The lyrics of songs on the new album by Blue October, a million-selling Texas band whose music is too finely molded and elegant for a conventional rock ’n’ roll tag, reveal singer-songwriter Justin Furstenfeld’s newfound serenity.
He is sorrowful no more.
“I sat at the back of the line for years,” Furstenfeld confesses in “Angels In Everything,” song No. 3 on “Sway,” the seventh studio album from Blue October.
“Until an angel walked in through my door,” he sings. “She said I’m here to show you faith and to help you when you fall.”
Further into the album, Furstenfeld sings of being free from fear.
“All my life, been running from a pain in me, a feeling I don’t understand. … Today I don’t have to fall apart, I don’t have to be afraid.”
Interviewed by phone from Blue October’s home base in San Marcos, Furstenfeld said: “Most, if not all, of our other albums were about my personal struggles. The songs centered around a lot of anguish, a lot of turmoil.”
The singer’s perspective changed during the past two years.
“I was sick of always having this cloud over me,” he said. “And sick of it always showing up in my music that way.”
With “Sway,” released last week, the singer turns outward.
“This new album represents what I’ve always wanted to say, but I never had the peace to do it,” Furstenfeld said. “I didn’t want this album to be about me, me, me. I wanted it to be about the people who helped me change, the confidence that you get from living life to the fullest and recognizing miracles all around you every day.”
Furstenfeld credits the band members’ families for helping them find brighter days.
“We’ve weeded out the negative people in our lives,” he said. “We focus on the people who are healthy for us. We don’t need more drama in our lives.
“My wife, she’s my better half,” he added. “She keeps me humble. She reminds me every day that I don’t need to put up a front to be accepted. I’m good enough as I am. I love that about her.”
Even though songs on the band’s new album represent light at the end of a tunnel — something the band searched for throughout its previous albums — Furstenfeld said he’ll keep singing his older, sorrowful songs.
“They’re beautiful songs, and they’re all like little children to me,” he said. “When you’re telling the story, you have to tell the bad to get to the good. I’ll never turn my back on those songs.”
“Sway,” recorded in San Marcos at Southwest Texas University’s Fire Station Studios, is an album of spatial resonance and orchestral grace. Sonically, it suggests the classic prog-rock of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and that British band’s offshoot, Mike + the Mechanics.
Furstenfeld’s vocals sound a bit British, too. Obviously, Blue October doesn’t fit the Lone Star State’s singer-songwriter-roots-rock-and-country thing, even though the band formed in Houston in 1996.
“Sometimes people think we’re from the U.K. or New York,” an amused Furstenfeld said. “But we’re definitely Texas boys. Wherever we go, the U.K., Russia, Japan, we bring our Texas flag and hang it behind the stage. We love being Texans.”
Texas, of course, is next to Louisiana. Furstenfeld is thrilled that Blue October’s 46-city international tour, which includes Russia, the Ukraine, Germany and the U.K., opens in New Orleans. The band’s Wednesday show at House of Blues is one of the music chain’s nationwide series of 20th anniversary events.
“Every time we go to New Orleans we always sell out,” Furstenfeld said. “Everybody there has got such passion. We thrive on that.”