Music video for Blue October's "The Chills"
Blue October's front man Justin Furstenfeld wears his heart on his sleeve, then wipes it onto a sheet of paper. Not literally, but anyone who's listened to the singer-songwriter's lyrics, be it mega-hit "Hate Me" or past, poignant tracks like "Jump Rope," knows that anything he's feeling is expressed in his songs.
When he was sitting down to write the band's sixth album, "Any Man in America" (out Aug. 16), Furstenfeld was going through arguably the worst period of his life: divorce and a custody battle. The songwriting process, as it's always been for the lead singer, was therapeutic, but his personal battles continue.
I spoke with Furstenfeld about what he's been going through lately, the album (the first single, "The Chills," is about feeling so helpless in a situation that you want to explode) and the band, which will tour this fall.
Jon Chattman: You've never been one to run from your problems in your music. During the writing process, do you ever consider that you're baring your soul too much? Is there such a thing?
Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah, I do, and yes, there is such a thing. I think when baring your soul ends up hurting more than helping, then it's too much. But that's why I started Up/Down Records, to ensure that I can keep making reality music. I know what I want and how to get it. If I don't, I'll ask for help.
JC: Going through a custody battle and divorce must have been a terribly painful time. Does this album have an upside, lyrically? Where does the situation stand now, if you don't mind me asking?
JF: Honestly, the situation is worse than ever. Every day I'm faced with the awful truth that not one single rule or guideline of the agreed-to parenting plan has ever been met. Yet I show up on time every time for my daughter, flying cross-country from Texas to Lincoln every other month, and upon arrival it's a coin toss whether she'll show up. Now being the sole provider, this puts me in a position where I am watching her savings account go from "set in stone" to "someone help me."
My choices are continuing to fight for my daughter or run out of money. If I run out of money? No visitation. No visitation? Deadbeat Dad. Deadbeat Dad? No child support. No child support? Jail time. Add that up with the unfathomable reality of dealing with a serial accuser, and you've got yourself my life. But through it all, I still hope for the best, as you can hear on the song "The Follow Through," because that's what I do: I follow through. For her.
JC: Your last title was "Approaching Normal." Why "Any Man in America" this time out?
JF: Simply put, what I'm going through could happen to any man in America. I'm not making this shit up. Family law and the lack of shared parenting are at the heart of what is wrong in America today.
JC: Have you always found writing cathartic?
JF: Absolutely. It is my higher power and my strength in life, my freedom, my obsession, my religion and my perfect weapon. It is who I am, and I'll never apologize for that -- and, by the way, who the hell ever said being honest was wrong?
JC: Right. What music moves you? In other words, whose songs help get you through the hard times?
JF: I would have to say the likes of Jay-Z, Eminem, Peter Gabriel, Yelawolf, George Winston, Johnny Cash, Idaho, The Red House Painters, Mazzy Star, This Mortal Coil, Lil Wayne, Swizz Beatz, Pink Floyd, Cowboy Junkies, Tim Palmer, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, all performance artists, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Paul Wall, Kanye West, Young Buck (for just surviving the shit 50 put him through), and, while this isn't music, all married couples who stand by their vows (the only promise in America that is negotiable) inspire me.
JC: What else inspires you?
JF: Mainly, I'm inspired by people who lead and are honest and hold themselves accountable when making mistakes. I didn't go to college. I didn't make the greatest grades. I admire the proactive, average, hardworking American that lives paycheck to paycheck, who lives by good, honest morals, just as much as I admire American heroes that have accomplished great things. People like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stephen Biko, the 9/11 firefighters and policemen, artists as a community, America's teachers and Martin Luther King, Jr., who proved that you're only living when you know what is worth dying for.
JC: Lastly, if you were a professional wrestler, what would your name be, and what would your finishing move be?
JF: Name: The Underdog. Finishing move: The One-Hit Wonder. I'm a Southern gentleman, but I will not hesitate to take you outside.
This post has been modified since its original publication.