Blue October has deep ties to Tulsa as the band developed its live show and following here as a club band long before it signed to a major label and reached broader audiences. Perhaps it's because of those ties that lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is so forthright and open with his thoughts, but I doubt it.
Over the years I've had the opportunity to speak with Furstenfeld multiple times and he's always incredibly open and transparent with what's going on in his life and where the band is currently at. There's never a lot of posturing or spinning the truth, which makes him a breath of fresh air.
That honesty and openness is apparent in the band's records, where Furstenfeld also wears his heart on his sleeve. Undoubtedly, it's that candor and sincerity that has endeared him and the band to so many fans and the band's latest disc, Any Man in America, is no different. The disc tracks the dissolution of Frurstenfeld's marriage, the heartbreak and renewal of spirit and the battles he's faced over the past few years.
The past year alone was a big one for Blue October as the band opted to not renew with a major label and go it alone as an independent band. When discussing this with Furstenfeld, he shared that the band waited on a renewal deal with its previous label, Universal Records, but "when they finally gave us their offer, it was a quarter of what it was supposed to be and a 360 deal -- which means after 20 years on the road, they wanted 20 percent of our touring, 20 percent of our publishing and 20 percent of our merchandise."
A Life's Tale.
"We started shopping for another label, but then we thought 'Why?'" he said. "The label doesn't provide half of what's needed anyway. We hire our own publicist and booking agent, and take care of most things ourselves anyway."
"I went in not wanting to think about selling a million records," he said, "because no one does that anymore anyway. I've always wanted to be more like Cowboy Junkies or Chris Isaak -- or even Peter Gabriel -- someone who lasts the test of time. So I took all of my 'Hate Me' money and I built a studio and learned to record and produce."
The album, released on Furstenfeld's Up/Down label with distribution via Sony/Red, debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard charts when it was released in August, but dropped in sales the following week. Sales have slowly and consistently grown, however, and the record will pay for itself and start making money for the band in the near future at this point, which would never have happened with a major label release.
Meanwhile, the band continues to build its fan base the way it always has: with an ongoing touring schedule, albeit without a major label backing them up and pushing the new record. "It is a little scary," he admitted. "I worry a little and wonder 'Are people still going to show up?', but here they are -- they keep coming to the shows."
Perhaps the reason people keep showing up is because a Blue October show is consistently more than a mere concert -- it's an event. Whether from Furstenfeld's sheer presence as a front man and lucky coincidence (like when the sky opened up and started raining briefly, seemingly at his command during the band's set at DFest in 2009)or by the nature of the show's and the band's affinity to help others.
Last year, Blue October went out in support of Pick Up The Phone, a suicide prevention and depression support hotline. That organization is close to Furstenfeld's heart as he has struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder. This year, the group is working with the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
In talking, Furstenfeld shared that he's only gotten to spend approximately two months in total with his daughter, who is now four years old. Even though he's the sole provider for his child and ex-wife, he not only doesn't get equal time with his daughter, he rarely gets to even speak with her on the phone.
That's exactly what the title track, "Any Man In America," is about: the fight for shared parenting and father's rights. Over the course of the album, Furstenfeld chronicles his battles for his child and the emotional and legal wars between parents. When talking about what has become a serious issue in the United States, Furstenfeld bluntly said "I've seen it all too often, where the baby is used as a tool for money, power and control..."
Furstenfeld's brutal honesty is exactly what makes him such a refreshing voice in the rock community. "Why not be bluntly honest?" he shared. "You weed out people who don't like you really quickly and it's a good way to find out who your friends really are." When that honesty rings through in the songs as well, it creates a strong bond with the audience, which can be attested to by the band's following and engaging live shows.
"I'm just trying to be a good dad," he said in summary. "This is all about shared parenting -- and that means 50 percent of the time with each parent. I'm not crazy -- If I was, how could I run five companies, keep this band on the road, pay for a house and support my kid? I'll fight for my little girl to the very end, I can promise you that."
Blue October brings its current tour, in support and the Coalition for Fathers and Children to Cain's Ballroom this Thursday night, Oct. 6. The show begins at 8pm with openers Ashleigh Stone and IAMDYNAMITE opening the show. IAMDYNAMITE is an explosive two piece rock act that just released its debut disc, Supermegafantastic in September. Produced by Blue October bassist Matt Novesky, the album throbs with fuzzed out indie rock that leans into the melodic indie fuzz of The Black Keys, making it worth arriving early to see the next band that Blue October is investing its time and efforts into.Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to email@example.com
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