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On a snowy day in Toronto, Justin from Blue October takes an introspective moment to sit with mindyourmind before heading out to perform to screaming, diehard fans.We reflect on their candid DVD Argue with a Tree, that incorporates fan testimonials along with Justin’s own personal glimpses into the lyrics of his songs.
Strength and honesty are redefined throughout his music and Justin knows the value of believing in yourself and holding on…
Also, check out Fear, our short animated film, narrated by Justin Furstenfeld.
After viewing your DVD, Argue with a Tree and specifically the fan confessionals, you get a sense of just how great of an impact that you’ve made on your fans as individuals. Do you feel an additional responsibility to your fans given your ability to move and inspire them?
That’s a strange question because that’s what this is all about. I too, I wouldn’t say suffer, but I have issues with depression and bouts with a lot of things in my life so seeing them, it kind of shows me as their equal and I’m their equal and its just like a big family of people just talking and that’s the whole point of that. Y’know I don’t know if I inspire people, but if I do, God bless them, but I just do it for my own therapy and if people catch on it makes us feel less alone altogether. That’s why so many people lined up to do this confession, we could have had 30 or 40 people do that thing but we didn’t have enough time we only had 20 minutes.
It was definitely very powerful. When did you know that words would be your greatest ally and outlet through the darkest of times?
It would probably have to be when I wrote a song called Black Orchid when I was about 17. I was thinking about doing some pretty bad things to myself. And I got it out and told my mom. And she was like, we need to get you some help. And that’s when I knew how to cross that line and sing about the things I couldn’t speak about. I couldn’t just come up to you and say, you know I’m going through this but I could sing about it. And my mom understood. If you know me you’ll know that’s what I’m doing. So that’s what I was doing, ok there’s a message here and I could communicate this way.
Favourite lyric that you’ve written and why?
Boy that’s a tough one…..um… I have to say probably “I’ll be reaching for the stars with you”. That kind of thing and "who cares if no one else believes" and "I set fire to everyone around but you, but I told you I would do it and we won". I like that. Because it was stepping out, it was not asking for permission and not being that passive person and just going you know what? I’ll burn you all and get where I need to go, and I’ll reach as far as I’ll have to reach for you and that kind of thing.
Your songs are so emotionally charged and interwoven with the personal. Are there any songs that you no longer enjoy performing because of the personal connect or disconnect, whatever the case may be?
I don’t know if there are any songs like that. But I would have to say that one of the reasons I don’t play a song called “Congratulations” is because it’s a song about something from my past that would be really rough on my present if I sang that song. Somehow I’ve gotten away without singing it in the past year and a half. But you know that’s a really weird thing right there. You choose how much you want to mess with your own personal life and how much you want to give to people. And that’s always the one that’s like…. I can’t go there, not right now.
What artists inspire you?
Peter Gabriel, Idaho, The Smiths, The Cure, all types of different kinds of music. Johnny Cash, I love Johnny Cash….. gosh….. my mind always goes blank when people ask me this….. George Winston the pianist. Things like that; it’s all over the spectrum.
How does music inspire you?
It allows me just like every other person in the world when you’re going through so much stuff you just pop in a song. I actually like the song Fort Minor sings “Where’d you go, I miss you so”, I like that one a lot because it talks about being on the road. And he speaks to me in that way. I listen to that one all the time. Just being away all the time, like from your wife or whoever else. It totally, just hits home. So it does for me what it does for other people. Music makes me feel less alone. I listen to it for that reason.
Best piece of advice that you would share with someone who is feeling hopeless, lost?
If I’ve made it this far, you sure as hell can. I know it gets rough but every single day, just take it one day at a time. When it gets to that point where its too much because believe me I’ve been to that point where you’re just like, ok there’s a building and your like ok, I’ll just jump. I’m just sick of this whole life. Just go to sleep, wake up and start a new day, that type of thing. Reach out and explain what you’re feeling to other people so people will take you seriously and not just think of you as the quiet guy in the corner who they don’t understand and they say “why did he just kill himself.” Just talk about it, even if people think you’re stupid or crazy – talk about it. I talk about it every single night in front of hundreds, even thousands of people. Just know that you’re not alone and things will get better. Just chill out, go to bed, and wake up the next day and start it all over. Because everything will eventually unwind itself and you’ll realize that everything is not so serious.
mindyourmind speaks with advocates, authors, musicians, athletes and other people about their own opinions and life experiences.