Not too bad when your first full-length record gets a 4 star rating from Rolling Stone. Joshua Radin is starting to get notice with his new disc "We Were Here". The Los Angeles (by way of New York and Cleveland) singer-songwriter's Elliott Smith and Simon & Garfunkel flavored material struck a chord with friend Zach Braff, finding its way onto the TV show Scrubs. Things accelerated after his songs met with an instantly positive reaction and other shows began snapping up his material. Joshua took time out while on tour to speak with me and here's what he had to say.
antiMUSIC: Congratulations on "We Were Here". It's a terrific record that's just perfect for starting the day or decompressing at the end of the day. "Sundrenched World" is my favorite. I love the melancholy ambience of it.
Joshua Radin: Oh, thank you that was an interesting song. I just sent it to my cellist Olie in England on I-disk with just vocals and guitar. And he sent back like nine cello parts laughs. So we just took out everything but the vocal and the cello. Yeah. He did a great job. It didn't need anything else.
antiMUSIC: Tell us about the record. Is there an unifying or underlining theme at work here tying all these songs together?
Joshua Radin: It's essentially what poured out of me. But I like to think of the record as, you know, just quite a few stories about falling in and out of love.
antiMUSIC: How did the record take shape? How long have you been working on it and what are some of the songs that came out first?
Joshua Radin: The first song that came out was "Winter". Then I'm not sure about the order because it was kinda…some I just don't remember. I mean usually I get a song done and then I start working on another but um, it's just so hard to remember which came out first. I do remember that "Winter" was the first song, definitely. But I just don't remember the order of the others.
antiMUSIC: Can you talk about some of the songs? Maybe starting with "Sundrenched World"?
Joshua Radin: "Sundrenched World" was, like I said, just me on guitar and vocal and then Oliver Kraus, my cellist, was in England at the time. And I sent it to him on I-disk and about three days later, we got back 8, 9 cello parts for it that just sounded so beautifully that we decided…my producer decided just make the song cello and vocals. Then, lets see… Oli sent cello for "What if You", and "Amy's Song" and those were kinda, I'd say done a little before the others. Not in terms of writing them, but in terms of the production being done. The last one that was finished was "These Photographs" cuz it kinda had a different feel to it. It had a little percussion. It was difficult to find the right production, the right sound for a song like that on this record. I didn't want it to stand out too much but I wanted it to separate a few ideas.
antiMUSIC: "Everything'll Be Alright":
Joshua Radin: That one was, interestingly enough, was, I think the last song I wrote for the record. It was something I wrote for a show in LA and I wasn't sure actually if the song was done yet because like, it's was almost like there's no chorus, there's no bridge. It's kinda like there's four verses in a row. And I was playing around with it, I was on stage at the Hotel Café and I was like: you know I'll just play it and I'll see what the audience thinks. So I just introduced it like: "Well, I've got four verses for this song, it's not done yet." And everyone loved it. People came up to me afterwards and the music supervisors, and they were like: "You gotta record this and we'll put it on our tv show." So I figured well maybe, you know I'd heard that Bob Dylan used to do that a lot, kinda try out things, wasn't sure if they were done or not. But some times you just don't know if it's done. And then the audience kind of let me know that it was done.
antiMUSIC: That was for the Brothers and Sisters show?
Joshua Radin: Yeah, it was Brothers and Sisters, It was on One Tree Hill, it was on...actually the guy who told me to record it was the executive producer of Scrubs, who happened to be in the audience. And their season ended up being pushed, so it got used by a couple other shows before he could use it and he liked to use this kinda stuff first so it was funny. He was like: you got record that and I'll use it on my show. And a couple of other shows got to it first, unfortunately. Well, fortunately for me I guess. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Star mile?
Joshua Radin: "Star Mile" I wrote for the movie The Last Kiss. I got the script from Zach and he said, "I want you to write a song for this and see if you could do it." So I read the script and that's what came out.
antiMUSIC: Only you (the Yaz cover)?
Joshua Radin: You know, I love that song so much growing up. I remember hearing it for the first time and listening to it like 500 times. I was in some weird funk with a girl. God I just loved the melody so much. Such a simple melody, such a simple song but I love like those three, four chord songs or whatever, that just have like the most amazing melodies. I think Chris Martin is amazing at doing that to. Sometimes I'll take the simplest chords, write like a g,c,b,e minor, song or something, but the melody is so original, sort of unique, like his own, I felt like that was one of these songs. And because it has one of this real early 1960s electronica productions, I thought it was time for a comeback as more of an acoustic, you know something a little more mellow and something people could really listen to the lyrics and really enjoy the melody.
antiMUSIC: How and why did you decide to keep the record stripped down to vocals and just a minimum of instrumentation? Did the material itself dictate that or was it a conscious decision to really showcase your lyrics or voice?
Joshua Radin: It was just the production of the kinda music I love. You know I listen to a lot of Nick Drake, and when I went into the studio, I said to the producer, I listen to Pink Moon a lot. Let's see if we can channel a little bit of this 1970s production. Like really timeless lo-fi production, you know. That's what I wanted.
antiMUSIC: Is that you on the guitar on the record?
Joshua Radin: Yes, that's me.
antiMUSIC: Who else plays on it?
Joshua Radin: Oliver Krauss, for a lot of the cello. There's a bit more cello by other guys but he did the majority of the work. Chris Holmes, who produced the record, my buddy…we made it in his bedroom. He played a few things. Solomon Snyder, he played bass on all of it. Other than that, Priscilla Ahn does most of the back-up vocals -amazing voice.
antiMUSIC: I've heard that this is a re-release from what you put as an indie artist. I guess that it must a real boost to your confidence that a company as big as Sony BMG didn't get you to touch it all and put it out the way you had initially.
Joshua Radin: Yeah, about late February I put it on I-Tunes. And then in March, Sony picked it up.
antiMUSIC: I guess it must be a really good boost to your confidence for a company the size of Sony to not touch anything and just put it out the way you wanted?
Joshua Radin: They were really cool about it, they basically said, "We love what you're doing on your own. We don't want to change anything. We just want to help out. You know, just try to get the machine on board behind you and let's see what we can do." That was music to my ears as they say.
antiMUSIC: They are all your songs so obviously you care for them but is there one song off the record that you are particularly proud of or feel best represents how you want to be seen?
Joshua Radin: I don't think so. I'm not the kinda guy who's extremely prolific. I don't write like 60 songs and then pick 11 for the record. When something comes out of my I write it down and that's it. These are all like my first songs basically. It's just a personal experience. Each one is true and personal and so difficult to pick a favourite experience, you know what I mean?
antiMUSIC: I mean listening to your music, Elliott Smith comes to mind. But especially with "Star Mile", there's a lot of Simon & Garfunkle in there. Do you listen to any of those guys and do you think your influences come through in your music or this just the way your music comes out?
Joshua Radin: Yeah, they're heavy influences. I listen to them constantly. Yeah, probably…they must because I get the comparisons all the time so it's obviously coming through.
antiMUSIC: For those of us that are just starting to get acquainted with you. Tell us a bit about your background, how you got started in music and how you decided to make it your career?
Joshua Radin: Well I didn't really decide to make it my career. It was decided for me. I was writing screenplays and painting in New York. And I wrote that one song: "Winter" and I played it for Zach. And he said you should probably get that recorded somewhere. I could get it to the producers of Scrubs and maybe they'd end up using it or something. And I said: "Ah, you're crazy.I don't know how to write any songs." I mean I just wrote this one song and it just kinda came out. I didn't think about being a musician at all. It's just something I love to do…sitting around the living room playing guitar, learning covers. So finally when I had really something to say, more songs started coming out and I did get that song on Scrubs, and it kinda gave me an instant fan base. I just got really lucky. And people started writing me emails all the time, saying "Please write more music", so I did. It's kind of a weird way to go about it.
antiMUSIC: Do you have a musical background at all. Guitar lessons or whatever?
Joshua Radin: No not at all, I mean I'd been playing guitar for a couple of years. Like I said, learning Dylan and Beatles songs. I honestly never gave much thought to doing this as profession. I don't know, I didn't think I'd be able to do it. Then, all of sudden I had all this to say, I was going through a breakup with a girl, I had a bunch to say.
antiMUSIC: You received 4 stars from Rolling Stone, which is not a bad deal. Do you put much weight on reviews or is just a necessary evil to get your name out there?
Joshua Radin: Yeah, crazy, right? No, I really don't. I never read them because I feel if you take the good ones seriously, then you've got to take the bad ones seriously too. (laughs) Which I'm not willing to do. So I really don't, I really try not to read them. Sometimes my mom will forward me something. But she knows to only forward something if it's really good though. (laughs) But yeah, the Rolling Stone thing was crazy. Yeah, I was just so excited. It's hard to take something like that seriously. I know, it's like when you get a good review, it's really cool that one person thought it was really good. But it's Rolling Stone. Wow. And they called afterwards which was really cool and they said, look we just wanted you to know, we really love your record, and just so you know the only people who get five stars are like Bob Dylan and Jesus. (laughs) And they were like, so don't feel bad. And I was like: I don't feel bad. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: What was it like on the Hotel Café tour last year with Butch Walker and Imogen Heap and everybody?
Joshua Radin: I love it. It was the first time I ever got to be on the road which was awesome, especially with people like K.T. Tunstall. And Imogen Heap and Butch is such a nice guy. And this year is even more fun. It's really cool. We have Rachel Yamagata coming on so that'll be great.
antiMUSIC: That's all the questions I have for you Joshua. Was there anything else I didn't ask you that you wanted to mention?
Joshua Radin: I don't think so. You're pretty in depth.
antiMUSIC: Well, thanks a lot for taking the time for this interview and I wish you all the best with the record.
Joshua Radin: No problem. Thank you so much. Nice talking to you.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Joshua for doing this interview.