After 22 years as the main creative force behind Newsboys, followed by his 2011 solo success On Fire, Peter Furler could be excused if he'd decided to mellow out a bit or rest on his laurels. Instead, the writer behind 27 #1 radio singles has come back with one of the strongest albums of his career, Sun and Shield. Reteaming with longtime producer/lyricist Steve Taylor for the first time since Newsboys gold-certified Adoration album,Sun and Shield finds Furler & Band — featuring Dave Ghazarian (Superchick, Audio Adrenaline) on bass and Jeff Irizarry on drums — combining an ambitious collection of new songs with a more muscular, band-driven sound that harkens back to the glory days of Take Me To Your Leader. Sun and Shield is the sound of an artist at the peak of his creative powers.
I recently had a one-on-one interview with Peter to discuss his new album, his family and what he's excited for.
Dan: Peter. New album, Sun and Sheild. Can you tell me a little about it?
Peter: Yeah, it's called Sun and Shield. It comes out March 11. Of course, you can get it at Family Christian. Dan's already had a little preview of it so we were talking about that earlier and really happy with it. I kind of went in to make a record that was three-piece rock. We set some limitations. These days you can go into a studio and you can fix a good performance or an average performance. We were just hoping to capture a great performance, as opposed to... Everyone's got their Instagram accounts and they can capture a good photo and put some filter on it. Or someone goes out and hunts for that right shot. So we were hunting for the right shot on this record, just trying to capture the moment, what happened there on the day and not having to embellish it with a lot of tracks and repairs and such, with software. I'm really happy with it. It's kind of a photo album for me when I hear certain tracks. I remember the day and the time recording it.
Dan: So the title is Sun and Shield and that's also the first single. Can you tell us what that means to you and what the title and the track is about?
Peter: Well, it comes from the Psalm 84. It talks about God bestowing honor and glory, and that he doesn't withhold favor from us. And He is... There's times we need the sun. We need... It was actually talking about the times of battle, back when David was fighting battles. There was a time where they needed the sun, and there's obviously another time where they need the shield. It's really just that. That's what that was about. It's about hanging in there in our faith and moving forward, and getting rid of the clutter that holds us back, and traveling light, so to speak. The whole record is again, just another piece of the journey of our faith. And as a singer and a songwriter, just trying to express that, how I've experienced it.
Dan: Very cool. There are some familiar faces on the cover. It isn't just Peter Furler. It's Peter Furler and Band. Can you tell us about the new lineup?
Peter: When I finished up with the Newsboys I never really, at first I didn't know if I was going to make music again, but then the songs kept coming. So I put out a solo record which I never thought I would do. I never had any aspirations to be a solo guy. In fact, that scared me. When I did make that record, I put it out, and then I'd gone on tour with that record. As I was touring that record, I began to put together a band. Dave Ghazarian, formerly of Superchick and Audio Adrenaline, has been a great friend of mine for a long time, and he was playing in that band, and Jeff Irizarry who's been playing drums for me since I left the Newsboys.
It just seemed natural. It was one of those natural things. It wasn't like a strategic marketing plan. It was like, we were just on the road touring, and I'd come to this record. It was like, man, I want to do this as a band, I want to do it as a three-piece. I want to keep it just simple and go back to reintroduce three-piece rock into CCM. We haven't seen or heard of that for a while. And again, uncluttered without the performance tracks and all that stuff. I didn't even plan that. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. That's up to somebody if they want to do that. But for us, it was like, man, this new generation of crew that are coming through, we need to show them that it can be done live and you can make a lot of sound with just three guys.
Dan: There's another familiar name on the album - Steve Taylor. Can you talk a bit about the mystery there?
Peter: Steve and I, we obviously co-wrote all of the Newsboys songs, or most of them, together. He's been a collaborator with me for many years, a great friend. I just got off the phone from him. He says, "Hi." He's somebody that I've just always looked up to and admired his integrity. He was somebody that when I was making this record I knew I would need help and the right kind of help. I was working on a project with him. I'm also playing drums in Steve's band. We had been working on a record for a few years which is coming out later. It had John Painter and Jimmy Abegg in that band. I was the drummer in that band. We kind of moved from making that record to making the Peter Furler Band record. It was just natural, just cool things were happening, and we were making music just for the love of it. No record deal. No management. No anything, except just kind of wild ambition and just loving music. It's been a really cool time. I don't know what happens after this but that's not for me to worry about.
Dan: I saw Mylon LeFevre's name on the song “Yeshua.” How did you get to having him on the record and the connection there?
Peter: That took about 23 years, that one, because I married his daughter 23 years ago. Mylon, for those that don't know, should know, he's one of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. He's been my father-in-law for 23 years. We've talked about making music together and doing things through the years. That was a song that actually my wife and I wrote together. It might have even been her idea. She might have said towards the end... We'd actually tracked most of the music on it, and I'd sung it, and it did feel like something wasn't quite finished. I had Phil Joel come in and sing some BGBs, and I'm like, we're still not where it should be yet. My wife might have suggested or I might have thought this is the ones to get Mylon on. So he came in. We sent the tracks down to Texas. He lives in Texas. And he sang on them there. And he really took it to a new place. It's awesome to be able to sing with your father-in-law.
Dan: So what's the process like for you working on music?
Peter: Well, it's changed so much. It's kind of gone full circle in some ways. When we first started out, we had no budget. We were making records on probably the budget that mainstream acts had for catering. For us it was a, you had to really hone your chops, you had to really know all your tunes, and you'd have to go into the studio. I think our first record we made in 24 hours. We cut the ten songs; we mixed it; we did everything. And as time went on, technology helped us a little bit where you could track some stuff at home. Budgets got bigger for us as a band and as a group. But it did cost a lot to make records. Now, it's coming down to... we're sitting here chatting to each other, and people are watching in different parts of America. And it's like, I could be sitting here now recording a record on this laptop because that's where it's come. There's good and bad to that. I think the good for us is that we still want to limit ourselves. There's something really cool when artists have a limitation. The Beatles were a group that only had four tracks, or a couple tracks to record with when they first started so the song had to be great. We live in a day and age now where you can put a lot of lipstick on that piggy, you know what I mean?
Peter: So for us, we still want to keep within the limitations of working with not a ton of gear, but just the right gear and making sure the part is the right thing and the song is the right thing. I think in the future for us, I'd like to go back to that time of, not go back to the time, but go back to that process of writing the song in the change room and getting the lyric where you're satisfied, and getting the tune where you're satisfied, and the arrangement, and going in the studio and just knocking the song out in a day, and then releasing it, or something, doing something with it. You could do a record in 24 hours or something. It'd be fun to get back to that, put that challenge back.
Dan: When you are not hanging out in the bus and doing an interview with us, what keeps you busy?
Peter: I drive a lot. My wife and I bought an RV. People think I'm a bit crazy, but I do a lot of the driving. I enjoy that. Today I'm in a tour bus, because we had the weather up here so I just jumped on the bus. I kind of like it. It's different. That keeps me pretty occupied. I sleep at a lot of KOA campgrounds and Walmart Supercenters. But there's something about that that I like, in its season. Otherwise, you have walk and have a look at the city you're in. I took a walk today down in Grand Rapids, had a look around and grabbed a coffee, and chat with friends, and maybe grab a guitar and practice; write some songs.
Dan: Are there any RV experiences of people getting mad or experience that you've had?
Peter: There's always -- the RV community is this huge subculture in America. In Australia, they call them skiers and that's they're spending their kids' inheritance. Here there's like a real... What I love about it is when you're in these communities, and I've had many experiences. People are really friendly. And they don't know who you are which is really cool. They don't know what you do. You're just some Aussie guy who happens to be in the RV next to them. They're more curious how much water can your RV hold or where did you get your LP gas from? What's the best stop up here?
The other thing too is the simplicity of living, traveling light. When you're living in that environment, you're in a small space. You have to conserve your water, you have to conserve things, you have to be aware of the road ahead, or surviving that way. And these people are all kind of like that. Some of them have sold their houses. It's a real marriage connector because they're all these married couples and they're always, they’re really united. A lot of them have sold their houses and they're living in this RV and they're just traveling. They'll spend two months, when it's cold, down South, and then they'll head up North. They're continually on the move. They're very nomadic. There's something about that, they remind me maybe of some of the early Bible stories of people just looking for a home.
Dan: How did you make that transition to trying out that RV style, going from the lead of the Newsboys to driving around an RV?
Peter: I started the RV thing when I was in the Newsboys. We had done every form of travel. We started out in a beat-up old Dodge van, sleeping in that, no air conditioning, no heating, through Death Valley, CA, 110 degrees; to New York City- freezing. Then as you get more successful as a band, we moved to an RV then, and we'd all drive it ourselves. Then we moved up to a bus. Then we moved to several buses with drivers. Then we moved to our own plane. We kind of traveled just about every way you could as far as touring goes. For me, after doing it for so long so many ways, I just had this idea... I don't know really where it came from... but just to spend more time really with my wife. I just saw the future and I saw that someday the Newsboys will pass. But my relationship with my wife and building memories with her, that's what's going to have to last and last well.
So while I was sitting on a tour bus, I was online and looking at RV traders and trying to find an RV. We got back after one tour and I bought an RV. Everyone thought I was just crazy. The band thought I was crazy. The management thought I was crazy. I am crazy. So I bought this RV and I drove it. I did about 40,000 miles in that one. And we just loved it. We were having the greatest time. Then I bought another one and did about 70,000, so I did about 110,000 miles. And in that time, that's really probably where I began to learn to simplify. My wife and I, here we are, we're living in this RV, in this little space, conserving water, living just kind of day to day. You can't store a lot of things on it. And it really changed our lives. So we went back from that and we began - we really felt the Lord telling us to simplify. So we did. We began to pull out everything out of our lives that was pulling us, as opposed to... We want to be led by spirit of God but we were getting pulled in directions. And sometimes we're pulled in directions because of finances or because of ambition, or ideas we get where we were pulled in directions because of the culture. So for me, it was, we just wanted to cut some ties. It's not that they were all bad ties or all bad things. There were some great times and great memories. No regrets. But for us, now that's how we live. I have one pair of shoes, man, and I like it. That's all I have to take care of.
Dan: That sounds good.
Peter: It is good. It might not be for... I don't know if it's for everybody. I'm not anybody's judge. You know, I look at people... That's one thing the Lord's really showed me lately. Judge not lest you be judged. I've seen that happen in my life. I've seen it in others. You see people that are really critical of other people. They judge them. Something... There's just a law that operates where something happens that all of a sudden the judgment gets turned on them and so I think that's a good Scripture as one of your life scriptures. For me it is. I'm not saying what we do is for everybody. Every household has to work out its own gig.
Dan: Absolutely. And Peter, in closing, I want to thank you for your time. We absolutely love the new album and we can't wait for more people to hear is. So before we close, is there anything that you would like to say about the record or anything before we say goodbye?
Peter: Just thanks to Family Christian, thanks for taking my music and getting it to people and fair enough, I encourage people to support you guys. It's awesome. It’s work. I'm so thankful for my life that I get to do what I love to do. And I hope that for everybody, watching and listening, that you're doing what you love to do. So that's it. Best wishes to everybody. And Family Christian, thank you. I don't take it lightly. It's a big deal that you take my music and you get it to the people. That's a message that I feel to encourage people to lift them up. And when they hear music, they feel inspired. And you pour your heart into this music. It's so funny. You can go and buy a cup of coffee and a bran muffin, it costs you $7 now, and a CD that costs... that bran muffin and coffee probably cost $.50 to make and some dude made it in 30 minutes. Where a record you pour your heart and your life into it and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and you sell that for 10 bucks. That's a good deal. So I do appreciate you getting the music out. It means a lot to us. Thank you.
Dan: We're glad to do it. So thanks for taking the time today.
Peter: Cheers, mate, you're a good man.
Check out Peter's new album by clicking here.