Blue October frontman and lyricist Justin Furstenfeld has spent most of his life in pain. Suffering with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues, Furstenfeld turned to self-medication through alcohol and drugs.
In 2012, his pregnant wife threatened to leave him for good. Shortly afterward, his bandmates — including his brother Jeremy — went to his house ready to kick him out of the band.
Enough was enough for Furstenfeld. After years of anger, frustration and pain, he decided it was time for help. He checked into a rehab facility in Nashville.
“I’m actually very well [now],” Furstenfeld said. “I would have to say that I’m very grateful and I’m very blessed to be where I’m at today. I’m still pretty shocked and in awe of how well I am doing.”
Healthy and, for the first time in a long time, happy, Furstenfeld and Blue October are on tour promoting their new album, “Sway.” They will be making a stop at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Fillmore Silver Spring.
Whereas previous albums were used to lash out at others, “Sway,” takes the band into new territory.
“’Sway’ is a lot different,” Furstenfeld said. “After putting ‘Any Man in America’ out, there was really nowhere to go but up. I’ve always known myself to just be brutally honest no matter what I was going through. For some reason in the past, there was always some sort of huge turmoil going on. All of our past records reflected that. … The No. 1 rule of this new album — and I wanted to challenge myself — there can’t be one song about how hard Justin’s got it. There can’t be one song about how hard life is and there can’t be one song that just centers around me-me-me-me-me.”
“Any Man in America,” which was released when Furstenfeld was going through a bitter divorce with his first wife and custody battle over his daughter, Blue, was heavy with name calling, finger-pointing and accusations. While Furstenfeld feels the album needed to be made for the sake of his daughter, as he has called the record a push for parental rights, he realizes he’s in a much better place now.
“It’s hard to explain the transition, but I’d rather enjoy my life and take it very honestly, simply and humbly,” Furstenfeld said. “In the past, when my ego and depression took over [it was different]. Now, I’m in a really good place.
“‘Sway’ was a lot harder to make, to be honest with you, because it’s easy to write about sadness. It’s really easy to write about how bad you’ve got it. When it comes to happiness, peacefulness and when it comes to serenity … there’s a fine line between bubble-gum cheesy and honest and sincere. There was a lot of editing that went on and a lot of thinking. And work, work … if I can say one word, it was work!”
As with most new releases, artists have to tour to promote their work. Blue October is no exception. The band is currently on a massive tour that will cover the United States and parts of Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Being on the road can be stressful for anyone — especially someone who is a recovering addict. Furstenfeld, however, said he’s excited about the tour.
“If you were to have asked me about a year ago, I would have said I was nervous,” Furstenfeld said. “I finished a book and did a solo spoken-word tour earlier this year to kind of get my feet wet and back into touring in a different space. In the past, I would just drain all this darkness on stage and drama. So I wanted to see if I could still do it with just as much impact and just as much passion if I was talking about enjoying life. I’m really excited. Plus my wife goes with me on tour and my daughters. I’m just blessed to be able to do what I do for a living.”
One of the tracks on the new album, “Bleed Out,” is a powerful song that focuses in on the pain a man has caused for a woman. While writing songs such as “Bleed Out,” is cathartic for Furstenfeld, he said the memories of the past still haunt him.
“That one was written in the eyes of my wife,” Furstenfeld said. “Just the hell I put her through. She needed that. I needed to honor her by telling the whole truth, not just ‘Oh, look at me! I’m clean and sober! Pat me on the back!’ No, that’s not something you pat someone on the back for. It should have been done a long time ago. I should have manned up a long time ago. ‘Bleed Out,’ is my song to her. Every time I hear it now, it’s just sadness when I listen to it — but it’s this rebirth. It’s almost like I’m proud of myself for putting that together because it needed to be done. The memories that come along with it are hard to think about, but the fact that I’m owning it and celebrating the new-found freedom that we have together is quite powerful.”
Furstenfeld said he hopes fans take to heart the messages in “Sway.”
“The light at the end of the tunnel is now,” Furstenfeld said. “We can sit around and dwell on our problems all day long, but I’ve found — just personally, me — I’ve found that it just doesn’t get me anywhere. After awhile, people don’t want to see you doing that. People don’t want to watch someone circling the drain over and over again for years. They get sick of it. … You’ve got to live up every single moment you’ve got. Life’s short.”