came from, to answer your last question. I had these guitar riffs and little pieces of thoughts and ideas that were running around in my head—some of them, Roy, for years! And when the Springfield got together, I just got motivated, you know, that there’s a song here, and I have to get it out now. I started writing all of these songs because I did believe, as I think Stephen did, that there was going to be a follow-up with the shows that we did. As it turned out, we only did seven shows, and that was it. Everybody, from my perspective, had a great time doing it, and when it was over, it was over. I guess it was just the way that it was over. There wasn’t a discussion. I was put in a position during the Springfield tour that I became the spokesman because Neil wasn’t going to talk to anybody, and Stephen didn’t have time or whatever, so I was told, “Tell everybody you’re going to do thirty shows.” And so I’m the guy that got stuck out there to tell everybody that we’re going to do thirty shows after these first ones that we do, and then all of a sudden it was over. You know, that’s the way it goes. I was just as glad, because when it came time, these songs were still there, and I said, well, you know what? I’m going to record them regardless. I think they’re good songs, I think they’re strong songs, and I’m going to go and record them.

RA: Speaking of the Springfield, It’s unique how the Grateful Dead had the foresight to document every one of its concerts from early on, as they had a reputation of being a live band. But as great as the Springfield’s records were, you guys also had a reputation of being one of those “You have to see them live” kind of bands, and the few shows that do exist bear this out. They’re a glimpse into this whole other side to this band that we barely have any of.

RF: Yeah, there’s not much documented, that’s for sure!

RA: Didn’t anybody think, “You know, we should turn on a tape recorder!” Is there some secret treasure trove of pristine live Springfield soundboards?

RF: Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think it was until after the Springfield broke up that Neil really started to document everything that he did. But we certainly didn’t. It could have been because, Roy, we just weren’t really sure who was going to be in the band and when! There were (so many) people in and out of the Springfield in two years and so it was kind of a difficult situation to keep forward momentum going. So it probably wasn’t in the forefront of any of our minds at that time.

RA: How did you feel about David Crosby joining you at the Monterey Pop Festival?

RF: Well, it was nice of David to step in for Neil. That was one of the times that Neil decided that he wasn’t going to be in the band, so it was nice of David to come and kind of fill that void, and I think that started a really good friendship between him and Stephen that went on to include Graham Nash. (At) Monterey, I was kind of sick during that period of time; I had tonsillitis, and I wasn’t really 100%. I don’t look back on that experience—at least our performance—as one of the more memorable ones. I think playing at the Hollywood Bowl with the Rolling Stones would have been one of the highlights. But, you know what? I loved that period of time when Bruce (Palmer), Dewey (Martin), Stephen, Neil and I played at the Whisky a Go-Go. We were like the house band there and shared the stage with Love and with The Doors and with the Grass Roots, and different L.A. bands at the time. I think it was there that the band was the tightest and I that’s where I have some of my fondest memories. Once we left Sunset Boulevard, things began to change and it was just different.

RA: One more Springfield-related question: The song “It’s So Hard to Wait” from Last Time Around is a Furay/Young song, the only one. Who wrote what? Why weren’t there more collaborations?

RF: I think I had the idea [sings] “I just can’t seem to get movin’” and Neil came along and added just a few little parts. I think I had most of the song already written, and he kind of completed the circle, so to speak. It wasn’t something (where) we sat down and said, OK, we’re going to write a song together. It was something that I had that he heard and identified with and added his part, and I’m trying to go back even much further than that, just to think in my mind that maybe he did really contribute to it, but we certainly had that as a collaboration.

RA: One thing people tend not to know about is how hot a band Poco was. All one has to do is listen to Deliverin to hear what a high level of musicianship—not to mention singing—you guys are playing at, with a high level of communication. What can you tell me about being onstage with that band throughout the time you were with them and what was the main difference between playing with Paul Cotton versus Jim Messina?

RF: I have to look at it in the early stages, anyway, as my band. It was a band that there was a lot more of a sense of family, even though we went through a few changes, as families do go through changes, but  more so than the Springfield. Paul brought a little more rock ‘n’ roll to the overall picture, where Jimmy was very stylized. Paul had just a little more of a straight rock ‘n’ roll feel than I think Jimmy did, at least at that particular time, and that’s what we wanted to capture when Jimmy decided he was going to leave and we wanted to get another guitar player. Roy, we were feeling like we were between a rock and a hard place. We were too country for rock and too rock for country, so we had to kind of make some adjustments to where we could get accepted in our natural element and then move on from there.

RA: Regarding the second Poco album, was the second side all cut live ("Nobody's Fool/El Tonto de Nadie, Regresa")? It sounds like it’s recorded onstage.

RF: Most of it had to have been. The instrumental track laying-down was recorded right there in the studio, pretty much live. We were also a band where we kind of worked things out so we kind of knew where we were going; it wasn’t so much ad-libbing as it might sound on that particular recording, but it was done live, if you will.

RA: Souther/Hillman/Furay had an abundance of talent and the records hold up really well. There seemed to be lots of potential there. Your voice seemed to hit an even higher peak with them. “Believe Me” has a two octave range and you’re not even singing falsetto. [Furay chuckles] What are your memories of that band?

RF: I don’t know what to say. Souther/Hillman/Furay was an interesting band. It was an interesting concept. I was frustrated with Poco, not so much with the guys, but the way Poco was being accepted out in the world. The Eagles had just come out and had a big hit, we’d already been working for four or five years, trying to get a hit, and in that particular time you needed the AM radio to really move you to a higher level of places where you could play; from clubs or college campuses to some other venues that were more large theater-type places. It just seemed like Poco wasn’t going to happen, so I actually got a hold of and talked it through with David Geffen, and David’s the one who put J.D. and Chris and myself together. It was real interesting because David said, well look, I know that Chris is looking for something to do right now, and this other songwriter who writes for The Eagles, he would be a great asset for a band, so why don’t guys get together, and we’ll just put together another Crosby, Stills, and Nash? Well, that sounds good, and it looked good on paper—the musicians that we had and all. But Crosby, Stills and Nash got together because they really knew each other and enjoyed playing with each other and they were friends. When Chris and J.D. and I got together, we were acquaintances and we were just putting something together, and it was a little more difficult. We’re still friends today. I’ve done several tours with Chris and see him a lot, and I haven’t seen J.D. quite as much, but we’ve reacquainted ourselves over the last couple of years, and so it’s really a good friendship. It was something that really didn’t come from our hearts; we were just hand-picked by somebody else who thought this would be a good idea, and gave it a try, and it didn’t really work to anybody’s expectations, plus I was starting to have some things happen in my life that just didn’t quite fit in with everything else that was going on.

RA: To move into the present, I love the fact that you’re working with your daughter Jesse; that has to be such a gift for both of you, and I’m wondering what that relationship is like. What’s the onstage relationship like—not just between the two of you, but between your band mates?

The Richie Furay Band

RF: My band is so unique in that it is a multi-generational band. My lead guitar player, and the partner I write with somewhat, his son plays bass with us, so he has a son and I have a daughter who’s in the band. We have Alan (Lemke) who’s the drummer, we just added a new guy, Jack Jeckot, who Scott Sellen played with years ago, back in the Philadelphia area, but you know what, Roy? I think it gives excitement to Scott and myself that our kids are musicians that can really do (it), and they’re not full-time musicians at all; everybody has another job in our band. You know, when we step on stage, I think we can stand up and play with anybody, anywhere, anytime. They are so professional, and yet the kids bring that young, youthful vitality to the band, which I think makes it fun for Scott and myself. I know personally that if Jesse wasn’t in the band, I’d probably have more of a difficult time going out on the road now. It’s much more fun having her in the band, going out with me. Our voices, they blend so well together. On “Hand in Hand” we’re the only ones who are actually doing any of the singing. On some of the other studio projects that I’ve done since I left Souther/Hillman/Furay, I’ve had other people singing on some of the songs as well, but on this particular album or CD or whatever they call them these days, I don’t know, Jesse and I do all the vocals, and our voices just ....you can tell we’re family!

RA: Final question:  on your website, this phrase appears: “The God of the Bible is the God of Second Chances.”  If you had the opportunity to speak directly with each person who will eventually read this interview, how would you reinforce this message?

RF: That message that you just spoke to me? That’s the heart and soul of my life. He gave me a second chance. My wife and I, we were on the verge of divorce, we were on the verge of seven years of it being all over. Jesus came in, and basically we surrendered our lives to Him. And He, in turn, has given us a life that both of us are so satisfied (with) and so thankful for because it’s not only a hope that we have for this life but it’s a hope that we have for the life to come. That’s what the Bible teaches. We’re 100% on board with that, and just thankful that the Lord is so gracious and so forgiving that He would give us our lives back, and a family, and the opportunity to do what we love to do the most.

RA: Amen to that!

- Roy Abrams
  Long Island, NY