I have known Josh Johnson since 1985. We grew up together in Fort Payne, Alabama and graduated high school there in 1999.
One of my earlier memories in life was when his mom picked us up from Mother’s Day Out preschool and we went to his house to play.
He’s one of those people I’ve always known and have been connected to; without even meaning to or even trying. I was just always in his life and he was just always in mine: Like the concept of a “constant”, as explained in the famous TV show, Lost.
So it wasn’t random that during Class Night, which is an official celebration a few days before high school graduation, my mom snapped a photo of us together. After all, we knew each other since before Kindergarten.
The next time I would see him would be a year and a half later, randomly at the local Mexican restaurant, Mi Casita, the summer before I transferred from community college to the university where got my degree in Virginia.
And then… twenty years would pass.
This year, my wife and I had planned our first ever “vacation without the kids” for June, in Florida… but Covid Culture messed up that plan.
So we decided to move our plans to Denver in September.
I’m not exactly sure why I knew or remembered that Josh ended up in the Denver area, but somehow that knowledge was still in my head.
Though he hasn’t logged into Facebook in years, I was able to track him down (it makes sense, as I am a recruiter for a living) and let him know about our upcoming trip.
And as the picture above proves, last Saturday, he and I reunited after 20 years; since the year 2000.
What we both probably imagined would be maybe an hour, there at Navah Coffee House, ended up being 4 hours instead! We had so much to talk about- the only reason we left after only 4 hours was because my wife and I needed to catch our flight back to Nashville.
I think something that has become apparent at this point in our lives, is that we are forever connected. Some people you just can’t shake off.
And I’m pretty sure that next time, it won’t be another 20 years this time before we see other again.
Earlier this week I revealed the top 5 highlights of my 2019 in review: one of those is that my wife and I have been releasing songs that I have written. While I have published them on YouTube and shared them on Facebook, I have yet to really talk about the how and the why of it.
So here’s the story…
My wife and I both moved to Nashville to pursue music careers; she arrived in 2004 and I showed up in 2005. We met in 2006, starting dating in 2007, and got married in 2008.
Since then, my wife earned her Master’s Degree (2009), we had a son (2010), we become debt-free other than our mortgage (2013), we moved into a brand-new houses in the suburbs (2015), and we had a daughter (2016).
And then, my employer of 12 years shut down my branch, releasing about 40 people at the same time; giving us a 2 weeks’ severance pay and a hand shake.
For the next 6 months, while being a stay-at-home dad, I spent any free time I had on writing songs, and eventually releasing my newest song on YouTube, in 2018.
“Maybe It’s a Dream” is an autobiographical song exploring the concept of how “removed” from the human experience I felt after I started living my life with the knowledge that being offended or disrespected is always my own choice. It was me realizing how much of my time, energy, and emotions had been wasted on letting the free world affect my emotions, when it was my decision every single time.
Shortly after releasing that song, my 6 month stint as a stay-at-home dad/blogger/YouTuber ended when I gained employment at a Fortune 500 company; where I have been employed for more than a year and a half now.
That led to new inspiration for writing songs, as it ushered in my “existential crisis of 2019”.
My salary nearly doubled, putting my wife and me in a situation where we could finally start building our retirement. We are very grateful for all the help with investments, thanks to Charles Schwab.
This caused me to have to re-evaluate my identity, as I found myself at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid; no longer triggered by the fear or anxiety of money, or even my own emotions.
Therefore, I started coming to terms with my existential crisis (some would call it a midlife crisis); as I had basically reached all of my life goals before the age of 40.
My next song, written just a couple of months ago, would be called “Tripping on Existence”; which was my way of sorting out my experience. I found that going through an existential crisis at a younger age put me in a situation where few people I knew could relate; which only intensified my feeling of floating in the universe like Tony Stark in the trailer for Avengers Endgame.
There had been other songs I had written during my 6 months of unemployment, but that didn’t get released due to me getting a job.
One was called “Fort Payne, Alabama”; another autobiographical song addressing the paradox of how my hometown undeniably helped form my identity, yet ultimately prepared me to move away after college and live my own life in the next state over in Tennessee.
So after releasing that year-and-half year old song, I decided I wanted to include my wife on my final leftover song from 2018: “We’re Gonna Leave in the Morning”.
It was a song I written, fantasizing about being able to just “up and go” on a road trip to anywhere; just she and I.
This is a fantasy because we haven’t gone on a fun road trip without the kids, since… we had kids.
I finally got to show off my wife’s singing in one of my songs. I was so proud to share her with the world.
It is truly a song about us; written from my perspective. It is my version of a love song. A love song when you’ve been married for over a decade, have 2 kids, and live in the suburbs.
During the time we were rehearsing that song, I casually wrote a song called “The Meaning of Life”. We decided to record that as well; the song was barely a week old when we published it.
The song was me exploring the irony in that none of us asked to be born, yet it is up to us to determine individually what the meaning of life is, though we have no idea how long our lives will be.
My next couple of songs, which I determined I wanted us to record on that same night; were complete opposites in mood:
The loud and upbeat “(Subtitles) I Dare You Not to Fall in Love with Me” would serve as our very first true duet together; as the autobiographical song explores what was really going through our minds on the night we met: October 5th, 2006.
Meanwhile, the somber and reflective “You Won’t Remember My Name” was written to remind the listener how the default is often to arbitrarily make perceived enemies of the people on the other side of the political fence.
The last song of 2019 that my wife and I recorded is a cover of Patty Griffin’s “Long Ride Home”; imagining the regrets of a man at his wife’s funeral, after they had been married for 40 years.
This one was special because it served as my wife’s first solo of all the songs we performed together. I simply played guitar on this one, as I wanted to only showcase her amazing ability to sing.
I currently have 3 more originals that I have been practicing; likely to be released in January 2020.
There is the somewhat novelty Country tune, “Jeep Wrangler Theme Song”, explaining the micro-culture of Jeep Wrangler owners, along with our Jeep wave.
Another loud and fun song is “I Feel Like You Want Me to Care”, which points out the power (and humor) of refusing to give emotional control to others when they are eager to take it from you.
And lastly, I have an alternative rock power ballad (?) called “Shotgun”, addressing the ridiculously dangerous risk and gamble that two young people make when they choose to marry each other, for better or worse.
My wife and I both moved to Nashville a long time ago to pursue music. Could we have been doing this all along? Maybe.
But I don’t think it could have been this genuine, this mature, or this good.
We had to live more of our lives together first. We needed more life experience first. We needed to get to the point where we were financially set so we psychologically free to create and perform in the way we can now.
Ultimately, the gate opened as a side-effect of us choosing to cancel our Netflix subscription back in May of this year. That was what created the time and space for us to focus on these songs.
Our music is what happens when Netflix is out of the picture. That’s pretty interesting, actually.
Despite moving to the Nashville area over 14 years ago, I had never been to see a show at the legendary Ryman Auditorium.
Fortunately, my wife was able to score some free tickets to not just any show, but Jason Isbell!
I first became familiar with his music back a few years ago when I was heavy into reviewing cars here on my website. Whatever the vehicle they gave me to drive for a week, it always came with SiriusXM.
About half the time, I would keep it on an Alternative Rock station, for myself; and for the other half, I would have it on a Country station, for my wife.
Jason Isbell consistently appeared on both types of stations.
The first song I ever heard of his was Alabama Pines. It naturally caught my attention, as I quickly learned he and I are from the same home state and are about the same age.
Jason Isbell is one of the few modern musicians that my wife and I can agree on 100%. My wife describes him as Americana. I describe him as what good Country Music should sound like.
No obligatory mentions of pick-up trucks and girls wearing their boyfriends’ t-shirts.
Instead, he sings about life and death that make you feel like you’re both alive and dying at the same time.
My wife and I couldn’t have enjoyed the show anymore than we did.
I am convinced that our going to see Jason Isbell perform at the Ryman will be a milestone memory of our shared lives together.