Justin Upshaw

Show Review: Justin Upshaw at Redbird Listening Room

Show Reviews

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, singer-songwriter Justin Upshaw filled one of the finest listening rooms in the Southwest.

The Redbird Listening Room has built a name over the past two years hosting performances by Ray Wylie Hubbard, Chris Knight, Bill Hearne, Willis Alan Ramsey and other notable songwriters.

“Howdy,” Upshaw said as he raised the microphone. “I’m six-foot-foot five, two hundred and eighteen pounds and I have a giant mole on my back.”

It’s a common ice breaker told by Upshaw, who was joined by his wife Emily, lead vocalist for their acoustic duo Colton’s Kin, and their three boys as he showed off the event poster.

“I said ‘hey Hunter come to the backyard. Here’s my iPhone. I’m going to look left and look right and lean up against this shed, and I knew he had a trigger for a finger, so he took about sixty two pictures in ten seconds,” Upshaw said. “I started going through them and said ‘I can pick one of those. That was a lot easier than what I did the year before.”

Upshaw’s children also played a role in choosing the set list for the evening.

“I took some Advil earlier this afternoon,” Upshaw said, “and I didn’t realize it was Advil P.M. It was about an hour ago so forgive me. It’s going to be hard to keep the energy level up here.”

It’s one of the many moments where you’re taken on a ride by Upshaw as it was all in jest. The moments of humor fill the room with laughter and provide a moment of relief. Upshaw has a way of really pulling on your heart strings as the stories told in his music are about deep connections and finding the beauty in life through the trials and loss we experience.

Justin Upshaw

Justin Upshaw performs at the Redbird Listening Room. Photo by Andrew Blanton.

Upshaw introduced “Rollercoasters” with a story about his son’s first big ride at a theme park.

“I was like ‘hey Hunter we’re going to be going down that drop right there,’” Upshaw said, “and he just looked at me and was like ‘no! Stop the rollercoaster Dad’…. That intro has nothing to do with this song.”

The song takes the listener on a journey about love and moments of hesitation. The set list chronicled events in Upshaw’s life throughout the past twenty years. His honesty cuts deep into the listener as he sings about lost love.

“I must confess that I’ve done my best,” Upshaw sang as his wife shed tears in the front row. “I’ve laid it all down to rest, and the hardest part of a broken heart is your memory that is haunting me. So can you tell me darling, where the sun shines today?”

Upshaw voiced his love for his wife and talked about how bright the sun is shining for him today. His ability to keep the mood light through so many emotional memories is what makes his performance so compelling.

“I’m convinced that if Chuck Norris had a show here, he himself would be nervous,” Upshaw said. The Redbird Listening Room has a way of really making the artist feel vulnerable under the lights. The audience can show great respect through moments of silence, something that can add pressure at times to even the most seasoned performer.

The tears came out strong with “How Precious is this Life,” a song about an elderly neighbor.

“You get one chance and this life passes us by, and there’s no re-do’s,” Upshaw said as he gave some of his testimony and spoke about friends that have passed away. “It’s really rang true to me turning forty.”

Justin Upshaw

Justin Upshaw performs at the Redbird Listening Room. Photo by Andrew Blanton.

A box of tissues was passed around and Upshaw told a few jokes to bring us out of the moment.

“If you don’t like my mustache, mullet, sideburns, pomade and aviators,” Upshaw sang about a style phase he embraced a few years ago, “you can mosey on your way. Have a great day. ‘Cus I don’t do too well with haters.”

It’s a hit among the fellow songwriters that make the pilgrimage to New Braunfels every week.

“I’m going to be an advocate for this place,” Upshaw said. “I make a priority on Thursday nights to come up here… my wife loves me for that. This place is truly unique and Thursday nights are just the same because you get a smorgasbord of songwriters that come up here and each have a story. I’ve seen people pour out emotions.”

There’s some really deep subjects weaved throughout the songs in the hour-long performance, stories that reach the depths of darkness we face and the moments of joy that pull us back to the light. Upshaw shows his humility in the songs and many of these words are better left on the stage.

“That second to last line was just to see if you were listening,” Upshaw said as the crowd laughed. His dedication to songwriting is clear for everyone attending, and his openness to love those around him is what creates such a beautiful show. Upshaw puts family and friends above himself and each song is a testament to his humility.

You can find Upshaw performing with Colton’s Kin: https://coltonskinmusic.com/













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