Justin Furstenfeld (Blue October) Interview by: Art Fredette
Written by Staff on November 2, 2022
JF: How are you doing buddy?
RRX: I’m doing great, thank you for taking the time to talk to me here today, we’re very excited about you coming to town on November 23rd at The Egg in Albany.
JF: Super excited too. I just love New York, whatever part of New York it is. It’s my favorite, my favorite ,favorite, favorite! I love touring so that will be an added bonus so… thank you for taking the time my friend.
RRX: I have second row seats, I can’t wait.
JF: I could’ve gotten you first row seats, I know the lead singer.
RRX: (Laughs) I never want to be that presumptuous and do that radio guy thing.
JF: Well let me get you backstage passes and you can come back stage and see how old I actually am because I sit there and do crossword puzzles.
RRX: I would love that. It’s funny because I have met you at a couple of the meet and greets over the years.
JF: Oh, that’s great!
RRX: Buffalo, Syracuse and Open Book in New York City. We bring our daughter, our fifteen year old to many of the shows and she would always bring you a pound of Deathwish Coffee.
JF: Oh my gosh, I remember this! That’s the only time I’ve ever gotten Deathwish Coffee, it is so strong.
RRX: Well, we’ll see you this time too. This is a big deal for me, I own the paper and I usually don’t do interviews, so this is weird for me; so bare with me my friend. The new record that just came out, I’ve listened to the whole thing with my wife probably a dozen times. I read the Spin interview and of course you mention The Cure, The Smiths and bands like that. Especially on “Love Isn’t Good Enough” I felt more of a Leonard Cohen or a Nick Cave approach, was any of that in your mind or did it just naturally evolve.
JF: After it was done, I was like man that reminds me of “Everybody Knows.” I love Leonard Cohen.
RRX: It reminded me also of “Traveling Light” on his final LP.
JF: It reminds me a lot of what Tom Waits would’ve done or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Just that whole kind of spoken poetry but so raw and so honest that it kind of makes you uncomfortable.
RRX: Exposed nerve type approach.
JF: I like the way you said that, that’s a really nice way. It’s a lyric that exposes a nerve, yeah.
RRX: Also on the new record the other song that really stood out to me was “Don’t Say it Wasn’t Love,” you wrote that with Billy Corgan?
RRX: How was that different than writing with the other partners that you’ve had over the years?
JF: It was great, I mean… his part in it was… I couldn’t figure out a verse melody and he’s really good at verse melodies. I just played him the music and I didn’t have a verse yet and he started (singing melodically) “da, da, da, da…” I was like oh, my God that’s beautiful, that’s amazing. That was his contribution and I just put the words in it any it worked.
RRX: I tell you the song is a true stand out on the record, I adore it.
JF: Thank you, I appreciate that. Wow.
RRX: I go back with you guys all the way to the answers. I’m an old fart, you know? An old Blue fan I guess you could say. There’s an evolution in every band’s music, I’m sure there’s some push back from the fans. Artistically, how do you deal with that?
JF: I haven’t had any push back yet, I kind of person that doesn’t sit there and read what people think. I just make it because it was what was going on in my life and it’s what I wanted to try. I grew up on people like David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, John Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.
RRX: That’s a hall of fame list right there, man.
JF: And then Johnny Cash. So I have all of these different styles of music that I love. My Mom was listening to Anita Baker, Earth, Wind and Fire and bands like that so… If you were to tell me that I had to play only one genre of music for the rest of my life, I’d say I’m bored and I don’t want to do it anymore. I’d go cut hair or be a barber, you know?
RRX: Right, that’s like having the same pizza for the rest of your life. I love pizza but I just don’t want to eat the same thing every night.
JF: I think that unless you’re changing, you’re not growing. With growing comes growing pains but that’s one thing I’ve always liked about the way my brain works. I get obsessed with something and then I get tired of it and I move on and find a new obsession. It’s kind of the same way with music I never want to just play boring regular music. I want to keep growing aesthetically and musically. There’s always going to be push back but I’m powerless over what you think of me and maybe because that’s what came out of my heart and that’s what my heart sounds like. You’ve have to be thick-skinned and I think I probably have a very thick-skin. I’m just grateful that it’s my job, I’m grateful that I get to make music for a living and I’m grateful that my therapy is songwriting. Through songwriting I can get better, I can heal, I can dance and take care of my kids at the same time.
RRX: That’s a cool sentiment. You’re songs tend to be autobiographical, confessional almost to a point and that really connects with a lot of us. Does it ever get to be heavy being THE JUSTIN with the fanbase?
JF: No it doesn’t because like I said I don’t feed into that. I don’t really go trolling the internet and read what people think about the album. I stay out of that. It’s not my job to make you think anything. It’s just my job to be honest and real about art. This new video I edited for “Shut Up I Want You to Love Me Back,” came out last night. I wanted to show the funny sides of the band, so I made it on an iPhone and I edited it all together and I thought it was perfect. And you know, it is perfect, it’s perfectly flawed. But there’s some stuff in it a lot of the guys were like “I don’t know if that’s funny, people might take offense to that.” I’m like man, if you live in fear of what people’s opinions are… they’re going to be so mad because I’m hitting my face with a spring roll… I can’t live lie that, you know? I was always taught to make art, be kind and don’t offend people literally. If your art offends people then it means it struck a nerve.
JF: So as long as I keep my side of the street clean, as long as I keep my humility strong, as long as I keep God in my life and doing things with the intensions of kindness and sweetheartedness then everything seems to work out. I just don’t feed into the whole… oh Justin, you did this for me, if I did that, that’s where the ego starts. I’d rather just say thank you, oh my gosh that’s great.
RRX: In one thing I’ve seen having met you, one thing I see is the genuine joy in your fans and the humility the whole band displays when they’re out in public. Like hey, thanks for coming out we all just had a big party together and a great time.
JF: Yeah and it’s awesome, that’s the way it should be. Once you start taking yourself too seriously and you see yourself as something better than the people that are out there watching and supporting you, then you’re sh*t’s going to fall apart. You know, we’re all the same people, I just know how to shake my butt real good and look real sexy when I’m singing sad songs, you know? That’s just my thing, God but me here to look sexy, I don’t know.
RRX: (Laughs) That’s wonderful. I’ve got a couple more questions, I don’t want to take up too much of your time.
JF: You’re good, take your time, my friend.
RRX: Your guitar players, you’re onto what, number four now?
JF: I don’t know, I just find guitar players that sound good with the band and that I vibe with. As far as I’m concerned I’ve got like six guitarists in this band right now. One of them is me, one of them is Will (Knaak), one of them is Matt Noveskey, one of them is Ryan Delahoussaye, one of them is Steve Schiltz from Longwave and one of them is Sus Vasquez. So as far as people going oh, Will left the band and Will’s doing this now… Will didn’t leave the band, he got an opportunity and he’s going to go tour with a nationally acclaimed artist and learn the country ropes for a little bit. If he wants to come back later, we welcome it! I’m just blessed that I’ve got like six bad ass guitarists that are always on stock baby! I call them up and they’re like aight (slang for alright) and they show up.
People like to dramatize it as much as they can but I’ve got a lot of cool people that I work with and I am blessed that I’ve been kind to all of them. Oh and I forgot we’ve also got Matthew Ostrander. He came by the other day and said “hey man, I’m ready to go if you need me.” Steve called “I’m ready to go if you need me,” Sus called “I’m ready to go if you need me.” I’m so blessed bro, I’ve got so many good people in my corner and I’m so proud of Will, he’s going to learn a lot.
RRX: We were lucky enough to interview Will a while back. He was just a wonderful guy and so gracious. I expected nothing less.
JF: Yeah, wonderful human being.
RRX: And the fact that his father played in 13th Floor Elevators, is pretty cool too.
JF: Like for real, are you serious? You know about that. That’s some dope sh*t, right?
RRX: Right. That leads me to this, you guys are a Texas band and Texas has a real pedigree of musicianship. How much does being from Texas affect the way you write, what you write or how you play?
JF: You know, I think the one thing that I get from Texas is the humility, I guess; the kindness, the manners and the gentleman aspect of it. Except for in “Any Man in America,” I’ve never been bluntly rude, you know what I’m saying? But… I think I get my manners, my swing and my twang from Texas. There’s always a little bit of southern drawl in these songs. Like (sings) “who do you run from, man?” That’s a good one and then you’ve got (sings) “sweet and somber pigeon wings,” you know? I’m trying to think of one off of each album. Then you’ve got (sings) “you gotta make her know how it feels to miss you.”
RRX: I love that line, I love that song.
JF: Then you’ve got (sings scat style), and then you’ve got “how could I let it go?” There’s so many. There’s always one track or a few tracks on each one of the albums that are just so country that I’ve got to calm it down, so people don’t say “ahhh,” you know?
RRX: Well, it’s funny the first time I heard “Home,” I said to myself that’s a straight-ass country song and that was the charm of it. That was really the hook for me.
JF: Yeah man. You know that Keith Urban wanted that song. He wanted to use it for his album and I said no. Just because I wanted to use it. I was super proud of it, plus I couldn’t get them to commit to releasing it as a single. I said if you release it as a single then maybe we can talk. I was super grateful that his writer thought of me, to write with me. So now I have this guy in Nashville I can go write with anytime I want. What a blessing is that! You’ve just got to be nice to people, that’s it. You just got to be nice. It’s easy.
RRX: It really is easy but sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world for people, which is just a paradox until itself. I’ve got one last question and it’s something I ask everybody I interview. Everybody that’s into music or is a musician has that one band they don’t tell any of their friends that they love. Who is your guilty pleasure? I’m a Carpenters junkie.
JF: Hmmm… Justin Beiber man. I really adore that guy, he’s a hard worker and he has some really good songs. Carpenters are amazing bro and by the way throw Abba in there.
RRX: The other one for me believe it or not is Air Supply.
JF: Get this, my Mom just yelled from the other room and says “you love Bread!” Bread’s one of the best song-writers out.
RRX: “I Want to Make it With You,” isn’t that them?
JF: (Singing) “I want to make it with you, and I would give everything I own,” Yeah man.
RRX: Well Justin, thank you so much.