In Music

Justin Furstenfeld gets real Thursday night. (PHOTO: Chris Barber)

Dig dark lyrics and inspiring messages? Justin Furstenfeld is the guy

Some people listen to uplifting music when they're depressed. This makes perfect sense: you're feeling down, so why not try to cheer yourself up with uplifting songs? And yet, some of us prefer the reverse. If I'm feeling down, nothing appeals to me more than depressing lyrics – the darker the better.

Justin Furstenfeld gets this, too. Not only did he, like me, grow up on a dreary musical diet fork-fed by Morrissey and Robert Smith, but he wrote a few funereal records with his band of 20 years, Blue October, that are every bit as melancholy and comforting at the same time.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Furstenfeld brings his one-man show "An Open Book" to Turner Hall at 8 p.m. The show features storytelling, acoustic performance and is billed as "a transparent look at his life, his mistakes and his victories." I have not doubt it will be.

Even though today Furstenfeld is a half-decade sober, a dedicated husband and father and on top of his career with both his band and solo material, he continues to openly share taboo topics not to shock, rather to connect with and inspire his audience.

OnMilwaukee: What are some of your goals for 2018?

Justin Furstenfeld: I've made the record I've always wanted to make. It's simple and creative and honestly produced. So for 2018 I want to put out content that other people will find inspiring because life is very inspiring to me these days.

Do you enjoy touring?

I do. It's when I feel the most comfortable. Although I usually get to take my wife and kids with me when I'm on the road, but now my daughter is in kindergarten and can't leave school for long periods of time. My wife is amazing, though, and she totally holds it down. (Furstenfeld lives in Texas when not touring.)

How many kids do you have and do you encourage them to appreciate music?

I have three kids: two girls, ages 10 and 5 (the eldest is seemingly named after his band, "Blue") and an almost-2-year-old son. They are all so creative in their own ways. My 10-year-old is incredible and wants to be a pop star. My 5-year-old has spent so much time touring she wakes up from a nap on the bus and asks if it's time for a sound check.

Do you prefer touring with the band or when you are performing solo gigs?

They are very different. When I'm with Blue October, our schedule is so much more structured. When I'm touring solo, it's more about meditation. It's quieter, more of a spiritual tour. It's also a working tour. My engineer is in the back of the bus right now working and my videographer is editing as we speak and my tattoo artist is tattooing fans.

Being productive is extremely important to me. Staying sober, working hard and being a good husband and father.

How long have you been sober and how has it changed your writing? Your life?

Five years, 10 months I've been clean and sober. It's literally insane to me how sobriety, spirituality and clarity of the mind have turned my world around. I masked depression with drugs and alcohol and I was so incredibly selfish. I watch old interviews from before I was sober and I say, "Shut up. Just stop talking. You're so dramatic." I'm so glad to be fully present.

But your depressing stuff is some of your fans' favorites – including this fan. Do you ever feel like just letting that go to make room for only positive material?

No. I grew up on The Smiths and The Cure and Peter Gabriel. I still love to write and perform dark stuff. But now when I get off stage I make a joke. "Hey man, who tooted?" Seriously, life is too short.

Grab tickets here.


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