Joshua Radin graced us with his musical presence almost 12 years ago, and has yet to disappoint. He first gained traction in 2004 when his song “Winter” premiered on the popular television show, “Scrubs.” We have his good friend, Zach Braff, who Radin credits as the one who discovered him to thank for this, well, him and Ellen DeGeneres. In 2008, Radin was asked by Ellen to play the song “Today” along with several more for her wedding. She praised him for his beautiful music and honest words; and although these popular endorsements helped put Radin on the map, they’re certainly not what has kept him around for now nearly 13 years without an end in site.
Joshua Radin has been the same person since he started playing guitar at the age of 30. That wasn’t a typo; he only began this venture at 30 years old. He picked up a guitar and began writing almost as therapy to help through a breakup. The rest is history. It’s almost as if it was meant to be; you can’t fight fate. From his first album We Were Here in 2006, to one of his most popular albums in 2008 Simple Times, to his live album Live from the Village in 2016 (that is as flawless as any of the six studio albums he’s recorded in his career), Joshua Radin’s soothing guitar melodies matched with the smooth rasp of his voice set him far apart from the rest.
Although some his songs hold sadness, they still always contain hope and positivity. With his positive arrangements and authentic words, a Joshua Radin song will leave you feeling happy, sad, peaceful, and hopeful all at the same time. That is a true gift. It’s this uniqueness that allows people to relate to Radin in a way they wouldn’t with other artists. He’s never tried to be anything but himself. Radin allows himself to feel to the fullest extent in order to create the best and most honest body of work. Every song he writes is a “journal entry,” that has never changed and holds true with his upcoming record as well.
Joshua Radin’s seventh studio album, The Fall (out January 27, 2017 via Glass Bead Music), stays true to his diary style of writing. However, The Fall has an even more honest aspect to it, because for the first time in his career, Radin produced the entire album on his own. This album holds so much truth. From start to finish, it takes listeners through a story of beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics that are passionate, tragic, uplifting, and everything else in-between. Make sure you check this album out, and read our exclusive interview below with the incredibly kind, thoughtful and down-to-earth Joshua Radin.
A CONVERSATION WITH JOSHUA RADIN
Atwood Magazine: Your new album, “The Fall,” is truly amazing. On par with all of your albums, it’s incredibly open and honest. What’s the story behind this one?
Joshua Radin: Well, you know it’s about my most recent relationships. In terms of writing, I just kind of live my life and then if I have something to say I write a song. They’re just like journal entries. So it’s not entirely different than any other album in that regard. Each song is a diary entry, but mostly this album feels different to me because it’s the first album I’ve produced myself. It feels a little more honest to me in terms of production. The songs are always honest and I shouldn’t say the production in last records was dishonest, but this is different.
How was producing this on your own for the first time?
Joshua Radin: There’s just something about holding the reigns yourself in the studio and not having to argue with anyone about something you hear in your head. Sometimes I would defer to other producers because they were so experienced. Sometimes they were right, but sometimes when I look back at past records I think that maybe they were incorrect – not that there’s a right or wrong, but it’s just in terms of my preference of sound.
This was a really fun record to make. I brought in my friends to make it rather than hiring studio musicians. My friends are studio musicians as well, but sometimes when you make a record you bring in people because of their name and all the amazing records they’ve played on, but a lot of times they don’t know exactly what you’re trying to achieve. When you don’t have a lot of time, it’s great to have friends in the studio. We made the whole record in 5 days.
Wow. That’s amazing. So you had your friends, and you could do what you wanted in the studio without walking on eggshells. I imagine that made this album easier to create?
Joshua Radin: It was very collaborative. I trust them; they’ve been playing music with me for years and know exactly what my preferences are. I could just say, “Here’s the song,” and the piano player or the bass player would just say, “Okay, got it. Here you go.” It was really easy.
And moving forward, for your next one, will you produce it again?
Joshua Radin: Oh man, I have no idea. It will be based on when I have a new body of work and a new collection of songs and I’m ready to make an album. I’ll make that decision then. Right now, I’m still thinking about how we’re going to play these songs live!
I love the song “Falling.” It really stands out because it’s piano based rather than guitar, which is what most of your songs are based on, why did you choose piano for this track?
Joshua Radin: It was just the feel of the song and to change it up on the album. I’ll probably end up playing it on guitar most of the time on tour… but it’s nice; I think people dig when you give them options. I think it has a really romantic feel on the piano.
Listen: “Falling” – Joshua Radin
I also love “Song for You” - it has a different feel lyrically that’s really fun, its one of those songs that you immediately want to replay after listening to hear the lyrics again and interpret them in your own way; How did you come up with this one?
Joshua Radin: I’m so glad you said that! That’s great to hear. That’s my favorite song on the record… I don’t know exactly why it’s my favorite; I just love playing it. It also encapsulates exactly where I was at that time in that relationship. If you use a metaphor for a relationship as a sinking ship; I wrote it as I was trying to decide: Do I go down with the ship or swim to shore and try to save myself?
You said that when you write songs, it’s like a journal entry for you. In fashion with a journal entry, does it usually take you not that long to write a song? Say in an afternoon as opposed to a long span of time?
Joshua Radin: A majority, I would say. I usually write the music before the lyrics. I’ll have a melody floating around in my head and I just have to get it out. And then I sort of sit with that melody and live with it in my head as I’m walking around. I’m always sort of humming it like a crazy person [laughs] and then I just wait until I have something I really want to say to someone, or sometimes even to myself, and then it [the song] just comes out.
For instance that song, “Song For You,” the “You” is her, but it’s also me. It’s both of us. It could be seen both ways. I was writing it to her, but writing it to myself and trying to figure out where I was in my head in this relationship. Sometimes if you write down a song if you get the lyrics out and you play it over and over again it’s almost like therapy… like holding up a mirror to yourself and really saying, “Alright, what is it that I really want.”
It’s me and my guitar pretty much telling stories about my life, and if you’re into that – that’s not going to change.
Do you ever find yourself writing a song and you come up with a lyric and almost surprise yourself? Almost like you didn’t realize you were feeling that way?
Joshua Radin: Yes, sometimes. Sometimes something just comes out and it sort of shocks me a little bit.
That’s what makes for a great song.
Joshua Radin: Yeah, you’re being vulnerable, and you’re making yourself vulnerable. You’re being honest, as honest as you possibly can be, and those are the kind of songs I love listening to and playing. When I talk to people after shows and talk to people over the years who listen to my records I find that the majority of them really respond to the songs that are really like, “Here, I’m bleeding for you.”
Absolutely. Do you think that’s why your songs are so timeless and your fans are so true?
Joshua Radin: Yeah, you know, people who come see me will say something like, “This is my eighth (or ninth or tenth) time seeing you.” You know, and they’ll say something like, “I don’t even really go to concerts, but whenever you come to town we get the babysitter and make a night out of it.” Maybe they fell in love to one of my songs or whatever it is, but I get a lot of those people at my shows, which is really lovely.
That’s wonderful and not surprising at all. So, when they do decide to get the babysitter and come see you, what do you think it is that keeps them coming back for the live show time and time again?
Joshua Radin: I hate it when bands and artists that I love just play the new album live. I always play a couple new songs from the album, but generally I play what people want to hear the most. They’ll keep coming back because if they enjoy the one and a half hour set that one time, it’s not going to be incredibly different next time around. They know what they’re going to get with the exception of a few new songs. My most popular songs – I play every show.
That shows you really care about your fans. That, and the fact that you are always touring, which I’m sure has led to some great fan encounters. Do you have a standout story with a fan?
Joshua Radin: Oh wow, there’s so many. I always love when I play for people and they tell me they’re in the military and they use my songs to calm down when they’re in the heat of battle or something like that. That happens a lot and that’s really humbling. I always think, wow, this little thing I wrote sitting on my couch is helping someone who is in Afghanistan protecting us, and our freedom, and my freedom to be able to do that. That’s an incredible thing when someone says thank you to me and I’m like “No, no, no, thank you for allowing me to be able to do that.” It’s also funny because sometimes it’s the biggest dude, someone you’d never expect to listen to your music, turns out he’s a real softie inside. [Laughs]
The Fall will be your 7th studio album releasing on January 27th of 2017. You’ve had such steady and successful career in an industry where that isn’t easily achieved. Why do you think you’ve been able to maintain this?
Joshua Radin: I have a very organic fan base. It’s built person by person and sort of the longer it takes to build something up, the longer it takes to tear it down. There was no overnight success – no American Idol type of thing. People who listen to that kind of music and those kinds of artists generally are just looking for the next person, and the next person, and the next – it’s about a song rather than the album or an artist. I always wanted like a 30-year career rather than a 5-year career. I do think it also has to deal with the face that I’ve never tried to be anything but myself. I don’t wear costumes, I don’t wear masks… There’s no trend. It’s me and my guitar pretty much telling stories about my life, and if you’re into that – that’s not going to change.
The Fall comes out on 1/27/2017, but you can listen to his single “Falling” now on iTunes and Spotify. Make sure to check out the tour too; time and again, Joshua Radin promises to keep you coming back for more.
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cover: Joshua Radin © 2017