Justin Furstenfeld, 2006

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

I read that Blue October had quite the history. You were signed with Universal before and were dropped and you recently signed with Universal again. What was the process to forget about the past and move forward with Universal again?
It was simply a plan. We showcased for a lot of different labels, but Universal had a plan for us. They already knew who we were and we already had a business relationship with them. I mean I looked at it from their shoes as well. If I hired someone to make a product that was supposed to sell and it didn't sell, I may drop them too. So I admire them as well. For that reason, we didn't have any animosity towards them, so when we were interviewing labels again, they seemed to be the only label with a plan.

 

Going through the tough times, are you more looking at the band as taking each day as it comes, or are you looking at your band as something that needs to be going 10 years from now and how do we get there?
I tend to take each day as it comes. I could be a creative writing teacher some day. So I really do just take it each day and whatever happens, I can live with. It all comes in stride and you just have to take what you can get and be blessed for it and be thankful for what you got. That is how I think about it. Sure, 10 years from now I hope to be writing songs, and I would love to be producing artists, too.

My neighbor's boyfriend is very excited you are coming to Columbus, and has been a fan for a while, but a lot of people have no idea the history of this band and the struggles mentioned before. Are your audiences made up of diehards or is there a lot of new faces present?
Actually, we see a lot of the same people from years and years and years ago. It is really quite impressive that they have hung around with this band for so long. That is really cool. But we do see a lot of new fans and faces everywhere we go. But that fact that they will stick with us really takes my breath away. It is really cool. I mean it has been 10 to 12 years.

It has been quite the ride, because even when you were making records between stays at Universal, each record was on a different label. Was there ever a time where you or the band thought or said, "Let's just give it up?"
Oh yea, that happens all the time. But you just got to get back up and say, "You know what, don't be a pussy." Get up there and do your thing, it's your job. But it does get hard sometimes, because you are never sure if you are doing the right thing or not. So when you get dropped, you start to wonder where you could be. But you just have to work harder and just not quit when it gets tough.

 

Although we know you questioned if the band would be around, did you ever question the type or style of music Blue October produced?
Never. Never, never, never, never. We are such an eclectic band that we have all different styles of music and we bring all those styles to our songs. So we play hard at one moment and then we will play really soft at one moment, so we are really happy where we are. We would never change that, for anybody or anyone.

 

Which is great for a band but tough for a label to market.
Yea, probably. But I am not going to change. Why should I?

 

And how cool have you found it, since being so eclectic, to have played with so many different artists?
Definitely. We have played with Stone Temple Pilots and we have played with Dave Matthews. So obviously those are two very different styles, but we were honored to share the stage with both. So, yea, we are just like, okay, we will play with anyone.

The cool thing about both those you mentioned is they are tremendous songwriters on top of quality musicians. How seriously do you take your songwriting?
It is the only thing I do. Sure, I am a singer, but I write all the songs, so I take it very seriously. It is in my blood. It is the thing I do best.

Since you do the songwriting, what is the process? Do you need music or can you write just what is in your head?
It doesn't really matter. It comes in all different ways. One day I will have a bunch of music and the next day I may just have a bunch of lyrics and the next day I may just have a beat. I will then just throw them all together and see where everything fits.

Columbus, Ohio is a pretty knowledgeable about music. So for those not familiar with the bands live show, what should they expect from Blue October live?
Well, hopefully they know what they are getting when the come. If they are expecting a slam band or want to mosh, our show really isn't going to be that way. It is kind of like going to see Peter Gabriel or Pink Floyd, there is this story being told around a rock show. That is what we really, really like about it. It is really nice and subtle at moments, but then we can slap them in the face really hard and take them back a little bit.

 

Because you have those nice melodies that secretaries can like, and then when it comes time to slap them in the face as you said, do you ever see someone the crowd almost taken aback about how fierce Blue October can be?
Definitely. They look like, "Okay, that really wasn't like anything on the CD that I heard at all." And I really don't know what to say to that, except thank God we can actually pull it off live and rock their faces off one minute and then make them cry the next.

As the creator of all those emotions, do you ever have to find yourself having to separate yourself from the music to not get too involved?
There is definitely a line I won't cross. I don't try to get too deep into it, because that can get really weird. That can get really strange because I can start thinking about things that happened in the past. So there is a line I definitely don't cross. I definitely get in people's faces when I am on stage, but there are some places I just won't go.

Because you have very personal lyrics, are you ever surprised looking at what you wrote down on paper for a song?
Oh yea, definitely. There are lines I don't ever remember writing. I will see it or hear it and I am like, "Oh my God. Whoa."

 

That gives your fans an insight to who you are, is there ever a strange dichotomy of fans knowing so much about you while you know nothing about them?
It definitely can cross the line sometimes when emails are sent to me or my wife about certain things they say because they think they know me. That can freak me out a bit. But other than that, it is just an honor to be able to affect people, in the first place.

 

Touching back on the artist point of view, is it more rewarding to go into a city where you sold x number of records or is it more exciting to see that one person sing lyrics back to you?
Definitely the second. That is so rewarding when you can see that one person who is really touched by words you wrote.

When that happens, do you focus in on that one person or do you still try to focus on the crowd as a whole?
I definitely focus in on that one person. There are usually like 10-12 people in the audience that I will focus in on almost the entire show.

 

Since the bands first record in 1998 I think, are you surprised at all about where this band is musically or professionally?
No, but I just feel blessed. I am very lucky to have good management and a good label. I am not surprised because we have been working at it for 10 or 12 years, but I also never thought it would be this, and have the fans react the way they have been reacting. But I am blessed and very lucky.

 

Fans always have their favorite songs on a record. So do you find yourself leaning toward one song or another?
Well, I think every song on this record could be a single. So I worked very hard on each one of them and I didn't focus on one more than another. And when we go into the studio, we work very hard on every song, so no matter what song the label picks to be a single, we are very proud of it and just go with it. We don't really care what they choose for a single, because we spent just much time on every song. We make an album so no matter what song the label picks as a single or a fan picks as a favorite, it is fine with us because every song got all the time it deserved.

 

How much do you pre-prepare your songs for the studio versus how much is just framework and you want to build around it in the studio environment?
This time I actually went up to LA for about 6 months to prepare and write, so it is always different. We never do anything the same way. So there was a lot of songwriting going on in the studio, where usually we try to prepare beforehand where I can be with the guys. But this time, there was a lot of songwriting in the studio and working with the guys in the studio to hammer them out.

Now that you are on the road with Foiled and supporting that record, do you want to think about writing or can you put that artistic side of you away for a while?
Well, usually I don't sit down and write, it just sort of comes to me and I have to get it down somewhere. So when it happens, I just have to get a pen and work on it right then and I have people leave me alone for a while. I don't ever sit down and say I am going to write a song right now, because that will definitely come out real cheesy. I tried that and haven't tried it again. Usually I will just get something on a whim and if I am with my wife or on the road, I just need to go and be alone for a while with it.

 

And do you use sound check to work it out?
Definitely, that is the best time to do it, especially if your crew has all their stuff together. Sometimes they are like, "You got 10 minutes!" And I am like, "What do you mean I have fucking 10 minutes? It has been a hour-and-a-half every fucking day."

 

How has the band made it through all the tough times emotionally? Not many bands could make it through what Blue October has.
Just the fact of seeing people show up when we play. That is a good reason to keep on going. When we were dropped, we thought everyone would stop coming to our shows, but the fans were super supportive and that is why we keep doing what we do.