INTERVIEW: Joshua Radin Talks Cleveland, New Music

josh-radinJoshua Radin is as naturally charismatic, and organically genuine as they come. B-Sides recently interviewed the celebrated American singer-songwriter on everything from growing up in Cleveland, to the state of the music industry, to his new album, The Fall, slated for release January 27th.  Check out our conversation highlights:

On being from Cleveland and the city’s influence growing up:

“I spent my first 18 years there after high school, before moving to NYC, and I wasn’t a musician then but I spent a lot of time in Coventry (a bohemian enclave), there was a little shop called the Record Exchange where I used to go all the time. I really just became a fan of music in Cleveland, I used to go see shows a lot at Peabody’s, The Grog Shop, Going to Blossom (a large amphitheater) and seeing James Taylor, when you can have some beers and a bucket of chicken with a girl you like. All those memories of Jimmy Buffet shows with your buddies. Hopefully it would rain so you could mudslide down the hill. Most of my concert memories are from growing up in Cleveland, and it is a huge influence.”

On his first career as an artist and how that influenced his music:

“I would say I am heavily influenced by anything visual so when I write songs I’m thinking visually, so I’m trying to describe the feeling to the listener, almost like putting the listener in a movie. A lot of time I go to museums and look at paintings, which spark a lot of ideas for me when it comes to my songs. I took lessons at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a little kid, 8-9 years old, what a fantastic museum.”

On putting down the brush and picking up a guitar:

“It felt like I could express myself better using a few chords on the guitar… I could express myself more honestly then I could with a paintbrush so I switched over. It really doesn’t matter the medium, it’s just another way to express yourself. Sometimes it takes a little time, if you’re OK at something it may take a little time to work at it, but then you wonder about all these other things that you could be better at, and sometimes it just takes time to find that thing.”

On hearing, and seeing, his songs on TV:

“It was cool. “Winter” was the first song I ever wrote, and it was a demo. I just kind of fell into it, and all of a sudden people began writing to me on Myspace, back in the day, and they would say “where do we find the rest of your music?”, and I would write back to all of them, “Thanks for contacting me, but this is the only song I’ve written” so it was fans reaching out encouraging me to write more, asking me to write more. It came out of demand, and this was the first thing I had ever done creatively that the fans came to me, rather than me playing shows and trying to find an audience or trying to sell my paintings or try to sell screenplays. I was always trying to seek an audience. The audience came to me and I sort of stumbled upon something that I should focus on because of the audience is coming to you it’s a lot easier than getting in your mom’s car, trying to sleep on futons, which is what most musicians do. I got real lucky, and I’m still really lucky that people even listen, and share with their friends, come out and buy a t-shirt to keep me going, that means a lot.”

On his relationship with actor Zach Braff:

“We were friends, and went to the same University, and we became friends after college, and we were both writing screenplays, and giving each other notes. His script was the script that became Garden State, and then he saw a guitar in my apartment in New York one day, and he said “I didn’t know you played guitar”, and I said “I don’t really” but I did write this song a few weeks ago” and I played it for him, and he said “dude, you should get that recorded, and maybe Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs will use it, he’s looking for new music for the show, maybe he might use it in an episode of the show”, so I called him up and told him “I’m going to send the demo of the song”, and they said “ya, ya sure you’re a musician”, and three weeks later he calls and said “I love the song, it works perfectly in this episode that we were trying to find a song for”, and that sort of started it off.”

On hearing, and seeing, a song originally written for something else becoming part of a narrative for a TV show:

“Well, that’s how it always is, I never write songs for movies or TV shows, they just end up using them. It’s great, it’s great exposure, and the money’s cool. I don’t really pay attention to it, because it’s supposed to complement the scene its being using for, not dominate the scene. Because my vocals are so hushed and whispery, it could be one of the reasons why they keep getting used in that sort of setting.”

On how the music industry has changed since his first record:

“Everything was changing; the internet was changing how to receive music. You just gotta roll with it. Any musician is going to tell you they wished that more people would buy albums, but you can’t put Pandora’s lid back onto the box, so you hope that people keep listening to your music, sharing it, loving it, and experiencing it, having it help them in certain parts of their life. People have told me that my music has helped them through a difficult time and that’s what keeps me going. Even though the money becomes less, I still can afford a nice life by writing and playing music so for that I will always feel fortunate. I think most musicians if they were real artists would pay people to listen to their music. It’s not about the money; if there was no money I would still do it.”

On not currently signed to  a label:

“I like not being on a label, but I like being in control of my career and putting out music when I want to. The kind of music I want, and not having too many cooks in the kitchen to tell me that “this has to have more drums”, or that “this has to be more radio friendly”. I did that, and it’s just so frustrating working with people like that, that just want it to sell. It is a business, so I just put out songs that I write, and if people like them great…and if they don’t… don’t listen… I’m just having a good time doing it.”

On self-producing his new record:

“It went so quickly. I made the whole record inside of 5 days… fastest I have ever made an album. Really because I was at the helm and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I did a lot of pre-production on my own, sitting on my couch thinking, playing the songs over and over again and thinking… What kind of beat do I want on this one? What type of instrumentation do I want on this one? Is there going to be vocal harmonies? So that by the time I went into the studio, I was with my buddies, and we just banged it out. It felt real organic and natural, which is the way I like to record, not sit in a studio for a month and a half and try to make everything sound perfect with computers. It takes all the human element out of it.”

“I had to be the boss. I had to tell everyone that lunch break was over. It was a great time, and I did it with my friends. We know each other so well and have played so much music over the years, and have toured together, sometimes we really didn’t have to look at each other, just kind of play something and the bass part comes in exactly just right where I wanted it to come in before I could tell him. And I hope people can hear that in the album. I hear it, but you never know if others will. You just put it out and hope.”

On touring with Good Old War:

“They opened for me four or five years ago, so I thought I would bring them out again. I think they are so good and write such good songs, and every time that they opened for me, I actually watch every single one of their sets, which is not very common for me on tour.”

On keeping his energy up while on tour:

“It’s exhausting. I don’t go out late every night, I don’t really party much on the road. Its work, and I’m with my buddies, but I get a lot of sleep on a tour bus. You sleep over night while the bus is driving, you wake up in the next town, it’s almost like there is very little travel, cause you wake up the next day in the next town, so it’s really nice. Driving is a different thing, it’s very exhausting, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a tour bus, you’re really lucky.”

One record you can’t live without: Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Current record on your turntable: Nick Drake – Bryter Lyter

Current favorite musicians: The Arcade Fire – the best live show around,

First concert you ever went to: My mom took me to see New Edition when I was 6 years old at the Front Row Theater; my next concert my parents took me too was the Jackson 5 – Victory Tour at Cleveland Stadium

First concert you went to see with your own money: Steve Miller at the Ohio Theater, my parents dropped me off with a buddy of mine

First record you bought with your own money: Michael Jackson’s Thriller on vinyl, it was such a cool vinyl too. It was yellow. I bought some special edition; I wish I still had it.

What is the band you would pay anything to see live: The Beatles – they were the best band ever, I would want to see them in my own circumstances – Not is Shea Stadium where the girls were screaming so loud they couldn’t even hear themselves, I would want the Beatles reincarnated and play in my living room. . Virtual reality concerts are not far away

On what to expect from Joshua Radin in the coming months:

“Going back to Europe to play some December shows, I’ll come back home and spend the holidays with my family, and then start writing again. I’ll try to get as much written before I go back on tour and The Fall comes out on January, 27th. I go on tour in support of the record in March or April. Who knows, I can do whatever I want, we will wait and see…”

Joshua Radin Tour Dates
11/1 Higher Ground Burlington, VT
11/2 Wilbur Theater Boston, MA
11/3 Theater of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA
11/5 Irving Plaza New York, NY
11/6 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
11/8 Thalia Hall Chicago, IL
11/9 Majestic Theater Madison, WI
11/11 Fox Theatre Boulder, CO
11/13 The Fillmore San Francisco, CA
11/24 Galileo Madrid, Spain
11/26 Foyer del Liceu Barcelona, Spain
11/27 A38 Budapest, Hungary
11/28 Circolo Arci Bellezza Milan, Italy
11/30 Tramshed Cardiff, Wales
12/1 Glee Nottingham, UK
12/2 St. Georges Brighton, UK
12/3 Open Norwich, UK
12/5 Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, Scotland

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