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Joshua Radin: His "Sundrenched World"
By Brandon Judell
Columbia Records has a new star in the making in Joshua Radin. Yes, watching this striking brunet rehearse at Joe's Pub for his set later that night, you can only wish you were the guitar he was strumming. Afterwards, interviewing him in the intimate Manhattan performance spot's lobby, staring into his piercing brown eyes and watching those gentle lips move, you can only wish to be with him or be him, depending on your persuasion.
As for his music, think back to when you first heard James Taylor or Cat Stevens. Yes, his songs caress and probe and always seduce with that much faculty. And who else would write a tune ("These Photographs") that channels Sylvia Plath, Simone Beauvoir and Mary Cassat to describe the object of his affections?
Then there's the autobiographical "Sundrenched World" about a dying East-Village relationship with a femme fatale:
it's all been said once before
when we fucked around on your bedroom floor
i'm talking to you, but you're not listening
i don't know what to do, my hands are blistering
writing this song
tell me i belong
You belong, Joshua. You belong.
BJ: I first came across your name on iTunes. Mandy Moore recommended your music. I then went and listened, and after a few bars, I was hooked. I can't remember that effect on me since possibly Cat Stevens, Elton John, or James Taylor.
JR: Thanks a lot. They're certainly good songwriters.
BJ: So are you surprised about the reactions you're getting? Now, you just started playing the guitar about four years ago.
JR: About five.
BJ: Are you taken aback that you are having this effect on people?
JR: I'm shocked. I've always loved to sing. In the shower. In the car. You know growing up. But I guess I never thought I had enough to say. Never thought that I would get on stage and say it to people. You know, in my own voice.
When I was writing screenplays, I always thought about things scenically. As a painter. Visually. And I loved writing. So I figured screenwriting would really be a nice for me. I guess it was just easier for me to express other people's voices in scripts, and sort of put myself in other . . .you know, have another take. Another view. And then as I got older, I guess the more you learn about the world and the more you learn about yourself, or the more you learn that you know nothing, and you know nothing about yourself really, I started to realize from the people around me that that was a pretty common theme. That no one really knows themselves. I guess when I started realizing that, I figured, "Alright! Then I can sort of put that into my lyrics, into my songs, and people might relate to it."
I played my first song which was "Winter"--that I wrote about 2-1/2 years ago--and I played it for a couple of friends, and they loved it. I didn't expect that reaction. And the more and more I started playing for people, the more and more they started asking for more music. So it just evolved from being a hobby that I would do kind of sitting on the couch late at night to something that . . . It really came out of a demand really than a fire in me that said, "I need to get this out to the world."
And then after about a year of doing it, I just fell in love with it so much, and then that fire started to come, and then I started to write better songs because I felt like I was affecting people with my art for the time. And that's such a powerful feeling that you just get completely addicted to it.
BJ: Are you going to miss these intimate little places as your audiences grow?
JR: Well, I'll never give them up. I mean Joe's Pub and the Hotel Café in L.A. are my two favorite places to play.
BJ: Your fans might cause riots.
JR: I love when artists, who do fill up a stadium, do a secret show at a smaller place. I will always love seeing that. I think everyone would love to see their favorite artist in a small, intimate place rather than in a big place.
BJ: When I was first researching you on the Internet, there was no bio up. In fact, your info cupboard was bare. That's all changing quickly. Soon folks will know everything thing there is to know about you, like your favorite color. Like whether you have a pet or not.
JR: (Laughs) It's so bizarre.
BJ: There's now a celebrity-spotting site where people can write in, "I just saw Josh Radin five minutes ago at . . ." Are you worried about that?
JR: No, I have nothing to hide. I do like my privacy. I would hope that I still get to keep it.
BJ: Tough luck!
JR: (Laughs) It's one of the tradeoffs I guess when you get to do what you love and get paid a lot of money.
BJ: It is tradeoff, and it's fun in the beginning.
JR: You know I always think that when you see celebrities who complain so much about the media or who complain about people wanting their autograph or taking a photo or something, it's like that's a really small price to pay for getting up every morning and being able to do what you love to do and living a nice lifestyle, and being able to send my kids to college just because I'm writing some songs. I mean I'm willing to sacrifice a little bit for that.
BJ: What are you reading right now?
JR: I'm in the middle of some short stories by Hesse.
BJ: Good old Hermann. I just taught Demian.
JR: Really. It's a great book. The Glass Bead Game is one of my favorite books ever. Actually, I've named my publishing company Glass Bead Music.
BJ: I named my first feline Sinclair after a character in Demian. But before we part, somewhere it's noted that your favorite directors are Bergman, Truffaut, and Rossellini.
JR: Wood Allen is my tops.
BJ: So do you have a sly sense of humor?
JR: I don't know. You have to ask someone else about that. (Laughs)
BJ: Does anyone laugh at a joke when you tell it?
JR: I guess. Sure. All the scripts I was writing were comedies.
BJ: Have any been picked up?
JR: I optioned two of them, and neither got made. That was what so frustrating about that business, that you need so many people to come onboard to get a film made. By comparison, making music was just amazing. I could write a song, play it into a microphone, and do protocols on my computer, and put it up on the Internet, and it's out there. And people respond, and they send it to someone, and they send it to someone, and it's just me. It's amazing. Like an individual effort.
BJ: Are you going to bare-chested with girls and spangles in your music videos?
JR: No. No. No. The concept is extremely simple, Just me and my guitar.
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006
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