Las Vegas Sun

December 10, 2023

Blue October’s Justin Furstenfeld talks tour, mental health

Blue October


Justin Furstenfeld (center) and the rest of Blue October

They're calling it the Pick Up the Phone Tour, so that's what we did. Las Vegas Weekly caught up with Blue October's lead singer Justin Furstenfeld via phone as he relaxed outside his Houston home, chatting about his personal struggles and how he's parlayed those into a nationwide tour to raise awareness for suicide prevention and reduce the stigma behind mental-health issues. The tour makes a stop Friday at Hard Rock, as part of the hotel's Friday Night Live series.

So, in addition to being on tour, you're in your studio writing new material. How's that process going?

Actually, this is the first time the rest of the band has stepped back and said, "We're not sure we're really on board with what you're saying." I've never really been censored before, and I won't be. It might be trouble, but it has a good point to it. If it hurts somebody, I won't do it.

Can you elaborate? What topics are you touching on?

I'm always writing. So, I have songs from back in high school, mixed in with songs written before Foiled and songs that didn't make Approaching Normal. Then, I have a bunch of songs I've started on that are storyboards for, basically, my marriage falling apart in the last year.

That can be a touchy subject.

Oh yeah. Custody battles for men in America are insane. Love and legal systems do not mix, and it's a harsh pill to swallow for myself. The only way I know how to lash back in a positive way is to write songs about it.

You're good at turning negative into positive. Last year you had to cancel part of your tour after you were hospitalized after an anxiety attack, right?

Yes, last October I found out some stuff that I didn't really understand. ... It had sort of slapped me in the face right before I got on a plane. I was sitting on a plane and that's the last thing I remember. Then, it was like, OK, now I'm in the back of a police car on the airfield in Minneapolis. What's going on?

Where'd you go from there?

I took it seriously. I was getting to that age where, if you have a mental illness and haven't been treating it, it can only get worse and hinder you from doing what you want to do in life. ... It was scary ... but when I got out of the hospital I realized there were thousands of people that this happens to. It's post-traumatic stress disorder — something so traumatic hits you. I'm a strong person now because I attended class, took every med. And the legal system wouldn't let me see my daughter until I got used to taking the meds.

That must have been difficult.

People tried to use the incident against me. They needed some sort of leg up. I'm a good man, but they said, "Oh! He hears voices. Lock him away!" So, all those interviews that I'd done where I'd been real honest about things were lashing back. But I want my daughter to know the truth. What happens when she turns 16 and starts to feel depressed? I need to be able to talk to her about it honestly.

It's a difficult thing to talk about, but it needs to happen more.

Yes, I've always been a huge supporter of the Mental Health Association. I've worked in the field. I've been in the system. Each year there are 30,000 people in America killing themselves because they don't know how to explain to people how they're feeling. Thousands of those are teenagers.

How did the tour partner with To Write Love on Her Arms and the National Hopeline Network?

They approached me. They knew I'd been hospitalized a few times during my life. I've got nothing to hide. They knew I was passionate about the subject. My manager was passionate about how passionate I was about it. Also, nobody likes to write about Blue October because they think we're over dramatic or too polished rock or too corporate or too indie. We do things for charity and that gets us some publicity for the right reasons.

How has the response been from attendees so far during the tour?

It's amazing. We have families that come to our show — mothers, fathers, grandmothers, kids — and they all stand there together. I've never seen that — families, dealing with issues together. That's the coolest thing I've ever seen.

— Originally published on Las Vegas Weekly

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