Meeting Justin Furstenfeld: Our Blue October Adventure
My Knight and I recently went on another adventure, and this one had nothing to do with flash floods or dog poop. This one was all about our favorite band, Blue October. Blue October has been “our band” since soon after we started dating. We have gone to great lengths to make every show they’ve played in our town, even cutting our trip to Paris a day short to make a show at the House of Blues. I normally pick my music for the day depending on what kind of mood I am in, but I can literally listen to them every day no matter what mood I am in. People always ask what kind of music they play, and they play such a wide range of music that I can’t explain it in just one word like rock or pop. They have upbeat, happy, sing it to the top-of-your-lungs in the car songs. They have sad, gut-wrenching, my-heart-is-broken-and-the-world-is-gray songs. They have angry, raging, I’m-pissed-off-and-I-really-want-to-hit-something songs. They have drums, and guitars, and a violin, and a lead singer who can scream, or rap, or sing the softest ballad. He is the main thing that draws us to Blue October—him and his lyrics. Justin Furstenfeld is an incredible storyteller. As a writer, I am in awe of his ability to communicate. To convey his thoughts, his feelings, and his experiences so openly and so unveiled. And then to set them to music in such a way that even the ugliest and angriest of experiences is told in a beautiful and moving way. He weaves a tapestry of his life in threads of music and lyrics so raw, so colorful, and so open that you feel as though you know him after listening to him sing. People connect with him because of that. We connect with him because of that. My Knight has quite a lot in common with Justin, and he has said quite often that Justin expresses exactly what he is thinking or feeling, or what he has thought or felt, but could never figure out how to put into words. A few years ago for our anniversary, My Knight carefully chose pieces of Justin’s lyrics from several songs and had a graphic artist in our family lay out the lyrics in a framed design. They were Justin’s words that applied to his life, but his words were able to say things My Knight couldn’t, and he used them to write a love letter to me. I feel like I understand My Knight through listening to Justin. Because of their similarities and Justin’s willingness to share his story, I have a different perspective that allows me some level of understanding My Knight. So when I heard that Justin had published a book of his lyrics with his notes and thoughts in the margins, of course I purchased that for My Knight. And when I heard that Justin was doing a Meet and Greet along with an acoustic solo tour with the book, I wanted to buy tickets for My Knight’s birthday, but he was coming nowhere near Orlando. I scoured the internet for deals, dates, and times that would work and ended up getting us to Nashville. We would fly up, land in time for lunch and hotel check-in, see the show, and fly back out the next morning. A quick but exciting adventure. On the flight, we talked at length about all the things we would like to say to Justin. I wanted to tell him how much I admired his writing and his ability to be vulnerable with his audience. I wanted to thank him for allowing me a window into My Knight’s mind and what he at times feels or thinks or goes through. I wanted to let him know that he has touched our lives and that we are rooting for him to have success in life, in business, and in relationships. That we support him fully and whole-heartedly and can’t wait to hear what he has to say (sing) next. We talked about making sure we didn’t come across like stalkers that had flown across three states just to meet him. We didn’t want to be crazed fans. We just wanted him to know we really enjoy what he does, his words mean a lot to us, and we want him to keep writing. It didn’t exactly go down like I planned. We had snagged great seats right next to the stage. We were giddy like kids on Christmas Eve waiting for him to come out. He came out for a sound check, and I have to admit, I was a bit starstruck. I have seen him several times on stage, but always from far away. But there he was. RIGHT THERE. SITTING RIGHT THERE. I know all his songs. All the words. I listen to them every week, sometimes every day. I wake up reading them in My Knight’s love letter on my wall every morning. And THERE HE WAS. I looked around the room at the other people who had paid money to “meet” and “greet” Justin, and I thought to myself what an odd situation that must be for him. All these people feel like they know him, like they get him, are connected to him. And he doesn’t know them from Adam. I mean, I’m sure he appreciates them (us) all being there. The band goes out of their way to find ways to connect with their fans and to show their appreciation. And it’s how he makes a living, so he is probably happy that people are willing to pay money to see him perform, and then above and beyond that pay extra just to meet him. But it ain’t like he knows us like we feel we know him. And it ain’t like we REALLY know him. We know his songs. His words. What he chooses to share. We’re not friends of his or real people in his real life. As my little psycho brain was processing all that and trying at the same time to focus on what Justin was saying, My Knight leaned over with the biggest grin on his face and the brightest twinkling in his eyes and said, “This is kind of surreal, isn’t it? He’s right there sitting in front of us.” Indeed it was surreal. After the sound check, they lined us up to meet Justin and get an autograph. As we waited in line with all the other people who thought they knew him too, I practiced in my head what I wanted to say. You know, so I didn’t come across all crazy-fan and looney. Then as the gentleman in front of me was stepping away, Justin said to him, “I’ll be praying for you, dawg.” And he looked at the departing man with such a sad look of concern that I, of course, immediately wondered what was wrong with the man, and thought how nice that was of Justin to be concerned, and oh, how nice that he will pray for him, and oh, how cool, he called him dawg, and oh my Lord, Justin is looking at me and waiting and I haven’t said a word. “We flew all the way from Orlando just to see you.” Yep. That’s what came out of my mouth. Crazed stalker fan statement. Nothing that I had rehearsed or carefully planned. And my turn was done. My moment was gone. He had thanked me and was asking My Knight how to spell his niece’s name for her autographed poster. We walked away and I was so bummed. Our time to meet Justin, to thank him, to express to him our gratitude and support--and I had totally flubbed it. Now he would never know. We were just two of thousands of faces before him. (Not that I thought any grand speech on my part would have made him ask us to dinner, but still. I wanted to say more than WE FLEW FROM ORLANDO TO SEE YOU.) As we stood in the next line to take a photo with Justin, My Knight and I discussed our lame attempts at conversation with him moments before, and we determined that we would be less nervous and say more when we posed for the picture with him. I was thinking to myself how awkward this whole process must be for him, to meet all these people, to have to smile and pretend you are happy to see them when you don’t even know them, and to show interest in whatever speeches they have prepared to share with you. I get that it’s a necessary part of living in the public eye, and I get that he appreciates his fans, but I still think there has to be days when he doesn’t want all these people to pretend they know him and he’d rather be back in the bus with his wife and baby. And with that on my mind, I stepped into place between my husband and my very favorite singer, whom I had flown across three states to meet and express my gratitude for. And what came out of my mouth was, “Do you ever get weirded out touching all these strangers for photos?” That was it. My one chance to speak with him in person, and that’s what I said. So, ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t get to say all that stuff I wanted to say to Justin. I didn’t get to tell him how nice we both thought he was, how friendly and humble and welcoming. That the acoustic set he did that night, sharing his story and his life, was an incredible show, and worth every penny and effort it took to get to Nashville for one night. I didn’t get to tell him how much we admired his honesty and his humor at that show, and how much we applaud his efforts. I didn’t get to say how happy we are for where he is in life right now, or how much in common we have with him and his wife, or how much we look forward to the new album. So I'll say it here. Thank you Justin. We love you, not in that crazy stalker fan way, but in that crazy you-don't-know-us but we-feel-like-we-know-you way. Keep on doing what you're doing and we'll keep coming back!