Picking Up the Pieces: Richie Furay Talks Covering Keith Urban, Sammy Kershaw and More on ‘In the Country’ LP

Rock Cellar Magazine

Richie Furay has been part of three influential bands that have produced a stack of hits: Buffalo Springfield, Poco and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Yet as a solo artist, Furay has said he’s “never really had what I’d call a solid hit song.” 

Furay hopes to turn that around with In the Country, his first studio album in seven years. In the Country was produced by Val Garay and recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. 

Released on July 8, 2022, the album features new Furay takes on country classics including “Somebody Like You,” the first single, and “The River,” along with crossover hits “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Walking in Memphis.” Former Poco band mate Timothy B. Schmit joins Furay in a new version of Poco’s classic, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.” Furay’s daughter, Jesse Furay Lynch, joins Schmit on background vocals.

Furay formed Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles in 1966 with guitarists Stephen Stills and Neil Young, drummer Dewey Martin and bassist Bruce Palmer. Furay was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield.

Stills and Young shot to superstardom as members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young after Buffalo Springfield broke up in 1968. Furay helped pioneer country rock with Poco, the band he formed with Jim Messina and Rusty Young in 1968. Furay penned the Poco favorite “A Good Feelin’ to Know.” In 1971, Messina left Poco to join Kenny Loggins in the popular duo Loggins and Messina. 

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band saw Furay unite with Chris Hillman of the Byrds and J.D. Souther, who has written songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. Formed in 1973, the group had one hit, Furay’s “Fallin’ in Love,” and disbanded in the mid-’70s. Over the years Furay continued to record critically acclaimed solo albums and continues work on a documentary on his career, slated for release in 2023.

We spoke with Furay during his summer 2022 tour to catch up about the motivation behind In the Country and everything else he has going on. 

Click here to pick up In the Country on CD from our Rock Cellar Store
Click here to pick up In the Country on LP from our Rock Cellar Store

Rock Cellar: Let’s begin with the new album. With all the country tunes you could have chosen, what inspired you to choose the ones you did for this project?

Richie Furay: Val Garay, who produced the record and I, we made lists. And then we compared them and we sorted out the songs and we got 14 — actually 12 on the record, and I can say record because it’s vinyl — then there are two on the CD that they call bonus tracks. 

We compared lists. I didn’t know what Val was looking for when he said, “Hey, do you want to record another record with me? Let’s do an iconic country album with country hits.” And I’m going, “OK, what does that mean? Are we talkin’ Porter Wagoner? Are we talkin’ more current stuff?”

The first song on his list was the very same as my first song: “Your Love Amazes Me” by John Berry. I always wanted to record that song. I was fishin’ up in Montana about ’94 and I heard this record on the radio and it was goin’ in and out. You could only get bits and pieces of it. I came back home and tried to find out from what I could remember of the song, callin’ around radio stations, and they let me know that was the song.

I’ve just loved John Berry ever since. I think he has one of the greatest voices in country music, or just greatest voices period. I loved the message of the song and I love John and so that was one of the reasons that I wanted to do that song.

“She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” Sammy Kershaw: I just think of my wife. She is so humble and she’s just so sincere in the beauty that she is. She doesn’t have to go and say “look at me,” she just is naturally that way.

“I’m in a Hurry”: Oh my gosh, that’s my life story. “Slow down a little bit, man. You don’t have to be in such a hurry,” but I continue to be in a hurry.

“Lonesome Town.” Ricky Nelson had such an influence on me early on. I could not wait for him to come on the Ozzie & Harriet show at the end of the day and sing his song. 

I remember distinctly, he was over a baby crib singing “Be-Bop Baby.” At the last verse, they hit this high school gym auditorium. And it was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this,” that was the influence he had on me. So I had to put a Ricky Nelson song on the album.

“I’m Already There”: What a song. As I was trying to get it all memorized in my heart, I’d be drivin’ in the car, and I’d just break out in tears, man, just cryin’. That song is so deep and so sensitive to me.

“Walking in Memphis”: When I suggested that song to Val, he said, “Well, you know it’s not a country song but I really like the song. We gotta figure out a way to get this on the record.” It’s driven by a piano. Marc Cohn’s a piano player. So we said let’s try putting those little hooky lines, making them guitar lines and just see if that brings it to what we’re lookin’ for. And it sure did.

I’m sure glad that we ended up doing the song.

“Somebody Like You”: Keith Urban is just the real deal, man. He’s a great talent, a great guitar player, a great singer. He’s a great entertainer and this particular song of his, you just can’t hear it without feelin’ good. It puts a smile on people’s faces. 

The fact is, after 50 years, I finally got to stand on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. And that was one of the songs that I sang along with a couple of mine, “Kind Woman” and “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.” I told the people, “Hey, you’ll recognize this song, just sing along.” And here’s the whole audience singin’ along as I’m doin’ “Somebody Like You.”

Rock Cellar: Timothy B. Schmit joins you on Poco’s “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.” Tell me about the choice of that song and having Timothy perform on it.

Richie Furay: That was the very last song that we did. As we’re getting ready to do it I told the guys in the band, “give it a little more Bakersfield sound.” I don’t even know if we captured it but we sure made it our own. I just wanted to get away from what Poco did. 

Tom Bukovac, good golly, he is a monster guitar player. It was the last song that we recorded. Went out and recorded it in one take. 

One of the interesting things about me recording with Val on only two records, 1979 and this one, I have been able to sing the songs down while the tracks are going down. There’s obviously tweaking but you got the feel, you got the energy. The band and I are all playing together, doing this. 

So when we did get around to putting some of the background voices on, it just seemed like that would be a good one to have Timothy come in and do. My daughter Jesse sang with Timothy, they did all the background vocals on that song and on “I’m Already There.”

Timothy’s always been available and accessible when I ask him, “Hey man, would you like to come in and sing on this track or do something on this,” for whatever project I was doing, he’s always been there and I just love him. So to have him on that track and a couple of other songs, I think he’s on three or four songs on the album.

Rock Cellar: How is the documentary on your career coming along?

Richie Furay: Stephen [Stills] and I just did an interview for the documentary. Cameron Crowe conducted the interview and Stephen and Neil [Young] and I are getting together out in Los Angeles for all three of us, with Cameron involved, to do an interview. So I stay in touch with them and we still maintain a friendship after all these years. 

It’s like when Buffalo Springfield got together and did the reunion, it’s been about 10 years ago now, it was like hand-in-glove. There was no anxiety, no nothing, it was just like “Man, here we are playing 40 years later.”

It will be out next year, hopefully early next year. I want to be around when it comes out!

Rock Cellar: When you, Jim Messina and Rusty Young founded Poco, were there things you wanted to change about Buffalo Springfield?

Richie Furay: With Buffalo Springfield, as long as Stephen was in the band, I was in the band. I’ve always considered Buffalo Springfield Stephen’s band because he was the heart and soul. And because we had this relationship. As long as he was there, I’d be there, but you just sensed, man, we had nine people in and out of the Springfield in two years so we knew that it was living on borrowed time.

So Jimmy and I just talked about, “Hey, when it breaks up, let’s just do another thing, man.” Both of us like country music and so it was just natural for us to go pick up the pieces, if you will, and go ahead and start doing this country rock. We wanted to cross rock with country and country with rock. 

It wasn’t that we were really starting anything new but we certainly were starting something new from the rock and roll side. Because if you go all the way back in country music, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, the rockabillies. That was music that I really like. Buddy Holly. And so it was a natural transition for me.

And Jimmy, he was right there to support and help and he was a good guy.  

Rock Cellar: What kind of setlist do you play on tour?

Richie Furay: Boy, whatever the setlist is, it lasts over two hours and for a guy my age, man, it can be pretty tough, I’ll tell ya. I play Buffalo Springfield, I play Poco, I play my solo stuff from Hand in Hand, from The Heartbeat of Love. And I play now from In the Country. So I’ve got plenty of songs to pick from.

Rock Cellar: Let’s do a lightning round. What song from your solo career should more people have listened to?

Richie Furay: I hope they just heard my last album, Hand in Hand. It’s a very intimate album for me and if I had to say a song, “Hand in Hand,” which looks back. It’s just the other end of “Kind Woman.”   

Rock Cellar: Past or present, what group would you have been a good fit in?

Richie Furay: If I could have been on stage with The Band or been a part of that band, that would have been an awesome thing.  

Rock Cellar: What kind of music gives you a headache to listen to?

Richie Furay: I’m not a big jazz fan. I’m just not a big jazz musician fan, it drives me nuts most of the time.  

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