Back in 2001, when they were still a “local band” I spent an hour interviewing Blue October for an article in my college newspaper. Then, I used my Kanye-esque powers to make them famous. OK, not really. But it was a unique opportunity to pick the brain of the frontman Justin Furstenfeld and learn about their music, its connection to mental illness, and what they planned to do with their fame, if they ever made it.
And make it they did. They’ve had a few radio hits “Calling You” and “Hate Me,” but what I find most remarkable about Blue October is the way their lyrics unabashedly confront the darkness of mental illness. Justin has bipolar disorder and a love/hate relationship with drugs. His recovery story isn’t linear. His struggle is real and he makes you feel that.
Blue October’s first big album “Consent to Treatment” has songs about not so trendy topics like staying in a mental hospital in “HRSA” and what it feels like to be psychotic and paranoid in “Schizophrenia.” With each album that followed, at least half of the songs are about mental illness and addiction.
Of course, Blue October isn’t the only rock band to tackle mental illness (see David Bowie and Lou Reed), but two decades in, they are still turning what most people would consider their most private moments into music. “Hate Me” begins with with a voicemail from Justin’s mom checking in to make sure he’s taking his medication.
Whether you like their sound or not, It’s important for voices like Justin's to rise to the top of the charts so that “depressed and lonely” people will also feel heard.