I was privileged to sit down recently with the rising singer/songwriter Josh Radin (We Were Here, Columbia Records) with the intention of conducting an interview with him for Emerging Music. His voice is one of those that leaves us with goosebumps and pleasure chills as his memorable songs linger on the mind after credits roll on TV shows such as Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy and films like Last Kiss. For a few moments I was the interviewer and he was the interviewee, but before you knew it we were chatting like old friends, and the warmth and beauty of this young artist lit up the room with a near magic. I wanted to share that magic with you just as it flowed and so here's the first of at least two parts of that (verbatim) exchange. I think you'll quickly see what I mean.
This is Peggy Eldridge-Love and today is October the 14th, 2006. I'm the editor of Emerging Music at Bellaonline.com and we are at the Grand Emporium in Kansas City, Missouri with singer/songwriter Josh Radin who is on the Hotel Cafι Tour and will be performing here at the Grand Emporium tonight. Josh has been kind enough to grant us an interview before tonight's show.
P: Josh, thank you so much!
J: Peggy --
P: As mentioned, you are a singer/songwriter and could you give us your full name, where you are from originally, and a little about your background.
J: Sure. My full name is Joshua Ryan Radin on the birth certificate. I'm originally from Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland. Now, a little bit about my background, let's see; I grew up in Cleveland and after high school I went to Northwestern University. I was an art major; painting and drawing, then I worked as an art teacher in Chicago after college for 7th grader inner-city youth, and then I moved to Africa, South Africa, and was teaching a film class. I was writing screenplays after that for about five years in New York and then I made the move to Los Angeles, I started writing songs almost three years ago, and I moved to Los Angeles almost two years ago, so I did some shows in New York, then moved out to L.A., found the Hotel Cafι and fell in love with the place and here I am today. That's kind of in a nutshell, I guess, a lot of stuff in between
P: Well, we'll talk about some of the stuff in between? Okay?
P: Was there a moment, an epiphany moment, either as a child or as a young adult when you knew your were going to pursue creative career directions rather than say technical, medical or legal?
J: Hum, I don't know if there was an epiphany moment, but I do know that I was
taking art classes every Saturday since the age of seven. I was giving up you
know all my friends were out playing sports and things like that, and I loved
playing sports, but something about the creative world drew me in and I was at
the Cleveland Museum of Art every Saturday from the age of seven to about
thirteen or fourteen and then I started taking private lessons every Saturday with a watercolorist in town doing sort of an apprenticeship and I always thought I'd grow up and be a painter, as a profession, but I think, you know, things change and you try different media and I found ultimately that I was able to express what I was going through personally the best way through music.
P: That's interesting. You just explained what steps you went through to prepare
for your career path. Your bio, as you just mentioned, indicated that you are both a painter and a screen writer, was it difficult, were you ever torn between the three?
J: Yeah, incredibly torn because I wasn't making money doing any of them. So,
then you wake up every morning and you are like there are three things I love
to do, which one should I focus my time on? And ultimately, music was
something I always loved. I always loved singing in the car, singing in the
shower, but I never wanted to make it a profession because I didn't want to
become jaded, and I found that I did with painting and screenwriting, but
I loved to do it and then the minute I tried to make money doing it and
support myself, I started thinking about it uncontrollably as a business
and I worked in an art gallery in Chicago for a period of time just to
kind of learn the business a little bit and I thought that would help me out,
but instead it I don't know, I think, basically that's what happened with
painting and screenwriting and then, when I picked up the guitar a few years
ago, I was going through a break-up and I was writing comedy screenplays
and I couldn't really express myself that way and the guitar, the acoustic guitar just sort of called out to me, and all these songs started pouring out. I wouldn't sit down and say 'I've got to write a song', whereas, when I was painting and screenwriting I would sit down everyday and say 'okay, I'm going to write this scene, or I'm going to paint this' so, with the music it just I had something rolling around in my head and I knew that it was cathartic for it to come out and for me to pick up this guitar and get this idea out of my head, so it would stop plaguing me at night and keeping me from sleeping, and I think that's why probably I've found more success because it was something that just came through me sort of rather that I sat down and said 'I'm going to do this.' I didn't put any pressure on myself. I didn't pick up a guitar and say 'I'm going to write these songs and I'm going to sell them' or 'I'm going to get a record deal' or anything like that or 'I'm going to play them in front of people and they're going to clap' or anything like that. It was just I've got to get this out of my head so I can go back to bed and, ah, that's how it happened for me.
P: You had to get it out of your head so you could go back to bed? Yeah I like that That's almost a song in itself.
J: I have a song that's called SUNDRENCHED WORLD and it starts out "I can't get to bed but I'm really tired" and I feel like that a lot. That was one of the first songs I wrote. The first song I wrote was called WINTER, which is on my record as well. These are all my first songs, and I started that song with this idea I kept walking around New York thinking I should know who I am by now, you know, I'm 32 years old, well at the time I was 29 ½ and about to turn 30 and I'm sitting there like kicking myself like what's wrong with you, like I should know who I am by now and finally I just wrote it down, I said, 'ah, maybe I can turn that into a song' and I kept writing and it became my first song. So that's it, things rolling around in my head that I have to get out.
P: Well, you look like you're about 20 or 21. I had no idea how old you were.
J: Thank you.
P: WINTER was the first song that kind of
J: It was the first song I ever wrote
P: And also the first one that started your commercial success? Is that correct?
J: That's a crazy thing. I feel really, really blessed and lucky. I mean, I didn't have to go through with the music a lot of my friends have been sleeping on people's floors and driving around in a van around the country for ten years trying to make it, you know. I paid my dues in other in painting and screenwriting and that sort of thing and did the starving artist thing for years and years, but then luckily, my first song, about a month after I wrote it got on this TV show SCRUBS and immediately I had this fan base in like 45 countries people writing me emails and it's crazy.
P: Did they hear it on SCRUBS and want to know what it was?
J: Yeah, and looked it up on the internet.
P: Is that right?
J: Yeah, yeah, the day after it aired I got a web site. I usually go by Josh, Josh Radin, but Josh Radin dot com was taken so I had to get JoshuaRadin.com. So, I got a web site, put up a picture of myself and my hot mail address and you could stream the song, WINTER, that had just played on the TV show and I was getting hundreds of thousands of hits to the web site just these people heard the song and were all over the internet 'where is this' 'where can I get this?' You couldn't download it. I hadn't even mixed or mastered the song. I recorded it in my friend's bedroom on his computer, just guitar and vocal, and that started it all.
J: Crazy, I know. A totally different way of going about things, but, ...
P: As an emerging artist, and for our audience at Bellaonline.com where many of
our readers are emerging artist, that's a dream come true.
J: This my life right now is a dream come true.
P: That's great.
J: I'm the luckiest guy in the world, for sure.
P: Well, one of the things you are able to do is give your real self in your music. Usually, if you have a record deal it's quite the other way. You start out having to give commercial sounds or whatever is contemporary at the time and a little bit of yourself. How has that has that been accepted well from a commercial standpoint and also, have you encountered any envy from other artist?
J: You know, that's interesting you ask that because nothing happened for me,
like in terms of success until I read Bob Dylan's book Chronicles, you know that autobiography that just came out, the Volume One came out about a year and a half, two years ago?
P: I haven't read it.
J: It's basically like his journal, anyway, I loved it. I couldn't put it down and I learned something so valuable from that. Dave Van Ronk was this, when Dylan was in Greenwich Village early on, just starting out, Dave Van Ronk was this god to him, you know, like this folk singer and not as big to him as Woodie Guthrie, but big, and he said to him, he gave him the best piece of advice he said he'd ever received was "no envy, no fear", if you want to be in this business "no envy, no fear" and I sort of read that over and over and over again and I sort of took it as a mantra, and any time I felt like envious at all or fearful, I would say it over and over again in my head and that's when everything started to happening for me.
(To be continued!)