If you’ve listened to Christian music anytime in the past 20 years, you’ve probably heard Peter Furler or his work. Furler performs Friday and Saturday in Lewiston as part of 14 Days of Praise, a two-week worship festival hosted by local churches.
Furler co-founded Newsboys, a Christian rock band from Australia, that rose to popularity in the mid-90s and remained a meaningful contributor to the genre. With 17 studio albums, their music has won multiple awards, including four Grammy nominations. Furler wrote songs and led the band from his drum kit, and later guitar, until he handed over the reins in 2009. He has since released two albums of his own.
An ongoing influence in the Christian music and worship scene, Furler now lives in northwest Florida with his wife. We caught up with him on the phone to find out about his past and current work:
Inland360: What’s your musical background, how did you get into it?
Furler: I had older sisters and they were really into music, so I was heavily influenced by the music they were listening to. We lived in a small house, so it wasn’t like you had separate quarters — there was always music playing. I first sarted playing drums when I was 10-years-old, so that’s when I decided I’m not just going to be a listener, I’m doing to be a doer, so to speak.
360: You formed Newsboys in the mid-80s and suddenly became quite popular in the early-to-mid-90s. What was that like?
Furler: We toured for a couple years with no record deal or anything, and it wasn’t until about early ’88 that we got signed. You can be trying for a long time — especially what seems like a long time when you’re 18 or 19 — and then you write that one song or record. Then everything changes within a short period of time, and you have to be ready for that.
360: What do you think drew people to your music?
Furler: It’s always the songs — that’s the economy that musicians run on. For us, our first couple records were pretty lousy. It was “Not Ashamed,” the record that came out in 1991, that was a turning point. A couple of the members had left, and it was up to me to keep the ball rolling, and I realized that something was missing with the lyrics. That’s when I was introduced to Steve Taylor, and he and I produced that record. That was what I would consider as the first Newsboys record. If George Martin was the extra member of the Beatles, Steve has been the extra member of Newsboys.
360: Do you have some favorite Newsboys songs? And do you still play them in shows?
Furler: There’s a track off “Take Me To Your Leader” called “Lost the Plot” that’s probably my favorite. I remember writing that on a guitar — just the chord changes and melody — and Steve, I believe, did most of the lyric, if not all of it. That one lyrically and musically was a good moment, I still really love playing it now. And I think the song “Million Pieces” is another one that I like. When I do my own shows, I play a lot of my own songs that Steve and I wrote for the Newsboys because I enjoy them.
360: Back in the day, you had a revolving drum kit that rotated sideways while you played a show. Where did that come from?
Furler: The first manager and I, we built it. You can look back on videos or photo shoots and go ‘what were we thinking?’ just like anyone can to a certain degree, but at the same time, it also forced us to take the live show as far as we could. The first version of it — there’s been about five versions — the first one had these heavy lead weights in the back to counterbalance the drum kit and the player, and it must have gotten stuck upside down at least six or seven times. It was a total “Spinal Tap” moment — crew running out in the middle of a song, I just keep playing, and hydraulic fluid spraying everywhere.
360: What are some of the challenges that a career like yours puts on a person’s soul?
Furler: One of the most difficult obstacles in being an entertainer or a musician is you have to be able to step out of the bubble of your world — though I think we all have that. There was a comedian I was reading yesterday, and he was talking about how if money doesn’t have you and fame doesn’t have you, you might be alright. ’Cause they’re like a fire; they’re never satisfied. I think one of the biggest drugs we have on the planet is attention, and that’s a tough one. If you can wean yourself off that one, I think life’s better. And money too, that’s the other thing.
360: What was behind your decision to leave Newsboys?
Furler: I think I was probably burnt out. I wouldn’t have admitted it if you asked me, not because I was trying to be deceptive, but because I really didn’t know. Sometimes you don’t know how tired you are until you stop. I think for me, personally, I felt creatively that it was time to let the ground rest, it was time to see what else is here on the planet. It was a great decision and one I’ve never regretted. Honestly, these past years have been the best seven or eight years of my life.
360: What has made these recent years more enjoyable?
Furler: Well, there’s the obvious stuff — there’s way less responsibility. Before, I’d be putting the final mix on a record and I’m already thinking about how to make the next one. There’s the touring — 120 shows a year, like anything, can become old. I mean, you can only eat so much ice cream. Now I really savor shows, you know? I’m really looking forward to coming to Lewiston. There’s a new freedom; creatively the palette is more extensive.
360: Do you have any projects you’re working on?
Furler: I’m always writing and working on things, I’m feeling something brewing. My plan in the next few weeks is to head to a little studio in (my) neighborhood and just begin to put some of the pieces together and see where they go.
360: What kind of music are you listening to these days?
Furler: To be honest, I haven’t been listening to music because when I don’t, it makes me want to write. I feel more hungry to hear something.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Peter Furler with 14 Days of Praise
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Brackenbury Square, Lewiston
COST: Free; donations accepted
MORE INFO: Worship bands from area churches will be playing at Brackenbury Square 7 to 8 a.m. and 6:30 to 9 p.m. today and Friday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.