Joshua Radin on Chicago, Songwriting, and Record Labels

Joshua Radin Interview

Josh Radin House of blues 2

It felt like a homecoming when Joshua Radin stepped on stage Thursday night at the Chicago House of Blues.

Known as a confessional singer/songwriter whose music has appeared on notable TV shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Brothers and Sisters,” little do people know that Radin was involved in the Chicago music scene, not as a participant, but as a supporter.

“I used to go down to the Elbow Room a lot and my friend was in a band called Bumpus,” Radin said while sitting on a large leather couch in an upstairs room in the House of Blues.

joshradinhouseofblues4.jpgHis friend, singer/songwriter Rachel Yamagata was among the talented Northwestern alumni Radin surrounded himself which also included Andrew Bird and “Scrubs” star Zach Braff. Radin majored in painting and drawing and even taught middle school art for awhile in Chicago before moving to New York to be a screen writer.

“None of my friends knew I sang or anything it was kind of a private thing I guess,” Radin said. “I liked to sing in the shower and stuff. My mom always told me…she was like, ‘Why don’t you do music you have a beautiful voice’ and I was like yeah, you’re my mom you’re supposed to say that.”

It was not until 2004 that Radin wrote his first song entitled “Winter” which with the help of Braff appeared on “Scrubs” three weeks later.

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“And then sort of after that I was like, you know what, I kind of like this,” Radin recalled while holding a tap beer in his hand. “That was the first time I was really able to express myself fully using that medium rather than the others I had been trying before so I just kind of focused and said, alright I’m going to put all of my creative energy into this.”

A good thing for fans. After his debut on “Scrubs,” the world wanted more of Radin’s folk rock music that featured all too real lyrics and a whispering vocal.

“They kept asking, ‘Where can we buy your record’ and I was like, I’ve only written one song,” Radin said laughing, who was 30-years-old at the time.

He eventually got more songs on his Myspace page and ended up recording his first CD, “We Were Here” in a bedroom with a friend. Columbia Records picked it up as is.

That was 2006. Two years later, Radin found himself battling with record producers over what sort of album he should release. Radin, wanted his sophomore CD entitled “Simple Times” to remain his. However, the record company differed.

joshradinhouseofblues3.jpg“They said, ‘Yeah we love this record but it’s missing that big top 40 single for the radio’ and I was like, yeah I know, I don’t write those kinds of songs. I especially don’t write songs for a radio format. I don’t even listen to the radio,” Radin said adding that they wanted him to sell a million records. “I was like, who sells a million records these days? Like Pink, Beyonce, Britney Spears…that’s not the same genre.”

Radin ended up giving Columbia Records their money back and finding an indie label called Mom and Pop Records that had just started in New York. He was their first artist. He signed a deal that splits all costs and profits 50/50. The difference, Radin has complete control over his music.

“My creative output is a lot more important to me,” Radin said who not only paints, draws, sings and writes songs but would also like to write fiction. “I’d love to write a novel some day but that’s like the lifelong dream.”

Radin is famously known for his confessional song writing which is apparent when he discusses his romance life saying, “There’s only two ex-girlfriends so all the songs are pretty much about them.”

He frequently mentioned his last ex-girlfriend, singer/songwriter Schuyler Fisk, during his concert. Well known for their duet, “Paperweight” which was featured on “The Last Kiss” soundtrack, Fisk met Radin on Myspace when both artists were first starting off and a fan of each other’s music. Fisk ended up touring with Radin and singing back up harmony for his songs.

However, don’t expect Radin to perform “Paperweight” which serves as a reminder of his two year romance with Fisk.

joshradinhouseofblues1.jpg“She was like, ‘Let’s write a song together’ and so I strummed the chords and I had hummed the whole melody into her computer and the next day she had lyrics for it. And the lyrics are about me,” Radin said. “We had just started dating and so I don’t do that song anymore because it feels weird to sing a song on stage when the lyrics are written by my ex-girlfriend about me.”

For fans of the duo, the lyrics to most of the songs in “Simple Times” are about Fisk and ends on a hopeful note with the song “You’ve Got Growin’ Up to Do” which features one of Radin’s favorite singer/songwriters Patty Griffin and explains how maybe one day they can be together again, a dream come true for fans of their collaborations.

Radin’s third CD will no doubt be an all truthful account of his life. His show in Chicago previewed many of his new songs which possess more of a rock and roll vibe; he will start recording after his tour ends in February.

“I guess my style’s been formed…it’s ever changing, ever evolving based on what I’m listening to and the kind of music that I love. I’ve been on a big Tom petty kick recently so some of the new stuff is definitely influenced by Petty,” Radin said.

He will continue to perform and preview his new music in Europe and Australia before heading back to the United States where the tour ends.
“We haven’t been to Australia yet and those are like thousand seaters that are sold out already so I’m assuming they’re going to be going nuts,” Radin said.

Now 35, only a ripe 5 years have passed since Radin wrote his first song and friended his first fans on Myspace which ultimately led to his international success, yet Radin remains grounded despite the pressure of being a recording artist. “I don’t sit down and try to write a song. I don’t know how to do that. I walk around, live my life and every now and then inspiration strikes.”

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