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A conversation with solo artist and former Newsboys lead singer Peter Furler (Part 1)

posted by Chad Bonham

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For roughly 20 years Peter Furler was the face of one of Christian music’s iconic bands. But since stepping out of the spotlight two years ago (and handing his Newsboys front man duties over to former dcTalk member Michael Tait), the Australian singer/songwriter/producer/record mogul has been enjoying life outside of Nashville in a stripped back reality. Now, he’s ready to get back to his first love and share some new music as a solo artist.

In part one of this interview with Furler, he talks about his reasons for stepping away, what brought him back and his new side project with Steve Taylor:

Chad Bonham: What’s the story behind why you stepped away from the Newsboys?

Peter Furler: You know, it was really the creative process. I actually felt great in my spirit and I just felt like it was time to let the ground rest, creatively. If you’re an author and you’re writing books and you write one every year and you went out and promoted it with a promotional tour and then came back to start writing another one. To keep a big wheel going, you had a bunch of employees and people working for you that depended on that, that’s okay for a season. Maybe you could do that five years, ten years—maybe 22 years. It wasn’t burnout from the emotional side of things. It was more creative. I felt like if I didn’t take that break, I was going to start churning out rubbish. I felt like my catalog was good and it’s solid. Whether people like it or not, I’m happy with it and I want to continue that and, in fact, get better. So it really just came down to that. And then the band was in a place where when we’re touring, it supports a lot of things. They weren’t in a place where they were prepared to take a short break. It was really that simple. And the process for me was very amicable, very peaceful. So the idea was that I was going to be behind the scenes, which I was for a good season, and then it became evident to everybody that—you know, they’re a band. It’s rock and roll. You’ve got to walk on your own two feet.

So that kind of left me not knowing what I was going to do—not in a bad way, in a good way. I was actually peaceful about it. Like I said, it was all good. So my wife and I had been in the process of simplifying (or lives). We felt like we needed to do that too, you know, looking at everything you have and how you have to maintain it. So we began stripping away stuff and giving away things and doing all that kind of stuff and that really freed us up. We’ve just been drifting around the planet for a little bit. Not knowing what I was going to do, I’m obviously, in my mind, pretty young and got plenty of energy and I just started thinking I didn’t know what the future held but I kind of enjoyed that for a bit. I still don’t know what’s going to happen. I just know I’m a musician and a singer. You make music and you put it out and that’s it. You take it a day at a time.

Bonham: You ended up moving to Florida, right?

Summer and Peter Furler

Furler: Yeah, down in the Gulf. Down in the Panhandle there. I love it. It’s great. We lived in Nashville for 20 years. We loved it too. It’s a great place. But we just wanted something different—to make a clean break and also down here it’s a lot more like Australia for me. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years down here—people who weren’t in the industry, didn’t know who I was and didn’t care. That was nice.

Bonham: How interesting has it been to see what’s happened with the Newsboys with Michael Tait taking your place—especially with him being someone who was previously tied to another iconic band—and how that seems to have worked out well?

Furler: People always say, “Oh, it’s so different!” Well of course it’s going to be different. They probably picked someone as different as me on the planet as possible. It’s got to be different. But guess what? You just keep rocking on. It’s like football. When you’re the quarterback, you’re only as good as your last throw. Every record they come out with has got to be a good one (laughs). That’s the rules. So it’s up to them now what they do with it. But I honestly do wish them the best. I honestly do.

Bonham: Did the creative flow stop at all during your time away from the music industry?

Furler: I laid it down for a while—probably six or eight months which is a heck of a long time for me. I was so habitually used to (writing). It was like I had (a guitar) attached to my back and I was always writing on the road. I picked up painting. I had a creative outlet there, so I wasn’t sitting around kind of bored and twiddling my thumbs. And then in that process, about six or eight months later, after doing some painting and photography, I was approached by Steve Taylor. We’ve written over a hundred songs together for the Newsboys. He knew I had a bunch of stuff left over, stuff that hadn’t made it on to other records. So he came and said, “What are you going to do with it?” And I said, “I don’t know? What do you want to do?” He goes, “Maybe we should do something” and I said, “Well I’ll do something as long as I don’t have to sing because I don’t want to do a solo record. If you sing, we’ll do it.” So he goes, “Okay.” We went in the studio and put a band together. It was Jimmy Abegg on guitar, John Painter on bass, myself just as the drummer and Steve as the lead singer. We made a record. It’s not out yet. It’s brilliant. It’s a fantastic record and it’s hopefully coming out this year or early next year. It got put on hold because of Steve (directing) the Blue Like Jazz movie.

That really kind of got my creative juices going again, to be honest, because we didn’t have any record deal, we didn’t have any management or anything. It was just four guys in a room making music they all liked. It was thrilling. It was really energetic and a lot of fun. I was just back on the drums doing what I did when I started playing music. I was the drummer and background singer like I was when the Newsboys started. That kind of got me fired up a bit.

Bonham: Does the band have a name yet?

Furler: At the moment it doesn’t have a name (laughs). We went through a bunch of scenarios and then we figured it was probably best for it to be a Steve Taylor record. So it’s Steve Taylor and Some Other Band.

Bonham: You referenced some guys that are heroes of mine. John Painter. I mean, Fleming & John is one of the greatest bands that never made it big.

Furler: Yeah, definitely.

Bonham: That must have been a thrill. You talk about Jimmy Abegg. Those guys are all fantastic musicians and writers in their own right. How much fun was that for you?

Furler: It was definitely the highlight, maybe, of my recording career so far. Yeah, I would say so. John is a monster at everything. He’s got great taste. I kind of felt like I was standing on his shoulders or maybe it was more like I was polishing his shoes. Jimmy’s been a good friend of mine for 15 years. We’ve been talking about doing something together for 15 years but obviously with my schedule it was impossible to have a moment to do that. Steve has been one of my best mates for years and someone who has helped me in every way. I’ve been encouraging him to make a new record for years. So it was just the four of us in the room. It was electric. It was just four guys in a room. We didn’t even have an engineer. John did the engineering. So it was just four guys, counting in and the drum kit facing Steve and Jimmy’s on my left and John’s on my right and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Bonham: You don’t need an engineer with that group. John’s proven himself to be a recording genius in the past.

Furler: Definitely. John took up the brunt of the work. He was miking the drums and getting the sounds. And even Jimmy, Jimmy’s a purist. He would turn up with a 1960s SG (microphone) and a Princeton amp. I don’t think he even had an effects pedal with a battery that worked.

Bonham: Your relationship with Steve Taylor has always been interesting to observe. Here’s this guy who was a pioneer of the Christian alternative rock movement and the Newsboys were this fun, pop-rock thing that didn’t always get taken seriously. It probably took some fans and critics a while to understand the collaborative effort that was taking place between two musical camps that might have seemed very different on paper. But that’s been a very special relationship, hasn’t it?

Furler: Things never would have been the same without that. It’s been one of those defining moments in my life—meeting Steve, writing with Steve and working with Steve. It’s a perfect fit. I’ve got parts of me that are jagged and he’s got parts of him that are jagged and we come together to make something that’s right. It’s like a jigsaw. We’re completely different in some ways but I think we really like each other and we both realize what we do for each other. So it’s been a good thing both ways. I don’t know what else to say but it’s been a perfect situation

Bonham: You’ve got to be pretty excited to see what’s happening for Steve with the Blue Like Jazz movie.

Furler: Absolutely. It put an end to the recording process for a season with Steve taking on the movie, but man, we were rooting for him. We wanted to get the word out. We got the news that he’d raised the money through the Kickstarter program while we were in the studio. You couldn’t have found three happier guys.

Click HERE for part two of this interview with Peter Furler.

Check out Furler’s official website by clicking HERE.



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