Joshua Radin released a great new album, Here, Right Now, on October 4th, and he’s currently on the road to play the new material (plus tried ‘n true favorites); he’s in NYC tonight and tomorrow for shows at Gramercy Theatre, and he’ll be in DC at Sixth & I next Wednesday (11.6), so grab tickets! In advance of the gigs, I was able to grab a couple of minutes on the phone with him earlier this month to talk about a couple of the new tracks, about drawing on universal human experiences when songwriting, and about whether or not he believes in ghosts, because it’s almost Halloween and I couldn’t not ask. (SORRY NOT SORRY!) Internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, DL a copy of the album, and get out to any/all shows you can!
So you’re on the road right now. Is that something you typically enjoy, or do you consider yourself more of a homebody?
Well, when I’m home I’m very much a homebody, I don’t really go out much, but I do love to be on the road. A) you get to play music for people every night, and B) I love to travel. It’s sort of like two different personalities, you know? When I’m out on the road I like to go out and meet people and be social, and when I’m not on the road I’m very much a homebody.
And are you the type of person who can write on the road? Or do you try to keep that separate?
I’ve written some songs on the road before, but generally I do that off the road.
Makes sense. Now, let’s talk about the new record! What’s the timeline on that in terms of the writing and recording process? Did you know it was going to be a full-length effort?
No, I never do. [Laughs] If I’ve got a bunch of songs that I feel are a complete body of work, then I’ll put those out as an album. Who knows what’ll happen in the future. I read something the other day that only 10% of people who listen to music listen to the whole album.
It’s crazy to think about that. I’m interested to know how younger generations process that, because growing up, starting out it was either LPs or cassette tapes that we had at our house. CDs came along, but you sort of had to commit to the art of fast-forwarding or making a concerted effort to get to certain tracks via bypassing others.
Yeah, the format of the LP seems to have gone the way of the dodo. So I don’t know what I’ll do next. Maybe I’ll start releasing song by song by song. I’m not really sure.
Well let’s talk about one track in particular, “Here, Right Now”, and how you got involved with North Shore for that.
Well I got involved with North Shore Animal League America through Howard and Beth Stern. They asked me to play a benefit for them out in the Hamptons two summers ago, and it was just so much fun, I saw all the great work that that organization does, and how amazing Beth and Howard (especially Beth) have been for them. And I just figured, “Alright, let me help out,” you know? It’s always good to…you know, when you’re fortunate enough to be able to do what you love for a living, it’s almost a crime to not give back in any way you can. So when people ask me to do that sort of stuff, I love it.
It’s such a great cause, so props to you for doing that! Now, let’s also talk about “What Would You Do (Refugee Song)”; I know you’ve said before that you’re not a particularly political person, and I totally respect that, but obviously this current timeline we’re in has forced a lot of people to start takings sides on things that have become politicized. How has that been for you? What has your thought process been in terms of speaking out about things that maybe didn’t need speaking out about before?
I just write about what moves me, and usually that’s not politics. And in this case it’s not really about politics, it’s more just a human thing where I saw footage of these children being separated from their families. No matter where you stand on the immigration question, that particular action seems un-American. We’re better than that. We should be, at least.
I totally agree.
Yeah, I’m not into politics at all. I think they’re…I think until America removes money from politics, there’s no way to get anyone out from under lobbyists’ control. There just shouldn’t be money in politics. If you want politicians to actually be honest and fight for what they really believe in, you gotta take money out of it.
I completely agree with you on that, too. And obviously I want to talk about the music, and we can move on, but have you felt…I think it’s difficult now to say you’re not political. Have you felt people pushing back on you at all about that recently?
No, not at all. I’m about everybody. I try to write in universal themes, you know? I write about falling in and out of love, things we all relate to. I’ve toured for the last fifteen years, and one of the things I’ve learned is that so many people all over the world – different religions, different races, different languages, different cultures – at the end of the day, we’re all much more similar than we like to think. For some reason human beings just love to celebrate the things that divide us, but I don’t do that. Human beings are human beings. We all want food, shelter, love, comfort. You know what I mean? So those are the things that I like to write about – the things that join us all, rather than separate us.
For sure. Alright, steering back to the record, I wanted to ask you how you decided on the cover songs that are included!
They’re just two songs I’ve always loved so much that I thought I’d give them a different spin.
Cool, I really like those. And how about the collaborations that are featured on the album? Did those come about organically?
Yeah, completely! We were just like, “Hey, we’re recording this song, who’s available? Oh, these people are great! Hey, wanna come in and sing on something?” They were like, “Yeah, okay!” So yeah, super organic.
Amazing! And you’ve got the songs on the road with stops in NYC on the 29th and 30th, very close to Halloween, so I will take this opportunity to exploit that seasonal proximity and ask you if you believe in ghosts, and if so, do you have any ghost stories?
I wish I did. It’s not that I don’t believe in ghosts, I’ve just never seen one. I’m open to it. I’d like to see one, but I wouldn’t say I believe in it or don’t believe in it. I’m waiting. I’m open.
Maybe one day! Alright, and what (besides the tour) is on deck for the rest of the year?
I’ve got a bunch of new songs I’ve written, so we’ll see. I’ll go around touring and play some of the new songs and old songs, I’ll get a little break, maybe hit the studio again, record some new songs…yeah, it’s always write, record, tour, repeat, if you’re lucky. As long as I’m still lucky enough that people want to listen to my music and come see me play live, then I’ll keep doing it for them. I love it!