Joshua Radin is undeniably a romantic at heart. In the last decade, he’s bared his soul to the world. Ever underpinned by his gentle and breathy vocals, this American singer/songwriter has created a rich selection of expansive meditations on love and relationships.
It all started as a hobby, one which would suddenly blossom into a proper career, thanks in part to his recordings featuring on hit TV show Scrubs. But he’s eager to prevent music-making from feeling like a grind – that could stifle his creativity. With a busy touring schedule, and a penchant for releasing music as often as possible, he’s had to develop strategies to keep it all feeling carefree. “I spend most of my time on the road either looking for great locations to take photographs or scouting amazing restaurants,” he tells me. “So, then it all feels like vacation…” Radin is something of a late bloomer. Not picking up guitar until the tender age of 30, he had little intention of becoming a recording artist. His music simply offered a way to communicate his feelings to those around him. It’s this need for expression which has won him fans across the globe, it also something which completely drove last year’s album – Onward and Sideways.
After releasing five stunning albums in a mere seven years and touring relentlessly, he needed some time off to decompress and collect his thoughts a little. He couldn’t have predicted he’d then fall in love on this holiday, and through this find an enchanting new vein of inspiration. Meeting a girl, while he was staying in Stockholm, Radin decided to attract her affections through his songwriting. Later recorded in Stockholm and the Swedish capital, Onward and Sideways brings together a few of these musical love letters. “My favourite track is always a tune that you wouldn’t expect. In this case, I think it’s Song For You. Much like one of my past favourites – You Got Growin’ Up To Do – it just poured out of me in 15 minutes. That’s how I know I’m making myself as vulnerable as I possibly can be.” Released at the start of last year, its blend of folk, Americana and country once again perfectly underlines his delicate singing and vivid storytelling.
His inspirations are as you’d hope: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Drake and Van Morrison all get a mention. But Radin has very much crafted his own distinct sound which pointedly steps out from the shadows of these giants. He’s also an admirer of Sheryl Crow, who duets with him on the album’s Beautiful Day track. Previously featuring on his Wax Wings LP, it received a richer and more powerful reworking which sits perfectly with his strongest collection of songs to date. “I begin with the music and then I wait until I have something I really need to say to someone. Then I write the lyrics and fit them in to the melody.” For those who aspire to follow in his footsteps, Radin has earnest advice for the songwriting process. “Try to make yourself as vulnerable as you possibly can when writing. People relate to vulnerability.” Each of his own lyrical constructions are packed with the endless possibilities of human relationships, all covered from his own perspective. From the thrill of the chase to the devastation of the breakup, he’s unafraid to write deeply personal testaments which we can all relate to. You don’t just hear about his experiences; the listener is transported back to live through them with him.
While his songwriting covers plenty of emotional ground, most of his work examines the most basic elements of the human condition. Earnest, sweet and humble, his own life is being turned into an open book. Since his first track Winter ten years ago he’s released a catalogue of ardent and compelling music, but he’s adamant that simply maintaining a career remains his proudest achievement. “The music industry has been decimated and the fact that I can still tour all over the world and sell albums is something for which I’m so grateful.”
Joshua Radin plays St George’s Church in on Fri 2 Dec.