A Conversation With Joshua Radin

Musician To Perform At Rams Head On Stage April 3


Joshua Radin has shared stages with Ed Sheeran, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos and other respected musicians, but he is performing solo during a tour that will bring him to Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on April 3.

The Severna Park Voice caught up with Radin to ask about his new album and U.S. tour. 

SPV: Your two EPs “though the world will tell me so” were inspired by your decision to sell your home and possessions and travel to Europe following the pandemic. You’ve called it a travel diary, but from that description, it’s not just your perspective but also the musicians you have played with and people you have met along the way?

JR: That’s pretty much correct. I didn’t move to Europe, but I have been a complete nomad for two years, just with a suitcase and a guitar, so it’s a practice of minimalism really and I’ve just been all about experiences over things.

SPV Overall, many of your lyrics are upbeat and soothing throughout, but there is also a juxtaposition because there is this commentary on the world’s expectations. What were your thoughts when writing the new songs?

JR: I grew up in Cleveland and I remember as a young kid in school, I was a good student, but I was one of those kids probably annoyingly asking every teacher “why” constantly because there are always these systems and rules. When it comes to society, people are like, “This is how you should eat. This is how you should sleep. This is how you should love. This is how you should live. This is how you should travel.” I never really understood how you could clump us all in as if we are the same. So later in life, when I told my friends and family I was going to sell my house and live like a kid who just got out of high school and is taking a gap year before college, so many of my friends and family thought I was a bit crazy. But now they’re starting to see how much happier I am living this way.

I think it’s also, when you’ve spent 20 years on the road playing music, traveling everywhere and a lot of times you are in a city and then the next and the next every night, at first because I started music so late, I had to sort of acclimate to that lifestyle. Now that I have, it’s much more difficult for me to stay in one place for a long period of time because I am so used to constant stimulation. I get to start over. It’s like this tabula rasa every day of like, if I didn’t love this show that I played last night in some town, I hop on the tour bus and I fall asleep and I wake up in a new town, and I get to start all over again. And I love that clean slate. I love getting lost in places. I love walking.

Another reason I left Los Angeles, it’s not really a walking town; it’s car culture. So I really love Europe for that reason. I love having no plan. Just living in the uncertainty. Getting lost, walking around in a town all day I don’t know so well, it forces me to be open and curious with the world, and that I feel, over the last two years, has made me the best version of myself rather than getting comfortable in a house in LA and seeing just my friends. As much as I love them, I love new people. I love hearing their stories and sharing experiences that I never thought I would share with people I never thought I’d meet.

So that’s just what is keeping me inspired and keeping me writing all the time. And that’s something that I’ve noticed as I get older, and as other people age, I notice that a lot of people sort of lack curiosity and they fall into a rhythm and I just don’t want that for myself.

SPV: It sounds like you really enjoy the journey and not just the destination. And that’s interesting with your career, too, because originally you were doing some screenwriting and art and you did not always know you would be a musician?

JR: Yeah, I was curious about music. I never thought when I bought a guitar at 30 and taught myself to play that I would be a professional musician. It was really a meditative device. If I was writing a screenplay and couldn’t think of what a character might say next, I might pull out the guitar and learn a new chord or something like that and it would release me from that bind I put myself in mentally and I was open to something else.

You see it a lot. People tell me, “Do you meditate? Do you do those kinds of things?" And I’m like, “I don’t really. I found other ways to achieve what you are achieving.” I can sit down and play guitar for an hour, and I just lose myself and that’s my meditation. So it’s working for me now. I’m not saying I am going to be a nomad the rest of my life, but we’ll see. I would really like to rescue a dog, but it’s really hard to travel around with a dog. You know, nothing is ever perfect (laughs). But I am loving my life right now.

SPV: I know you have talked about not wanting to get too comfortable with your music, now with 10 albums in 18 years.

JR: And with life.

SPV: And with life.

JR: Being uncomfortable sometimes really forces you to realize things about yourself and it’s invaluable. I wish more people would do it.

SPV: Absolutely, I think there is something we could all take from that idea. Is that constant introspection and evaluation something you seek in your songwriting process as well?

JR: Most definitely. I hope that shines through in my songs. I remember the first couple albums I made years ago found quite a bit of commercial success and I was on a major label, and I was part of that machine and then right after that, it was like everyone is expecting me to do the same thing.

I went into a studio in London with an all-Danish rock band, and I was like, “Nope, let’s try electric guitar and let’s try full band,” and it was like people didn’t know what to think about it. And it wasn’t as commercially successful, that album. It made one of the labels I was on in America — I was on Columbia (Records) at the time — they were like, “This is not what we signed up for. We wanted that acoustic feel that helped you garner most of your early fans.” I said, “I totally understand that. Maybe we should just part ways amicably because I’m just the type of person who, when somebody says this is how you should do something, I immediately think, “Well I wonder if I can figure out another way to do it.”

SPV: That’s tough because I imagine there is a lot of pressure whether it’s from the label or fans who have come to appreciate your music, but then there are also fans who want to see you continue to grow and evolve.

JR: Yeah, I hope so and I think those fans who have been loyal to me and continue to show up at my shows year after year, some of them don’t even know that I have put out a new album. They just see that I’m in town and they’ll come see me, and I’m so appreciative of that kind of loyalty.

SPV: Speaking of the new album, you collaborated with Maddie Poppe on the song “Neverland,” and she is going to be part of this tour. What made her the perfect complement for that song and the tour?

JR: I just love her voice so much and I thought she did a great job on that song. We did a tour together last year and she is just really fun, and her voice is so great and she’s great onstage. She is a great touring partner, so we decided to do it again.

SPV: Your upcoming show is at Rams Head, one of those small intimate venues that you like to perform at, and you have described your shows as similar to being in a living room and telling a story. For fans who are new and unfamiliar with your music, what can they expect?

JR: That’s pretty much what the deal is when it comes to me. The next album I’m doing is going to be more full band and I’ll probably bring out a band on the road, but this is going to be super acoustic and intimate. I’ll tell stories, take requests, play a ton of old songs, maybe test out some new ones, but that’s what they can expect. I try to keep it as intimate as humanly possible.

SPV: You get to know them and they get to know you by the end of the show.

JR: Yeah, I break down that fourth wall between me and the audience. I converse with them, and I take requests and I don’t really do setlists, so every show is different and that is audience-dependent. So if a certain kind of song, I don’t get the response that I’m looking for from the audience, I’ll switch it up and call an audible, and that just leaves me so free onstage and I think the audience appreciates that or at least that is what I did on the last tour and I think they loved it.

SPV: You have had some cool career highlights, like performing at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding, playing with Ed Sheeran and some other things. Is there anything in your career that you have not done, to this point, that you would really enjoy?

JR: A million things. Where do I start? I’ve never been a big cowriter and I just started doing that recently, and it’s something I’ve been curious about and I’ve tried to be more open. I loved it. I just wrote a bunch of songs with people in Nashville. Now that I am thinking in that way, I would really love to cowrite some songs with some of my heroes. I know Paul Simon does not do that sort of thing, or Bob Dylan or Neil Young or Paul McCartney. I am not saying I imagine that is going to happen, but if you’re asking me to give you an ideal dream, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

SPV: You never know. I heard the most recent Billy Joel song came to fruition after someone shared an idea with him and that was his first song in almost 20 years.

JR: Exactly. You never know.

To learn more about the show or purchase tickets, visit www.ramsheadonstage.com/events/detail/517672.


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