INTERVIEW: Joshua Radin
He's the whisper-soaked troubadour whose ethereal melodies and innate storytelling has seen him capture hearts and significant traction since he first picked up the guitar at 30 years of age, and singer-songwriter Joshua Radin has certainly kept himself busy since dipping his toes and mesmerising voice into the music world back in 2004. Practically catapulting on a freight train into the scene, Joshua's breakout moments read like a fantasy, featuring heavily in on the soundtrack for good friend Zach Braff's TV series 'Scrubs' and having Ellen Degeneres request him to perform his divine track 'Today' at her 2008 wedding.
But it's little wonder why this wistful and winsome artist found his feet so naturally: Joshua is part of that rare breed of musician who balances natural talent with authenticity. He isn't flashy, he isn't boastful and he certainly knows his way around a song. But more than that, he brings his genuine self to everything he does, whether it's serenading with his honeyed rasp or changing the lives of children who don't have access to music education.
And now Aussie fans can catch a glimpse of Joshua's infamously intimate live shows when he heads our way in May - but before all that, Joshua took a few moments to chat touring, creativity and letting life take you where you need to go.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Joshua, so great to talk to you today, thank you so much for your time. I've been a big fan from way back, I have to admit that straight up.
JOSHUA RADIN: Oh thank you! (laughs) That makes this conversation so much easier.
TIANA: Already off to a good start, I like it! Where am I chatting to you today?
JOSHUA: I am out in Malibu, California!
TIANA: Well that sounds a bit delightful. It's raining in Sydney today, but hopefully the weather will fine up by May when you head out here for your massive Australian tour! There seems to be a bit of a love affair between you and Australia, this won't be the first time you head out this way...
JOSHUA: No, I've been out to tour in Australia maybe five times or something like that now? I love it there, I can't wait! And this time I'm giving myself a little more time to spend hanging out seeing your beautiful country after the shows are over, so I'm really excited.
TIANA: That's an awesome plan! And again given that this isn't your first time coming out here, what are some of the things you love about touring Australia?
JOSHUA: Yeah, well let's see...I love the sushi in Melbourne, I love snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, I love taking a boat out on Sydney harbour...in general, I really love the landscape, it reminds me a lot of California. And I love the people, the people are just so chill and so nice. Everyone is so kind, and I think that maybe 75% of the kindness comes from the fact that they know it takes so long to get there (laughs). So they're so appreciative of people who come to Australia, so you're almost winning before you even step off the plane!
TIANA: It's true, anytime there's a tour announcement we're always ecstatic that people are willing to travel all this way for us! Speaking of touring, your live shows are quite well known both here and obviously overseas...and your music always tends to lend itself to some deeply personal and honest themes. What I always find interesting about that is witnessing your live stuff online or in person is how in this age of iPhones and social media somehow you manage to get what a lot of artists spend their entire lives trying to attain: undivided attention. What do you think it is about your music and your performance that allows this unique and special connection with your audiences?
JOSHUA: I think my guess would be that my songs are so much about the lyrics, and because my voice is pretty whispery I think that a lot of people...in order to hear the lyrics, they have to be quiet and listen to what I'm playing! So I would guess that's it!
TIANA: I've seen a live video of yours where you could have heard a pin drop, which I have barely experienced in my life, so it's something pretty special.
JOSHUA: Yeah I do love that, it's amazing the power you feel onstage when an entire room is dead quiet and they're just hanging on your every word. The adrenaline rush is absolutely....I don't even know the word! It's mesmerising for me. And I feel so appreciative that I've garnered a fan-base after 14 years of doing this where people are still coming out to the shows and still wanting to hear so many old songs that I wrote. And then still wanting to hear new ones, which I will be playing when I come to Australia. I've been writing quite a bit this last month so I'm really excited to audition some new songs for my Australian fans.
TIANA: Now I know you're currently in Malibu, but you're actually an Ohio native, a state that's generated its fair share of music royalty over the years...it's slightly mind-blowing, you're amongst the likes of Dean Martin, Bootsy Collins, John Legend - even Marilyn Manson! Quite a mix coming out of there, including yourself...
JOSHUA: Yeah! And The Black Keys, Joseph Arthur! A lot of people come out of Ohio, it's a good breeding ground for artists.
TIANA: Growing up in Ohio, and you yourself having quite a diverse cultural heritage under your belt...what kind of music did you grow up listening to in those really early days?
JOSHUA: I would say most of my influences came from the radio of my parent's car, like the olden stations...a lot of Motown, a lot of old soul music like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding...you know, amazing voices, amazing songs, amazing instrumentation. And we've lost a lot of that, I feel, in the last few decades in popular music. But I really feel like it's such a classic sound and I don't think it'll ever go away.
TIANA: I agree, and younger people are still listening to and discovering that sort of music, so as much as we've lost it, it's inspiring to know it's still on the radar, we're very lucky!
JOSHUA: Yeah, I still talk to kids who are like 13 or 14 or 15 and they're still listening to Dylan and Paul Simon and Cat Stevens and James Taylor and Nick Drake, Neil Young...you know, the classic stuff that I grew up on and that's always so welcome to hear because in a world of DJs sometimes organically created music can be lost so easily. And I just feel like it's almost my job to just keep it going.
TIANA: Well you've done an exceptional job so far, and myself and many others are so happy that you continue to do so.
JOSHUA: (laughs) Thank you. Thank you so much.
TIANA: I know you've spoken about this at length in the past, you only picked up the guitar at the age of 30, and obviously following that you had quite a breakout moment in the industry...but what about in terms of singing, was that something you always had played around with and just picked up around the same time as the guitar more professionally?
JOSHUA: Well, I always just sang in the shower or the car! And just always loved it but never really thought I could be a musician, I didn't play any instruments, I was just singing along with songs in the car! And then somehow one day I just learned a few chords on the guitar as a meditative thing really, not to "become" a professional musician. And it just felt so natural, and I started being able to express myself more honestly using the guitar and using songwriting than I could writing screenplays or painting. Yeah...it just felt more natural, it felt like home just doing it - and I'm glad I did!
TIANA: I think we all are! But I might just keep my singing restricted to the car, I won't be taking my singing out on the road anytime soon, I'll leave that up to you.
JOSHUA: You never know! You never know. Maybe I'll be interviewing you one day (laughs).
TIANA: If that happens I definitely owe you many beers! Now prior to picking up the guitar you were obviously involved in the art world, studying art at university...do you think if you didn't fall into this music world you would be working as an artist today professionally?
JOSHUA: It's tough to say, I think in terms of painting and screenwriting, they were both things that I was doing creatively to express myself, and I was seeking an audience and I was having a difficult time finding an audience. But when I started playing music, the audience sort of found me! So it was one of those things where I just thought "ok, maybe this is the universe telling me this is what I should be doing". So I just put all my eggs in that basket and just started writing songs and haven't looked back!
TIANA: It's pretty amazing sometimes how the universe or life can be quite forceful, sometimes you just have to go with it don't you.
JOSHUA: Yeah! I've found that you just have to stay open. Not just any human being, but especially creative people, you have to just live your life honestly and have truthful experiences and it's sort of like...depending on which medium you're using in terms of how to express it, but whichever one seems to be the one that most people can relate to or they gravitate towards - that may be the one that you should be doing! And that's what I decided to do.
TIANA: Your music obviously has some beautiful moments, some bittersweet moments, it's often very honest and raw...is it ever daunting to so publicly journey through some pretty personal emotions and experiences?
JOSHUA: It is, it is very much! But that's the rush I get. If my songs weren't honest, I wouldn't feel the desire to keep travelling around and playing them for people and writing these songs because these are sentiments that I feel I need to get out or I won't be able to sleep at night!
TIANA: It's that universal creative frustration, and it's always so amazing to find that outlet where you can just get it all out there.
JOSHUA: Yeah, and it's so nice when people respond to them because I think a good song is a song that makes a lot of people feel like they're not alone in the world. Especially the person writing it!
TIANA: And to things up - looking back, your career has been quite an illustrious one in seemingly a short space of time, I know it probably didn't feel as quick at the time. But if you could go back to those early days and do anything different....would you do anything differently?
JOSHUA: Oh god, I think about that all the time! I like the stage where I'm at right now...but of course there's always things you look back on. Maybe when I started I should've been a little more forthcoming and accepting in terms of record labels, in terms of their notes and the way we went about putting my music out. There's always little things you think about like "oh, maybe I should've listened to him or her"...but if you love where you're at in the present then it's really hard to have any regrets about anything because every moment led me to this, the exact moment where I'm standing right now. So I guess that's as honest as I can be, but not many major regrets that's for sure!
TIANA: Like we spoke about earlier, I'm a big believer that you always end up where you're meant to, yourself included and that's culminating in you coming out to Australia in May, so it's a very positive outcome!
TIANA: Thanks so much for your time today, and we shall see you out here in a few months!
JOSHUA: I appreciate it so much, and thank you so much for taking the time and spreading my music out there on the other side of the world!
JOSHUA RADIN WILL BE HITTING OUR SHORES IN MAY
FOR TICKET INFO HEAD TO: https://metropolistouring.com/tours/joshua-radin/
FOR ALL OTHER INFO HEAD TO: http://www.joshuaradin.com/
THANKS JOSH FOR BEING THE SOUNDCHECK'S 200th ARTICLE - PEACE, LOVE AND ROCK&ROLL x
BY TIANA SPETER