Interview: Blue October’s seasons of change (or not?)

UPDATE: Yikes. So just a few days after talking with Justin Furstenfeld about how positive he was feeling these days and how excited he was to bring his message to people on this tour, Blue October cancelled the tour because Furstenfeld has been hospitalized to deal with mental health issues. Here’s the release from the band’s web site:


(New York, NY – October 22, 2009) The Pick Up The Phone Tour 2009 has been canceled due to the hospitalization of Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of the tour’s headlining band Blue October. Furstenfeld, who was also the spokesperson for Pick Up The Phone Tour 2009, is being treated for suffering from an extreme mental anxiety attack. His doctors have ordered that the tour—which was committed to reducing the stigma associated with mental health, depression, and suicide—be canceled to allow for his recovery.

“Mental health diseases are unpredictable,” says Furstenfeld. “And on the eve of this tour in support of a cause that means the world to me, I am in need of time to heal from a setback in my own personal life, which is severe enough for me to seek hospitalization. I hope that my action to seek the strength and safety of treatment will inspire others that are suffering to do the same.”

In other news, Mike Ness is considering cancelling Social Distortion’s appearance on Hilton Head to deal with grief after discovering the pool hall he loved as a kid is now a 7-11.

(The Guide 10/27)  The most unexpected place that Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of the Houston alt-rock band Blue October, ever heard his hit song “Hate Me” was on the radio while driving through the vast barrenness of rural Kansas.

Furstenfeld was on his way to Nebraska when someone called a local Top 40 radio station and requested the song — even though it had been two years since the 2006 single had its reign near the top of the charts.

The caller said he had hurt his girlfriend and was ashamed of himself, and he wanted to send the song — Furstenfeld’s brutal vocal exorcism of his demons — out to his girlfriend before going into rehab.
“And man, I had to pull the car over,” Furstenfeld said last week. “It really touched me, it really opened my eyes.”

Blue October

When: 9 p.m. Oct. 24

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

Tickets: $10.61

Information: 843-842-0358,

It’s that kind of experience about the redemptive quality of music that helped Furstenfeld transform himself from a terminally depressed drug addict unable to cope with bipolar disorder into a force for positive change. Blue October’s current tour is a suicide-prevention endeavor that’s part of the Pick Up the Phone campaign; it raises awareness of depression and mental illness while letting people know how to seek help for themselves, friends or family members. “It’s a chance for us to be able to spread our wings and do something about some of the subjects that we’ve been singing about,” said Furstenfeld, who was scheduled to appear before lawmakers on Capital Hill this week as a spokesman for the group.

While Furstenfeld’s songs come from dark places  — with the band’s angry guitars roaring under lyrics about drowning, dramatic weight gain and the desire to choke someone — he’s trying to use music to break through to fans who feel the same way.

“Most critics call it overdramatic,” he said. “You guys have no clue. Call me overdramatic, but you’re a little late. I’ve been that way for 10 years.”

Talking from his home, where he took occasional breaks to distract his 2-year-old daughter, Furstenfeld said he’s been coping with the fact that the most depressing period in his life produced his most successful music to date, particularly “Hate Me.”

“Am I proud of who I was when I wrote that song? Absolutely not,” he said. “I used to cover up all kinds of pain with drugs and lies. Now I want to be good role model for my daughter and my wife.”

The band’s latest album is indicative of that transformation. “Approaching Normal,” released in March, is a deliberate mix, with bouncy, near-joyful tunes mixed in with the pallet of lament. It got a boost from legendary producer Steve Lillywhite who has worked with U2, the Rolling Stones, Morrissey and the Pogues.

Furstenfeld was protective of his highly personal songs at first, but he quickly learned to trust Lillywhite. “If Jesus Christ was sitting there mixing my album I’d probably still be sitting there with him,” he said. “But it came out to be probably one of my most positive and confident albums.”

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