Joshua Radin: music for Garden State fans

by Beacon Staff • November 1, 2006

Not one of those

good-handshake-and-a-plastic-smile nice guys you see all too often when they've been beaten and brazened by celebrity.

Radin is the genuine, sit-down-relax-is-there-anything-I-can-do-for-you? kind of nice guy, and his laid-back, folksy music represents his demeanor.,Josh Radin is a nice guy.

Not one of those

good-handshake-and-a-plastic-smile nice guys you see all too often when they've been beaten and brazened by celebrity.

Radin is the genuine, sit-down-relax-is-there-anything-I-can-do-for-you? kind of nice guy, and his laid-back, folksy music represents his demeanor.

But maybe this happenstance rock star isn't jaded enough yet.

After all, the 32- year-old Radin just spent about the last decade of his life having, you know, real problems.

"I'd optioned a couple of scripts, neither had gotten made," he said, leaning back so his head touches the cushion of a Paradise Rock Club green room sofa. "I'd done the starving artist thing. I've paid my dues."

And the four years he spent at Northwestern University studying art and dabbling in film?

"I was an art major and I barely went to class. But I had this one professor; one day he sat us down and said, 'I'm going to show you some of my work.' And all this guy did was paint curtains, so that's all we ever did-paint curtains," said Radin, a 1996 graduate. "That's when I figured out that I'm not gonna learn much in that class."

So, less than two years ago, just after a nasty breakup, instead of being bitter and cursing Hollywood or his ex, Radin picked up a guitar and started writing songs.

"I write songs visually," said Radin. "I put the TV on mute. It helped-it helps-alleviate the pressure of what I'm doing. I'm free to express myself. Writing songs is more cathartic for me; I'm laying in bed, I can't get too sleep, I just have to get it out."

And out of his first sleepless songwriting session came "Winter," a soft-spoken coming of age tune about Radin's omnipresent situation of not knowing what he wants do with his life.

Thankfully, when he showed off the song to a couple of friends, they knew immediately what Radin should be doing.

"He said to me, 'You should be doing this for a living,'" Radin said.

That "he" is Zach Braff, the critically acclaimed writer/director/actor of Garden State. Braff went to Northwestern at the same time as Radin and they rediscovered each other just a few years ago in Los Angeles.

"Actually, the best experience I got from college were from my friends," Radin said. "I had a lot of friends and they were all so talented."

Braff may not be the most talented of Radin's friends, but he's at the very least the most well-connected.

After Braff's handpicked Garden State soundtrack won an Oscar for Best Soundtrack, he was allowed to compile the soundtrack for his latest movie The Last Kiss. Braff thought Radin's "Closer" was the perfect pick.

"[Braff] has been amazing," says Radin. "He's so supportive to me."

Capitol Records heard the buzz and snatched him up. A couple of months ago, Radin had the video for "Closer" produced by Braff.

And, now, about a year and a half removed from obscurity, Radin is on the mix CD of every trendy college student. He's headlining the nationwide Hotel Cafe tour with veterans the Weepies and Cary Brothers. He fills up the Paradise Rock Club in Allston and quiets it with the first two notes of his delicate "Sundrenched World." He charms and sets himself apart with a lullaby ("Everything'll Be Alright"), and becomes one in the crowd when he leads a chorus in a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecelia."

And the rows upon rows of borderline of-age girls that genuflect every time he opens his mouth? He'll talk to every one of them that asks.

He still cares when those same girls line up to tell him how much his music means to them. He all too humanly, maybe too willingly, accepts an offer to get a drink after the show from one of them. And he somehow, throughout it all, remains modest.

"I'm not at the top yet," he said, unfettering his plain gray tee shirt. "I'm just going to keep going this way, try to be creative and express myself freely. All of this is tiring, but it's not overwhelming."

Did someone tell this guy that he's a rock star yet?