4 minute read

Coming to Brown County Music Center: Blue October

~by Ryan Stacy

By now, it’s probably safe to say that Justin Furstenfeld has exceeded expectations. When he, his brother Jeremy, and some friends first dusted off their brand of catchy alternative rock as Blue October in Texas back in 1995, they probably didn’t foresee just how big they would blow up—or how long the explosion would reverberate. But Blue October ignited quickly, filling tour dates and recording albums at a pace that few bands could hope for. Within a few years, they’d secured a deal with a major record label; within a few more, they were playing the late night shows, opening for the Rolling Stones, and getting very close to the top of album and video charts. And now, nearly three decades into their career, Justin Furstenfeld is still exceeding expectations, writing more songs than ever, keeping up a regular recording and touring schedule, and not giving any indication that any of this will slow down any time soon.

“Sobriety and gratitude,” Justin tells me when I ask him how he’s done it. Before getting sober eleven years ago, he says, he might have let Blue October’s success go to his head a little bit. “I took everything for granted, I led my life like an egotistical, ungrateful little brat,” he admits. But the different path he took changed all that.

“I’m just so grateful, so humbled that I’m able to take memories and feelings and make songs. I’m gonna stay right there, do this the rest of my life, jump on every opportunity one hundred percent, and spend the rest of the time with my kids. I’m the most successful man you’ll ever talk to,” he says of exceeding those expectations for himself.

With Justin’s attitude, Blue October’s songwriting changed too. For one thing, his songs got a lot happier—which isn’t always an easy transition in rock music. “It’s hard to write about gratitude and peace” without coming across as cheesy or nerdy, he explains. “But I’ve only just tapped into it. I have so much more to write about.”

It may take a lot of hard work to be as happy as Justin is, but over several lineups in the band and eleven studio albums, Blue October have nailed down their process. After Justin and Eric Holtz, his writing partner, come up with a song, the band are given their assignments. “We’ll say ‘Okay, this day you’re coming in to do this part, and this day you’re coming in to do this part,’” says Justin. Everybody’s ideas are brought to his studio for recording, which keeps the music fresh and creative. The result: “We just write so much. The guys were like ‘Hey, can you narrow it down to maybe forty songs?’” he laughs.

That kind of songwriting volume isn’t a problem for Justin, though. It’s actually what’s fueling Blue October’s next three releases. And he won’t deprive his audiences of his newest material. “I can’t keep anything quiet,” he says. “I’ll always play my music for them, and give them little insights as to what we’re about to put out.” But long-time fans can be assured that they’ll hear songs that go way back in Blue October’s repertoire too, Justin promises. “I’ve gotta play all those, because that’s what people love. These people have been coming to see us for twenty years.”

Covering all their bases onstage is why Blue October often plays for more than two hours every night on tour. To play less, Justin says, feels like he’s cheating people out of what they paid for their tickets. “Our manager’s always like, ‘Just play for an hour and twenty minutes!’” he laughs. “But we have so many songs, how do you make everybody happy?”

As for what we can expect on March 8 at the Brown County Music Center, Justin credits his road crew for making Blue October shows a top-notch production. “We just get up and jam, but without our crew it wouldn’t be any kind of show at all.”

For more information about Blue October’s appearance at the Brown County Music Center, please contact the box office at 812-988-5323 or visit <www.browncountymusiccenter.com>.