“My heart bleeds red, white and blue,” Richie Furay sings on “Don’t Tread on Me,” a track from his upcoming album, Hand in Hand, that’s both a protest song (he has described it as a “wake-up call” inspired by concern about Left-Right polarization) and a statement of patriotism.
It’s not an overly political album, though. Other tracks range from “We Were the Dreamers” (an autobiographical song about his days in the pioneering country-rock band Poco) to the title track, a timeless love song addressed to his wife of nearly 50 years (they married in 1967, when Furay was still in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Buffalo Springfield). Throughout, Furay, 70, sings in the same enchanting tenor that has always been his trademark. (Seriously, it’s hard to think of another singer of his generation who still sounds so close to the way he did in his heyday).
The album comes out March 17, three days after Furay performs at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, in a show that also features Brewer & Shipley (best known for their 1970 hit “One Toke Over the Line”). For information about the show, visit SOPACnow.org.
I spoke to Furay by phone, from his Colorado home, in early February.
Q: I’m doing this to preview a show in New Jersey on March 14 with Brewer & Shipley. Are they a group you’ve done a lot with over the years?
A: Actually, I haven’t seen Mike (Brewer) since, probably … I can’t even remember when. I remember when the Buffalo Springfield was just getting together (in Los Angeles), there was a group that another guy was working with in a little house behind where Stephen (Stills) and I were living at the time, and it was Tom Mastin and Mike Brewer, and so the group was Mastin & Brewer. I haven’t seen Mike in a long time now, but it’s gonna be fun to see him, and do some music with him.
Q: Did you know him well in those days?
A: We were acquaintances. Obviously, the guy that was working with the Springfield at the time (manager Barry Friedman) was also working with them — he was trying to put two bands together. So we knew each other, but I didn’t know Mike well.
Q: Do you think you’ll do some stuff with them at the show, or will it be two separate sets?
A: Right now, it’s looking like we’ll probably do separate sets, but maybe do something with them. I haven’t really decided yet whether I’ll be doing anything with them. I’ve got kind of a unique band situation going here, because we’re not a full-time working band, and so sometimes it takes a lot of time just to get our own sets together, let alone try to learn music from somebody else. So I haven’t really decided whether we’ll get out there and do anything with them, or if they’ll do something with us. But it’ll be a good show.
Q: How often do you perform these days?
A: Well, we usually get about, I don’t know, maybe a month and a half out of the summer, and another month or so throughout the year. But everybody in the band has regular jobs, so we’re really just blessed to be able to get out and play as much as we can.
I am so thrilled with my band. Poco was just inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and my band backed up Timothy (B. Schmit), Paul (Cotton), Rusty (Young) and myself. I have quite a band.
Q: I assume at this show people will hear everything, as far as, you know, Poco stuff, and Buffalo Springfield stuff, and solo stuff … that it will be a real assortment.
A: Sure. We do 40 years of my musical history, which is sometimes difficult to think back on, that there’s actually that much musical history. But it gives us a good repertoire to pick from.
Q: Now, the new album (Hand in Hand), that’s not quite out yet, right?
A: We’ve jump-started this thing a couple of times, and it’s finally coming out … we have an official release date now, because eOne (Music) has gotten on board with us, and they’re going to put it out on March 17.
Q: Does that mean you’ll be doing more shows for a while, just to get it out there a little bit.
A: Hopefully. That’s the plan.
Q: Because these days, obviously, it’s hard to get support radio or TV, so you almost have to go out and play, just to make people aware of it.
A: Well, we’re available. I’m available. We’ll go as much as we can, certainly, to make people aware of the project. I’m really proud of it. It’s been a long time in the works. I actually started recording it a couple of years ago, back in Nashville. I thought I was going to put it out on my own, and then eOne came along and said, “Hey …” We were back in New York the last time … they came to hear us when we played at B.B. King’s (Blues Club and Grill), and from there on it was negotiations, and “Let’s get this thing together.” It’s taken a while, but I’m really happy that someone’s on board with this.
Q: The song “Don’t Tread on Me” seems like a real departure. Where did that song come from? What was your thought process behind it?
A: Well, you know, like everybody, I’m concerned with this country. I’m a patriotic guy. I’ve got a flag that hangs outside my house. And sometimes I feel like we’ve been pushed to the brink, maybe, of desperation. I think people are feeling desperation. And I just want us to reflect upon how great a country the United States of America really is.
The song came about by just walking. I do a lot of writing when I would just walk on my road. I live up in the mountains, west of Boulder, and when I’d get out, your mind just starts to wander as you’re walking. And all of a sudden, these thoughts just came to mind. I remembered clear back to one time when I was out on the road after 9/11, and I remembered the sky. There was dead silence up there, because no planes were flying. And my mind kind of wandered back to that time. But it’s really a song where I’m just saying, “You know what, I love this country that we’ve been blessed with here.”
Q: The Buffalo Springfield reunion shows you did (in 2010 and 2011) … what was it like for you to do those, and if it were up to you, would you do more?
A: It would be something I’d have to really think about, to do something with that group again. We were supposed to do 30 shows, and we ended up doing seven, and I lost a lot of momentum with my band at that time as I was waiting for a decision to be made by one of the guys in the band. It was fun when we did it. I think everybody, at the time, at least gave that impression, that they were having a good time.
You know, we tried to do a reunion way back in the ’80s, and it was a complete disaster. There was so much drama it was ridiculous. There was actually none of that when we did the reunion a couple of years ago. But even the dynamic of this group, now, though, has changed, because (bassist) Rick Rosas has passed away. Even if we decided that we wanted to do something, we’d have to do a whole change there. So I kind of doubt that anything is ever gonna happen again. But it was fun, it was good. I think Stephen (Stills) and Neil (Young) and I all had a good time along with (drummer) Joey (Vitale) and Rick. So there it is, another memory for the books.
Q. How about with Poco? Is there ever any talk about doing something with those guys?
A: Well, there is some talk now, especially now that we’ve been inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, there is some talk that at least Paul, Rusty and myself … I doubt that Timothy is really going to do anything, though it was really neat to have him come out and be a part of that special event, but he’s really busy with the things that he’s got going on … but there are some things … people are talking about possibly Paul and Rusty and I getting together and doing some things, and that would be a lot of fun as well.
But my focus right now is making sure that my band gets out there and gets an opportunity to be seen and heard. I’m very proud of this band: The talent in the band is incredible, and it’s also unique in the fact that it’s a family band, if you will. My lead guitar player and songwriting partner over the years (Scott Sellen), his son (Aaron Sellen) plays bass in the band, and one of my daughters (Jesse Furay Lynch) sings in the band.
It’s a real special time for me. At this age, if our kids weren’t in the band, and we weren’t having so much fun, I don’t know if I would even be thinking about doing something like this anymore. But because they’re in the band, it really makes it special.