The journey from the “land down under” to the top of the charts in the “land of the free” was no
walk in the park for GRAMMY nominee and 5x Dove Award winner, Peter Furler.
The Australia born singer/songwriter/musician/record executive was raised in a Christian
household and stayed true to his roots, going on to write/co-write 25 #1 hits in the CCM genre.
Here, Peter took time out to share how artists can be successful without compromising their
integrity, and to discuss his latest album release on Sparrow Records titled, “on fire”.
IAE: Please tell us where you’re from and what influenced you to pursue a career in music?
PF: I was born in a place called Adelaide, which is located in Australia and I was raised as a pastor’s kid.
When I was about 10 my parents got me my first drum kit. We’d have the 10am service and then after that I
would stay in the church all day just practicing in drums. My parents would come back to begin the 6pm service
and I was still there playing drums. I had a love for music mainly because of the radio and when I was about 14
years old I met, George Perdikis, and he was a really great guitar player. He was instrumental in me getting
into pursuing a music career.
Afterward, I formed the group called The Newsboys and was with them for 20 years. Some of the guys in that
group left because they had ideas and illusions of grandeur and they thought there was going to be private
jets and playing for sold out arenas. Eventually, it did become that, but it took about 20 years. [laughs] In the
meantime, it was travelling around in a van with no air conditioning, no heating, not getting paid for gigs. I
remember going out of the back of Burger King trying to find food out of the dumpster. You have to be in this
for the right reasons or you’ll end up chasing some fantasy; and if that doesn’t appear you’ll give up or be
disheartened. I’ve done a lot of odd jobs and hard labor that I didn’t enjoy, so I was just happy to be playing
music, surviving and just doing it for the love of creating a song and making something out of nothing.
IAE: A lot of artists may have the misconception that everything will just happen for them over
night and they will become famous.
PF: You know what, it doesn’t always come how, when or in the amount you think it should. It’s a creative
process and whenever you’re doing it for cash a lot of times you wind up with trash. But if you do it for the pure
joy of writing a song or creating something that didn’t exist last week, then you’re on the right track. You know,
God didn’t create the horse to win at the races, He made it for His pleasure. So the creative process has to be
first and then as you become more disciplined and skilled at it other people will take notice. Sometimes it takes
hours, even years just to create a three minute song.
IAE: Right! Many music fans do not realize how long it takes to create a great song. First you
have to produce the music, then write the song, then record the song, then mix the song, and
some of this can go on for days.
PF: That’s right. I’ve had songs that have taken me just a few minutes to write and even record, and some
of those have been the best songs I’ve written. Then there are other songs where I started writing them 10
years ago and I’m just finishing them now. Even the recording process too, I’ve found my best stuff has come
when it just flows as opposed to when I have to labor over something it might not be as good as it could be.
IAE: Tell us how the Newsboys got started?
PF: We started out like most bands…in the garage. Four teenagers in my parents garage with mattresses
on the walls to keep the noise out as best we could, while keeping our noise in. [laughs] Back then, we played
Top 40 songs and usually one of us would know a song so we’d all learn it. We weren’t really sports oriented
kids, our love was for music. There’s something really special and thrilling about four people being in a room
and agreeing upon a melody or a lyric. It’s like when you get your first gig and you’re all excited, even if it’s your
sisters 16th birthday party, you just can’t wait to play. We were very tenacious and would drive around the
streets of our town with a guitar, a bass guitar and drum sticks and go looking for bands playing in pubs near
us. If they (bands) had 45 minute sets we would go into the pub and talk to the band and ask if we could play
while they were taking their break. We also did a lot of the battle of the bands types of events.
IAE: What is your songwriting process like?
PF: The songwriting process for me is usually inspired by sounds. It could be with my guitar and amp, or a
keyboard with certain sounds playing. I sit there for hours in my studio and just play and play until something
happens that catches my ear, whether it be a melody or a chord structure. Then I put the melody or chord
structure down. I document everything I do because music is emotional and sometimes you’ll get an idea or a
guitar riff and you think it’s only okay because of the mood you’re in. But then you come back and listen to
it later and realize you really hit on something. Usually, the melody part of the lyric will come and I build upon
that if I find something that’s really strong. Sometimes I write the song very quickly, while other times I’ll go back
and listen to a little snippet from years ago and I finish it. I also like to collaborate. I’ve written over 100 songs
with Steve Taylor, who is a great lyricist and friend of mine. I personally like writing with others because I feel
like I can end up with a better product. I’ve written a few songs by myself, but I prefer to write with people like
Phil Joel and Seth Mosley. It’s nice to have somebody to bounce ideas off of.
IAE: What kind of gear do you use?
PF: I like Logic Pro 9 and that’s what I’ve used to record my last 4 or 5 albums. I have a lot of old pre-
amps and compressors. I don’t have a lot of gear, but I’ve got enough to do a drum kit once and I switch
out some of that gear for guitar and vocals. Funny enough, I find that when I write with a computer I get
distracted because sometimes an email will come through or I’ll have a short lull and find myself checking
the latest news. So what I’ve done recently is I bought a couple of KORG D888’s (8-track digital recorders)
because they keep me from using the computer and getting distracted. I’ve used some of the KORG iElectribe
for the iPad apps. I think the iPad will definitely start replacing keyboard brains. I have a KORG R3 that I just
started messing with. I’m a purist so I like to get it from the source without EQ-ing my stuff much, and I used a
Shure SM57 to record the album. I use that mic to sing on, but also on the guitar and drums. I keep it real
simple. The drum kit I use is 60’s Ludwig Drums that my wife, Summer, bought me. I also used a Fender Super-
Sonic 22 Amp for my guitar.
Honestly, I’ve never heard a song that was a hit because of the snare drum sound being used; it’s normally
because of the words and the melody.
IAE: What have you learned about the business that you wish you would have known early on?
PF: Working with people you trust and know is extremely important. I happen to be with Sparrow/EMI and
these are people that I’ve known for a long time; they’ve been very fair and good to me. Every record deal is
different so you have to ask and seek good counsel, especially if you’re a new artist. Keep in mind, the record
company is going to invest a lot of money that they could lose if your music doesn’t do well. It’s money that
you, as an artist, can’t afford to spend on marketing and manufacturing CDs. While there are those artists
or bands who have done it by themselves and done quite well, on the flipside of the coin there are a lot more
(artists) who have done it by themselves and not done so well.
There are people who have signed with a big label and done well, and there are those who feel like they’ve
been ripped off because they didn’t get the label support. It’s a business deal and you have to know what
you’re signing. I haven’t always known that, but I certainly know that now.
But again, when it comes to business, work with people you trust. Ask other artists or managers who work with
the label how they feel about them (label). The main thing is to not be desperate because if you’re good and
you’ve got something that’s good, you will rise to the top. If you’re sitting in your basement and you’ve got a
potential hit song on your recorder, it will find it’s way at some point if you stick with it. You don’t have to be
desperate and take any deal. It’s like life, if you’re up to your ears in debt and you’re up to your ears in anxiety
or selfish ambition you are going to be a tied and you’re not going to be led places you’re going to be pulled
places you don’t want to go.
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|Peter Furler - Award Winning Singer / Songwriter
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