When Houston, Texas alt-rock quintet Blue October released their landmark album, “Foiled,” in 2006, the band was climbing the charts and entering the homes of millions with songs like “Hate Me,” and “Into the Ocean.” But behind the scenes, lead singer Justin Furstenfeld was struggling with substance abuse and severe anxiety. Now, over a decade later, Blue October continue to cross the airwaves on the back of their latest album “I Hope You’re Happy,” and this time it’s with a singer who’s found his purpose and his strength both within and without. With a new documentary, “Get Back Up,” chronicling the band’s rise and struggles, arriving soon and a live performance at Baltimore Soundstage this coming Thursday, Nov. 14, I spoke with singer Justin Furstenfeld about looking back on the past and how overcoming his own fear impacted the future.
Cecil Whig: As time passes, do you find the memories that have inspired your lyrics and music in the past become more vivid and meaningful, perhaps with more lessons to teach?
Justin Furstenfeld: I would say they do get better and more meaningful as I learn more about life. I used to look back and think some of my old songs came from a selfish place, but now I see that I was growing up. The new me is proud of how I expressed myself in songs like “The Worry List,” and “Into the Ocean.” I’m proud of everything that I’ve ever written, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the craft that went into writing each song.
Whig: Do you feel that your songs take on new dimensions to your listeners through the years, or do you think they maintain a timelessness?
Furstenfeld: I first started Blue October when reality television first came on the air, and I grew up listening to The Smiths and Peter Gabriel and they were always pretty open with their lyrics. They’re very honest. So to me, it’s always felt right to be honest with my lyrics. It’s the way I had to do it, and it was boring to me if I wasn’t honest. There are times where I’ve thrown away songs I’ve written because they’re not timeless. I don’t want anything to be dated. We never fit in to any category, and I’m proud of our career as a band for that fact.
Whig: You have a documentary coming soon. Can you tell me more about the making of that and how it came about?
Furstenfeld: It was seven years of filming. At first it was as an insurance policy for my sobriety. I thought, “Well as long as you have a camera on me I probably won’t drink and use.” Two years in, relationships were building back together, marriages were getting better and forgiveness was happening. The band was growing closer and bigger, and it turned out to be a redemption story for me and the guys that I put through all of this. I didn’t want it to be this huge thing, and I want to take it around to rehabs around the country.
Whig: Do you ever feel a sense of responsibility knowing that your music has perhaps saved others in incredibly dark moments, or do you see it as an immense blessing, or both?
Furstenfeld: I’m just grateful that I’m alive and that other people who are going through the same things I went through can take something positive out of it all. Music is a powerful thing, and life happens and I’m glad that I can write about happy subject matter as much as I used to write about depression and addiction.
Whig: After over a year of “I Hope You’re Happy” being out in the world, with that being a transformative album in so many ways, is there any part of the making of or aftermath of the album that you’ll carry with you to your next endeavor?
Furstenfeld: Just how out of the box in the way it was written and recorded. I produce things a lot more differently than a lot of other people do. If I find a sound I like, I’ll keep it. I like to keep it organic and shape peoples senses. I love the colors in “I Hope You’re Happy” as well.
Whig: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned about facing, confronting and expressing fear and anxiety?
Furstenfeld: That it’s invisible. It might feel like it’s there, but it’s just your mind messing with you. If you live in the present, and control only the things that you can control…I’m powerless over what others think about me, so if they feel something towards me, I let them. As long as you clean your side of the street, don’t lie, and live an honest life, you have no explaining to do.
Blue October takes the stage at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Baltimore Soundstage, located at 124 Market Place in Baltimore. Tickets are $30-$40.