For the past week or so I have had the privilege of listening to an advance copy of Peter Furler’s newest project titled “On Fire” (iTunes link) and I can say with pure honesty that I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. If you happened to like the sound of the Newsboys during the pre-Tait-fronted era best, you’re guaranteed to enjoy Peter’s solo effort. Peter was nice enough to spend a few minutes talking with me about his new album, what life is like after turning over the reins as the lead singer for the Newsboys, what really matters in life and his newfound creative outlet: painting. Make sure to check out Peter’s official website for news and updates!
Q. Why did you decide to leave behind your life as the lead singer for the Newsboys and head in a new direction?
I wasn’t tired or burnt out. It was very amicable between us. I just got a sense to let the ground rest creatively. It wasn’t physical; it was creative. God did not create the horse to win at the races; He made it to watch it run, for His pleasure. The creative process had started to become, not really a chore, but to feel like something I had to do instead of enjoyed doing.
That was really the issue. For me, playing a lot of the instrumentation on the Newsboys records, writing songs, producing records and touring—it was a very similar creative process. It was a healthy thing, but it was a chapter that was time to close.
When I presented it to the lads, it wasn’t something I had thought about for years. I was enjoying the Newsboys. We’d had private jets, and really nice hotels. We were pretty spoiled. Then my wife and I had wanted to do something different. Instead of having a bus driver take us all around we took an RV out. We drove ourselves to all the shows—about 110,000 miles. We would play for 10,000 people, then stay in a KOA campground that night or Wal-Mart Super Center instead of a hotel. We had to conserve water. We were kind of like a couple of hippies touring around, but we loved it.
But it really made us look at all the things we’d collected and worked for and why we do it. We wanted to simplify our lives. We sold things, gave away things. It’s been a precious and good process. But part of that was to look at why we work for what we work for and what we have to do to maintain that and the responsibility on our shoulders. It was all part of the decision.
Q. How is your life different now?
It’s a lot more simple. I take a day at a time now. Before it was so planned out—it had to be. I would look at a calendar and know a year in advance where I was going to be. Now, I don’t know what the future holds and I find that exciting. Not that we really knew before. As people, we make plans and we think we know what we’re going to be doing, but we really don’t. I savor not knowing what’s ahead. I’m led by things instead of being pulled along. That’s a big difference But the simplification of life is probably the biggest difference.
Q. Switching gears a little to talk about your newest project, what inspired the lyrics behind the song “Reach”?
Reach is the revelation of a God that created the heavens and the earth yet He doesn’t want us to slip through His hands. He’s a personal God who cares for us individually and wants us to know Him on a personal level, even if we don’t believe in Him. We can be angry with Him but He still loves us and still cares for us. Obviously, the greatest example of that is Him reaching out to us through Jesus. That’s what’s behind the song.
Q. As I’ve listened to the album, one of my favorites is track #4 “Never Ending Love Song.” Part of what I like is the upbeat sound starting out—almost like an old-school Nintendo. Where do you come up with how you want a song to sound?
I don’t listen to a lot of other music. That’s one thing most people don’t know about me. People think that if you’re a musician you go around with headphones all the time listening to other artists. I rarely listen to music, period. The reason is that so when I go and write songs, I write what I want to hear. A glass of water in the dessert is worth a lot more than one down at Publix. So when I go into the studio, I make sounds I like and want to hear.
I grew up in the 80s, moved on through the 90s and now here we are and anything goes. I really have a very broad taste in music. You try things you like and if you don’t get tired of it while you’re making the record, you keep it.
But I have to say that a lot of this record was influenced by working with Seth Mosley. It was fun; we both played all the instrumentation on the record. We were very free to do what we wanted stylistically. There was no agenda. I just wanted to be a better singer and better song writer. Seth’s a lot younger than I—he was born in the 80s and grew up on music like “Take Me To Your Leader” that I wrote and produced with Steve Taylor. We had this really cool dynamic in the studio of different generations. Honestly, I feel like I learnt more from him than he from me.
Q. How did your buddy Phil Joel come to work on this new project?
Phil is a good mate of mine and we keep in touch probably more so than any of the past or present members of Newsboys. We chat quite a bit. In my mind, he’s one of the greatest singers period, and he’s definitely the greatest rock n’ roll, BGV guy on the planet. When you’re making a record you want it to be as good as it can be. He and I have always blended well together vocally, and I felt it would just be better if Phil was there. And he owed me some favors. I did drumming and background vocals on his Deliberate Kids record. Now he’s paid me off and I’ll get him on his next record! Really, we enjoy working together.
Q. Was there a favorite behind-the-scenes moment you had while recording your “On Fire” album?
I think a highlight was having my wife Summer sing on it. She’s a real talent that has not been stirred up through the years. This was another bonus of do-it-yourself and having the studio in our house. She’s very shy and if I told her two days prior I wanted her to sing on the record she probably would have run off. But about five minutes before the track was recorded I just said “Hey, come in here–I need you to sing something.” She didn’t have time to get scared. And when she put the headphones on and started singing I said, “That’s great—perfect—just what we needed.” And in about five minutes she really started enjoying it and a little fire came out of her. When she turned and said, “You got any more?” that was a really great moment.
Q. What’s one thing about being a Christian recording artist that you feel is often misunderstood? And what’s one thing you wish people knew about the job?
One thing people misunderstand is they think recording artists just have a gift and they can automatically grab a guitar or drums or keyboard and record hit music, or they can write a beautiful song and it just happens. I think people don’t understand the discipline it takes. It’s a lot of hard work.
I was watching the basketball championship the other night and they were showing behind-the-scenes footage of the players in their sweats, just working so hard. There was no crowd, no one cheering them on; they were just running up and down the court, going through moves, doing weight training. We usually only see them on the court, doing these massive moves for however long it takes to finish a game.
That’s how it is with music. There are so many hours sitting with a guitar or keyboard and sometimes these instruments can represent frustration because you’ve sat there for eight hours playing the same chords and there’s no song coming. But you keep turning up again and I think the turning up is the big thing—that’s what brings the song.
Q. Looking back over your career, is there something you can point to as a spiritual highlight?
There are lots of things, but one that always comes to mind was when we were playing on the Sea of Galilee at a New Age festival with Buddhism, Hinduism, nudism—it was all on. Lots of people were smoking weed and drinking beers and here we were in the middle of it all, right on the shore of Galilee. And I’m thinking that this is probably the first time Jesus’ name has gone over a PA system here. We saw a lot of people touched and come to know Christ. The local church members that had come along who weren’t involved with the event in any way said over 100 people began to ask questions and learn about Christ. It was very powerful—an incredible night.
Q. Many young people, and older people too, would love to do what you have been privileged to do for a living for the past two decades. You’ve accomplished a lot in terms of materialistic success. Can you share what you have found really matters the most in life and why?
Success can be a double-edged sword. When do you have enough fame or money or success or accolades? Where does it stop? If you’re after those things you’ll never be happy. There’s nothing worse than going after all that you wanted and then figuring out it’s not really what you wanted.
Really, we find happiness and peace in our relationships, our marriages. That’s where success is. You can have all the accolades, the awards, the cash in the bank, but if your soul is not well then none of it matters. I don’t know many successful people that are very happy. From the culture we are sold fantasies at a high price and when we chase after them we’re lacking judgment. There were times when I did chase after them, but I’ve learnt to be content, to trust, to be thankful in any situation.
Real happiness is to be content in the Lord and where He has you today.
Q. If you could start back at the beginning of your career and do it all over again, what would you would do differently?
I’d have practiced my instrument more and become a better musician. It’s easier and quicker to learn when you are younger, just starting out. Whatever your instrument, how much you practice defines who you become as a musician. And I think I might have read my Bible more.