On Saturday, August 17, Joshua Radin returns to the Stephen Talkhouse for his yearly concert, which happens to be his sole gig of the summer.
We recently caught up with the Sirius XM favorite (he’s co-headlining the SiriusXM’s Coffee House fall tour with The Weepies) to learn why he decided to take a brief vacation interlude to headline in the Hamptons, his biggest concert pet peeve, new album, and more.
You’ve turned into a summer Talkhouse staple – two years ago you performed there for a SiriusXM Coffee House presented concert and last year for Beth Stern’s benefit. So will this be your third time at the Talkhouse then?
JR: Maybe fourth. I took a vacation for the past few months, my first long, long break in about 15 years of touring. I haven’t been playing any shows, just waiting for the album release in October and that tour. But I was like, how do I not play in the Hamptons in the summer? I’ve taken the whole summer off. This is my only show. It’s been really nice to be able to sit and read and write.
What brings you back year after year?
JR: Well, I mean, obviously it’s in the Hamptons – a great place to be in the summer. And I tried to make it a bit of a tradition over the last few years. I always love playing the show anywhere, but when you’re walking around between the show and soundcheck, and you have this time off wherever you’re playing… you’re like, well, it’s the Hamptons. Might as well be in the most beautiful place in America. But, also that venue itself is just so intimate and it’s such a cool vibe and the people that run it are so cool and nice. This year, my mom and uncle and aunt are coming out and spending the weekend. So, we’re gonna have a great time.
Last year you performed at Beth Stern’s North Shore Animal League Talkhouse benefit. How did that friendship come to be?
JR: A few summers ago, I was out in the Hamptons to visit some friends who had rented a place out there. They’re friends with Beth and Howard [Stern] and it was actually pretty funny. They invited my friends over to their house for dinner and I was with them and my friends called them and said, “Our friend Josh Radin is hanging with us this weekend. Do you mind if he comes to dinner?” And they’re like, yeah, sure, no problem. I’m thinking, okay, well, I’m a plus one… I hope it’s not awkward. We walk in the door and Beth gives me this big hug and she’s like, I’m such a fan of your music. We play it all the time in the house. Then we were like, immediately buddies. We had the most lovely dinner and it’s really great because she and Howard have so many cats running around the house that it was like being in the most beautiful zoo I’ve ever seen. We just became friends and the next summer, she was putting on her benefit for North Shore Animal League at the Talkhouse, and she asked if I would come play, and I said, of course. We all got to hang out again and have dinner at their house. I played some music for her guests and it was just the most fun time and we raised a bunch of money for charity.
So, she got me involved with the North Shore Animal League. I just think it’s such a great organization, that when I decided to write a new album, the first song it’s called Here, Right Now, and that’s also the name of the album. I figured it would be cool to make a video which was a call to action video for North Shore Animal League. So, this song is benefiting that charity. It’s just cool that she got me involved.
Now, tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the rest of the album?
JR: It’s really an album that I wanted to write about, as cliché as it’s become, the idea of being present and living in the moment. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. I always had sort of anxiety about the future and it really, to my detriment, caused a lot of me missing out on what was going on in my life because I was always worried about what was going to happen next. That’s where that song comes from, Here, Right Now – just not worrying about where you’ve come from or where you’re going, just enjoying being in the moment. That was sort of when I thought about that idea, writing an album that sort of deals with that.
How would you say that your sound has changed or evolved over the years?
JR: I don’t know if it’s really changed that much. I’ve always just set out to write songs that are just very personal and intimate. They’re better journal entries set to music. I’ve always felt like my favorite songs are ones where the artists make themselves as vulnerable as possible – because that’s what I relate to. I did that with the first song I ever wrote, which was called Winter and people responded to it. I just thought, okay, well, I’m gonna keep doing that. I mean, sure, little production changes here and there and albums and songs, new instruments, but generally, it’s pretty much just me. I try to make it very personal and it’s also really cool because people have asked me a lot over the years, have you ever had any crazy fan experiences? I think that the musicians I’ve talked to that have these crazy stories, I’m always fascinated by them because I’ve never really had that. I think because I write so personally, the people that listen to my music and come to hear me play, generally, are very akin to me. Everyone I’ve ever met in 15 years have been just the loveliest people.
And growing up, were there any musicians that you connected with on that level where they felt very relatable?
JR: Yeah, of course. My parents raised me on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Carol Kane, Joni Mitchell, classic sort of artists who write their own material, play their own instruments. When I go to concerts, that’s what draws me to go out and leave my house to go see someone play. Someone that I feel like when they’re singing their songs, playing their songs, I’m like, okay, I believe that.
After attempting to break into screenwriting, you kind of fell into songwriting as your first song, Winter, was featured on Scrubs. At that point in time, did you see yourself making a career out of it?
JR: Oh, no, definitely not. I started playing guitar while writing screenplays as a sort of meditative device, when I couldn’t think of what a character was going to say, or I was stuck somewhere. I’d pick up the guitar and learn a new chord and just strum away and get out of my own head. It always helped me, and then about six months into learning a couple of cover songs by Dylan and The Beatles and Paul Simon, I felt like I’ve learned enough chords to write my own song. So I wrote that song Winter and like three weeks later it was featured in Scrubs and I got so many responses that I just felt like this was the first time I had ever done something creatively where the audience came to me – rather than me seeking out an audience. I used to be a painter and then I went into screenwriting and I was always seeking an audience.
This was the first thing I ever did that the audience came to me. I felt like why run away from it? Also, that first song I wrote, I just felt like I had expressed myself more honestly in a three minute song than I did in any of the six screenplays I’ve written or the paintings I painted. It was incredibly cathartic. I thought, wow, I guess this is what I should be doing.
You’re one of the most licensed artists ever, with your songs feature in more than 150 TV shows, commercials and films. Is there one or a few that stand out?
JR: Well, that first one, because it sort of was like, I can’t believe this is happening. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t really watched most of the stuff that have used my songs, because when it first started happening, I realized once you put a song out into the world, it’s sort of like, you never know what’s going to happen. People cut it up in certain ways, and they might take the bridge, make it a chorus. That started happening and it frustrated me a little bit, but not too much. I was so happy for the exposure. That’s how people have found out about me over the years. So I was like, well, okay, I’m just going to let them keep doing that. But, you spend all this time working on a song that was like ripping your veins open, and then you’d see it in a TV show, and it’d be right when your favorite part comes on of the song and some dialogue from a character in the show would be talking over it, and you’d be like, yeah, I don’t want to watch this.
Will the concert at the Talkhouse feature some of your new songs?
JR: Yeah, I always like to play sort of an amalgam of the eight albums – when I play live. It’s really easy to figure out what people want to hear most from the eight albums because you can look on Spotify or iTunes and see which songs have been streamed or downloaded the most. So, coming up with a setlist isn’t that difficult. I always pepper in a few ones that maybe aren’t in that list because I love them. When I release the new album, I’ve always made it a practice to try out a few new songs from the album, but it’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I go see a concert for a band or artist that I love and they just play the new album and none of the songs you really want to hear, maybe like two or three at the end. It just seems a little too self-indulgent when people do that, and I understand you’re promoting a new album and you’re excited about playing new songs. I totally get that, but I can do that in my living room – I can play new songs. So, I actually take three or four from a new album that I like to play the most, that are my favorites, and I’ll play those and then the rest of the show will be songs that I know people are coming to hear.
Tickets to Joshua Radin at the Talkhouse are $60 and the concert begins at 7 p.m.
Stephen Talkhouse is located at in Amangansett. For tickets, visit stephentalkhouse.com.