Being a big fan of Blue October and Justin's songwriting for a few years, it was a real pleasure to get to meet this inspiring man and discuss topics such as touring, the band's latest album Sway and what's it been like for him writing and recording this very different record to the previous one; plus we also talked about fans - the Blue Family as well as Justin's own family and why he feels the best he's ever felt.
EVA: You're back in the UK since March 2012, when you did an acoustic tour around the country, and today you play KOKO, which is also the last show of your European/UK tour with the whole band. What's it been like for you this time around?
JUSTIN: It's doubled in size and people are reacting more. I didn't realize that so many people actually liked us over here. When we came the last time, we had like three hundred, four hundred people and now we have close to thousand, fifteen hundred people showing up. I think it goes to the new album too and it's so good to be back, I just love it here. And there are blue skies here! I'm like what? I've never heard of that before! (laughs)
EVA: The main reason of this tour is to promote your latest album Sway. What kind of reaction have you received from different audiences regarding the new tracks?
JUSTIN: Positive. I think because it's such a positive album, we've been getting a lot of good reactions. There is less sad people in the audience. Any Man In America was a really sad album and then we put Sway out, which is about hope, courage and faith and so when we're playing it on stage, that really comes through. People tend to enjoy the shows more, so yeah, they love it. Thank God! It would have sucked if they didn't like it huh? (laughs)
EVA: I have the album and it's one of my top records this year, it's amazing. I've been a fan of yours for a good while.
JUSTIN: Wow, that's very sweet of you, thank you!
EVA: No worries, it's a great record and as you said, Sway has got much more positive feel to it than the previous albums. How different has it been working on this album compared to Any Man In America?
JUSTIN: Any Man In America was a dark album. That was for my daughter and that was a hard record to do but this album was different because I had to let all that go. None of that changed since and I still don't get to see my daughter, I still get stood up every time I visit her and the courts don't do anything about it, so I had to let that go. Sway is so hopeful and it was nice to record an album and feel good about it instead of recording an album and then go and sing about such horrific things, you know. I like to sing about just how amazing it feels to be able to pray for somebody instead of hate them; and that's where I'm at today.
EVA: So what sort of feedback have you been receiving from the fans since Sway release?
JUSTIN: They've been really happy to see me happy. Lot of people were kind of worried about me and that's such a hard thing because I don't have a lot of friends. I have friends in the band and when I see the audience reacting that way it makes me feel really special. They've been happy and I like that because at the end of the last tour, they were all leaving the building sad because of the last album, and now they all leave rejuvenated and that's really nice to see.
EVA: It's good to see you happy.
JUSTIN: Thank you. That means a lot.
EVA: You guys have been together for many years...
JUSTIN: Yeah, 18 years! Wow, am I really that old?! (laughs) I am 37 years old and I feel the best I've ever felt.
EVA: Do you think you've grown as a man with this new record?
JUSTIN: Oh God yes. I stopped drinking, stopped doing anything unhealthy except smoking cigarettes and it's such a clearer life, such an amazing healthy life to be conscious of your body, your spirit, your emotions...wow, night and day. So when I did this album, yes it was much harder work but it's so much more rewarding. I did this completely in body and mind, not because I drunk a bottle of wine, smoked some weed or took some coke...not saying I ever did that. (laughs)
EVA: You've always been a very honest songwriter and Sway reflects you being in much better, happier place right now, which is amazing to see also for your fans - The Blue Family, who have been through it all with you and many of them relate to what you have written. How does it feel to have that kind of a support and reach out to so many people with your own experiences?
JUSTIN: I'm grateful. I feel like there is a reason for doing it instead of just sex, drugs and rock & roll. That's not what it's about. It's about message, hope and unity and I love that. I am not interested in bunch of naked girls out there flashing their boobs; I'd rather have someone with their kid, best friend or their love holding each other or just a bunch of friends going "Yeaaah!", totally into it. But one thing I should say is that I'm not a role model. I'm not the guy that's up there preaching. I just show people that I want to be a better person and I live my life now by doing the next right thing. And that means in everything. I always tell myself thousand times a day: Do the next right thing. That's how I live my life today.
EVA: Speaking of fans, you have released Sway with their help through pledge music. What made you take this kind of step and how has the whole process been?
JUSTIN: It's been awesome because I get to meet people at their houses, play for them while they're eating dinner, make paintings for them, write songs with them to create a writing lesson and Ryan gets to teach kids how to play violin. It's really amazing and it funded the whole album. And as a label, hey, that fucking rocks! We got all fundage for the album, all the videos, everything. Done, just by pledge.
EVA: You have put out some VIP tickets, also for the UK shows, which gives the fans an opportunity to attend the sound check, say hello, take a photo... It's great to see you're trying to give something back to the fans.
JUSTIN: I consider it just me saying 'Wow, thank you!' because they are so kind to be with us this long, especially through all that dark shit. They're still here and I just owe a lot to them, so I do whatever I can to give something back.
EVA: You all have families and such and I've seen you've been taking them along for the US tour. It surely must affect your performance in a great kind of way knowing that people dear to your heart are right there with you?
JUSTIN: Oh yes. It's the best feeling to get off the stage, get in the bus and go to sleep next to my wife. That's like the best feeling in the world. Knowing that I'll get to wake up with the kids in the morning and to rock out that night, that's pretty cool.
EVA: So when you take your family on tour, do you still have to do fatherly duties or you solemnly concentrate on the music?
JUSTIN: Oh no, fatherly duties totally. I still change diapers, take kids for a wash... That's what I love about it and that's why I take them on tour, so I can do that. Otherwise my wife would come on the road just to hang out with the kids. No. I tell her: "Go and have a beer, I'll watch the kids". I love it.
EVA: After all this constant touring, what's next for you after heading back home to the US?
JUSTIN: We tour US through December and then I fly up to try and get my daughter again, fly back and spend Christmas with my wife and my other daughter, and then in January we're back out again. I have a studio at my house so I'll probably be recording some music too.
EVA: And final question. You are one of the most established bands I have interviewed so far, as mostly I try and concentrate on new/upcoming bands and artists, so I would like to take the opportunity to ask you: Are there any words of advice you could give to these bands?
JUSTIN: Just don't stop. If you believe in yourself there is no reason you should stop what you're doing. Ever. Just keep going at it. We've been dropped, we've all been through divorces, drug addiction, hell and back but we still do it, there is no excuse. Don't be a fucking little baby, get up your ass and work. Nobody's gonna give shit to you. That's what I would say. And have fun doing it, don't take it too seriously. But you better be better than any other band.
Interview by Eva Jostakova