Blue October Not Mental

Blue October frontman Justin Furstenfeld worked his share of day jobs while waiting to make his mark in music. "I was an exterminator — I killed bugs for a living, man," the 24-year-old singer, guitarist, and songwriter says. "I was a waiter, a loser, all the above."

But a stint at a mental hospital in San Marcos, Texas, became more memorable than expected. "I was working on the staff, and then I became a patient," says Furstenfield, who was diagnosed with depression and now regulates his mood with medication. "I just lost it, but it was the biggest stepping stone in my life. It slapped me in my face, made me realize who's important in my life. I got the hell out of there and started living the right way, I guess you could say."

Part of that was fully committing himself to music and Blue October, whose recently released major-label debut, Consent to Treatment, follows the 1997 successful independent release The Answer. His lyrics certainly hew toward the melancholy — his favorite band is the defunct British outfit the Smiths, after all — but Consent to Treatment also has a high-powered, anthemic quality that demonstrates creative growth to go with his changed perspective.

"I got a lot more creative and have more tools," says Furstenfeld, whose band is managed by Ann Arbor, Mich.'s Michael Rand. "My first album was pretty much depressing, really melancholy. This one is still melancholy but with more of a hopeful feel, the kind of feel you get when you're about to break down crying, and someone gives you a hug, and you go, 'OK, ah … '"