Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 47° Partly Cloudy
A&E >  Entertainment

Nothing to be blue about as Justin Furstenfeld kicks it up a notch with Blue October

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 19, 2021

Justin Furstenfeld knows the difference a father can make. When the Blue October singer-songwriter and guitarist was 14 a generation ago, his dad insisted that Furstenfeld catch Midnight Oil.

“That concert changed my life,” Furstenfeld said on the phone from his San Marcos, California, home. “(Midnight Oil vocalist) Peter Garrett is the greatest frontman ever.”

The Smiths, the Cure and Peter Gabriel are some of the seminal recording artists Furstenfeld was privy to while growing up in Texas.

“I love each of those artists,” Furstenfeld said. “It doesn’t get any better than musicians from Britain. My dad exposed me to each of those recording artists, and it had a huge impact on me.”

Furstenfeld, 45, has taken music appreciation a step further with his daughter Blue, 14, who sings the anthemic “Fight for Love,” on Blue October’s latest album, “This Is What I Live For,” with her dad. “Blue wants to be a cheerleader and runs track, but she loves music,” Furstenfeld said. “She’s the fastest 14-year-old in her high school. She’s super charismatic, and she’s just amazing.”

Furstenfeld is justifiably proud of his daughter and “This Is What I Live For,” which is filled with stylish songs that alternate between uplifting and gloomy.

“I just wanted to make a really good album that showcased minimalism instead of stacking tracks,” Furstenfeld said. “I wanted one guitar sound as opposed to 20 different sounds. I wanted to make something like the Cure’s ‘Disintegration.’ ”

The finest moments of “This Is What I Live For” are darker, which isn’t surprising considering Furstenfeld’s musical heroes.

“This album fits my personality,” he said. “I want to make art that inspires people like the people who influenced me.”

Furstenfeld is adept at an increasingly lost art, which is confessional songwriting.

“I never understood why so many songwriters today don’t write personally,” he said.

“Why are so many contemporary songwriters writing in such a vague manner? I grew up on the Smiths, and Morrissey was always so honest. I loved that. I’ve probably gone too far writing about my divorce with such detail. I’ve lost relationships because I’ve been too honest. But a friend, (guitarist-producer) Blue Miller, once told me that once you lose that spark, that lust for life and become complacent, your art dies with it, and he was right.”

Miller, who died in 2018, is why Furstenfeld named his daughter Blue.

“People often believe I named her after my band, but that would be messed up and egotistical,” Furstenfeld said.

Furstenfeld, who’s favorite color is Kelly green; his brother, drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld; and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye, who plays violin, mandolin and the keyboard, have kept Blue October together for a quarter century.

Blue October, which will headline Friday at Knitting Factory, has had its share of hits, such as “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean,” but the old school band has always been album-oriented. “That’s what I grew up on,” Furstenfeld said. “It was about making albums, songs that connect. I’m so pleased to be in the place I’m in now.”

Furstenfeld kicked drugs nearly a decade ago. He has been sober since May 10, 2012.

“I’ll never forget that date,” Furstenfeld said. “I was a desperate person, and my life has changed so much since then. That’s why I feel the way I do. I know it’s not the usual rock ’n’ roll story.” The blunt and amusing entertainer shoots a hole in the theory that drugs and alcohol fuel creativity.

“Have you ever met a successful meth head or heroin addict? What ultimately happens to those people is they either end up in jail, in an institution or are dead. There is nothing as awful as being messed up on some horrific substances. I completely believe that the straighter you are, the better you can be as a songwriter.

“I’ve never been happier than I am now as a songwriter. I’ve experienced so much in my life that I can write about it, and I think what I do sonically is better since I’m in a good space. It’s not about living out of my ego. Those days are long gone. I realize this band would not exist if it weren’t for my bandmates who … have helped keep this group alive.”

Blue October, which also includes drummer Matt Noveskey and guitarist Will Knaak, plays on, and Furstenfeld, who is enthralled with parenthood, continues to make an impact as a father since he often takes his kids Blue, Gunnar, 9, and Sadie Belle, 5, on the road.

“The last time I brought my kids to Spokane, I brought them to the park with the big wagon (Riverfront Park),” Furstenfeld said. “I love how family-friendly Spokane is. When I tell my kids we’re going back to Spokane, they say, ‘The place with the cool waterfall.’ ‘Yes, that’s the place,’ I tell them.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.