Justin Furstenfeld — frontman for alternative rock band Blue October — has lived in the darkness long enough that his eyes have adjusted.
Even the bright spots, like the platinum-selling Foiled, sold-out tours and performances on late-night talk shows were channeled from the torment of his most hopeless moments.
But with this year’s Sway, Furstenfeld emerges from the depths of despair with a foreign sense of optimism and a positive message for the band’s loyal, oft-troubled base of listeners.
“This was my first chance to show there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “There’s always been turmoil and a search for hope in that turmoil, and Sway was this breath we stopped and took and reflected on. It was letting everyone know it was OK to let go. From drug addiction to depression to bipolar whatever to sadness and breakups and makeups to marriage and divorces and custody battles … we’re still here and not going anywhere, and that light of the end of the tunnel is right now, and you’ve got to make that happen now. That’s what Sway is all about.”
It certainly was a case of it being darkest right before the dawn; Sway follows 2011’s Any Man in America, an album centered around the emotions spilling over from a legal battle to see Furstenfeld’s daughter. Personal growth and change followed in 2012, and a PledgeMusic drive to help independently fund the new record (which hit its target in three days, nearly tripling the goal by its end), and a new wife and child have realigned certain perspectives.
“I was probably at my lowest of lows at the beginning of this, changing my old behaviors,” Furstenfeld said. “When we put this drive out here, it was a feeling like, ‘Wow. Holy shit. People really care.’ You want to do right by them.”
Playing Friday at Diamond Ballroom, Blue October has the standard commercial goals on the back burner, instead fueled by a desire to connect with as many lost souls as possible and making music for the right reasons.
“My definition of success has always been making a living making good art. Some people’s definition is selling a million records. That’s why we left the major labels. We hated the factory part of it all. There’s a sense of humbleness now. It’s all about the art, and everyone that’s here wants to be here,” Furstenfeld said.
“The one thing that’s kept my head above water is the fact that I’m powerless over what anyone thinks of me. Haters are going to hate. People are going to say you’re amazing and people are going to say you are shit. You don’t listen to anything and just make the music that gives you chills when you play it.”
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