HOUSTON – Justin Furstenfeld, the lead singer behind Houston-based rock band Blue October, has battled depression and addiction for most of his adult life. Furstenfeld has sold millions of albums and singles, toured the world, and entered and survived a downward spiral that should have killed him. He sits down with Courtney Zavala to discuss his new documentary Get Back Up, which chronicles the band’s struggles with substance abuse, mental health, subsequent treatment and recovery.
CZ: You talk about how your parents recognized your passion for the arts and wanted you to go to Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. That was a pivotal point for you, right?
JF: That was a huge point for me, because my parents could have said. “What’s up with this weirdo? What’s up with the way this kid thinks darker? Why does he feel so much? Why does he fall in love with everything he meets?” I was just a very sensitive little boy but as I was growing up they really truly saw when I sang them a song about depression and suicidal thoughts at age 14, my mom said, “Maybe we should listen? And, this is good because now we’re getting to find out what’s really going on in his heart. Justin, Keep writing. We’re going to help you. We’re going to put you through a school so you can blossom, and you can shine with this.” That was the best thing that ever could have happened to me was have my Dad and my mom love me the way that they did.
CZ: This documentary allowed you to “peel the onion” layer by layer and really show what you went through over the years. At 14 did you know this was depression?
JF: I knew something was up because I was also a cutter. I was cutting on myself and burning myself so I knew something wasn’t right. That’s just not right, you know? Nothing happened to me as a kid that was like “Oh my god, there’s some crazy stuff in his life.” It was just a chemical imbalance. As I got older things hit harder and a little cutting started happening and some burning and then these songs came out and I knew something was not right. But a part of me embraced it because I felt so much, I’ve always been just this over passionate, bi-polar, manic, in love with love. And so, if it didn’t go my way it would just crush me. But, I’m just super glad I had this outlet as a young child.
CZ: The documentary is called Get Back Up and I think so many of us can relate to that. It’s not how you fall it’s how you get up. In the documentary you said “My head was darker and my heart was much, much, bigger” and I think that just describes you right? What do you think this documentary is doing not only for your fans but those who are struggling with these inner demons, with the depression?
JF: What I wanted to do with this documentary was very simple. I had people that showed me a way to recovery and showed me a way to sobriety. It showed me a way to God. It showed me a way to a beautiful life that I can’t tell you how much I love it. I love my life. I love waking up every day and just being like, 'I have a wife that loves me, I have children that are healthy and How did this happen?’ Well it happened because of recovery, it happened because someone showed me how to do it. So, I wanted to take the chance to make a documentary strictly for the people that were looking for a solution.
Blue October’s forthcoming 10th studio album This Is What I Live For is set to be released in September. Their documentary Get Back Up is available for purchase or rental here.