Blue October has been playing and recording for almost 20 years, and frontman Justin Furstenfeld has been writing songs for just as long. The band just released their seventh album, ‘Sway,’ and Furstenfeld talked with Music Radar about the band’s new direction and how his stripped-down approach to playing guitar has affected the new album’s sound.

Blue October’s previous album, ‘Any Man in America,’ was dark and moody, being heavily influenced by Furstenfeld’s failed marriage and custody battle for his daughter. He said ‘Sway’ is about “the light at the end of the tunnel,” and the new album reflects that with a more upbeat feel. “The main rule for me when we cut it was, not one song can be about how hard Justin has it. I've done that," said the songwriter. How much more can you beat a dead horse, you know?" He originally wrote over 60 songs for the album, but he trimmed the number of tracks down to a more reasonable 13.

Furstenfeld said he stripped down his guitar rig for this album. In the past, the singer employed many different effects, such as wahs, reverbs and phasers. For ‘Sway,’ the singer said he just used a Vox amp with a Tube Screamer and delay pedal. “And doing that actually makes me look at my playing and work on my chops -- I can't hide behind so much stuff anymore," said the frontman.

As for guitars, he said he has a Telecaster and a Jaguar that he likes. Both of them are 1990s; he said he can’t afford the vintage models, and even if he could, he’d probably mess them up somehow. But his main guitar is his 1996 Ibanez AS 80 NT hollow body. “It has the best clean tone I've ever heard, but if you want to get wild with feedback, it's there,” said Furdenfeld. “The thing's amazing -- so responsive.”

Blue October is playing a handful of free in-store performances at several Barnes & Noble book stores. Then they hit the road for their U.S. tour. For tour dates and band news, check out their website.