Brutally honest lyrics in rock music can often shock the listener, but sometimes they can lift the soul. This is especially true when the songs emphasize a positive message designed to encourage or offer hope.
The upcoming album from the band Blue October will feature music with an optimistic emphasis, which is a decidedly different perspective than the group’s previous work. Justin Furstenfeld, the lead singer and guitarist of the band, has always been transparent in his songwriting, reflecting the struggles—and now the triumphs—of his personal life.
Public Struggle with Alcohol and Drugs
Furstenfeld, who has been sober for four years, has undergone serious turbulence in his life. Furstenfeld’s troubles included addiction to drugs and alcohol, a painful divorce and a fierce child custody battle. Understandably, these circumstances and events found their way into his music, sometimes producing less-than-uplifting themes.
In an interview, Furstenfeld remarked, “I’m not afraid to be open about my struggles. It’s in the past now. The first turmoil in my life was drugs and I lied to everyone around me. I was a total idiot and I can’t believe how I acted during that time period.”
Although the music influenced by his personal turmoil may have struck a chord with fans, resulting in platinum-selling albums, Furstenfeld admits that the songs laced with anger and self-pity really didn’t change his situation or that of anyone else.
“There’s a rock bottom for people’s lives, and there’s a rock bottom for music too,” he said. “I couldn’t have gone any lower. There’s a point where you hear someone whining so long you want to say, help yourself or shut up. This was that point.”
Rehab and Recovery Offer Second Chance for Furstenfeld
Around the same time as the band was hitting their stride with their smash singles “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean,” things started falling apart in Furstenfeld’s personal life. In late 2009, the band had to cancel their tour due to Furstenfeld suffering a severe anxiety attack. He returned a few months later, amidst rumors about his mental health.
In May of 2012, both his wife and fellow band members offered him ultimatums. The challenge from his wife and band came only a day apart but presented him with the same basic choice: either get help with his drinking and drug addiction or the relationships would be over.
Thankfully, the challenges worked. He checked into a Nashville rehabilitation center to receive help for his addictions to alcohol and prescription medication. After 75 days of treatment, he returned home and was able to witness the birth of his daughter. He even incorporated some of his experiences with rehab into material on Blue October’s “Sway” album, released in 2013.
Still solidly on the path of recovery, Furstenfeld now lives near Austin, Texas with his wife, Sarah, and two children. His sobriety has also allowed him to develop a comfortable relationship with his oldest daughter, who lives with his ex-wife in Nebraska.
New Album Emphasizes Gratitude, Not Self-Pity
The songs comprising Blue October’s new album, “Home,” which drops April 22, are quite a bit different than previous efforts. Instead of describing painful situations and being laced with anger or self-pity, the theme of the new record is gratitude.
The turnaround in his life has prompted songs about self-empowerment, confidence, hope and happiness. These subjects replace things like bitterness, confusion and anger that dominated earlier recordings.
Everything isn’t perfect, but his sobriety has given him a second chance at fatherhood, and Furstenfeld no longer lets difficulties ruin his life and those of others close to him. “I never knew there was such a beautiful life because I was always so bogged down with things going on in my life that I couldn’t accept, that I could not let go of,” Furstenfeld said.
Commenting on the change in perspective, he said, “I never regret saying or doing anything I’ve done in the past on albums, but it’s such a relief to go out there and not have to be fighting for some big subject matter that is heart wrenching. It’s nice to be going out there and just promoting happiness and peace. I’ve never done that before.”
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