American acoustic folk artist Joshua Radin recently played Dublin’s The Pepper Canister Church (16.04.2023) and before taking to the stage Abigael Paquet got to sit down and have a chat.
Words & Photos Abigael Paquet
Joshua Radin, the whispery rebel who reminds everyone that it is never too late to start something new in your life ! In his own words: “The whole point is to stay curious and to stay open and then you stay young forever. You could be a 95 year old, very youthful person”.
Abby: What do you think of this venue ?
Joshua: Lovely ! It’s adorable.
Abby: How does it compare to other places you’ve played in before ?
Joshua: Well, this will be the first ever venue I’ve played in the 19 years where no alcohol is sold. I did not know that ! I’ve played a lot of churches in Europe and the States that become venues or are used as venues sometimes and there’s always like, a bar in the lobby or something that people can come in and bring a beer or whatever … So, I hope people pregame a little bit before the show.
Abby: Well, you’re in Ireland, so I’d assume so ! [laughs] But I never really thought of the alcohol situation …
Joshua: Me neither, until right now ! And I asked my tour manager, Phil … Now, we have some alcohol that they provide, so I’ll be drinking ! It’s a little daunting to play for a full sober crowd. Well, maybe they won’t be. Who knows? I guess we are in Ireland.
Abby: And how do you find the acoustics ?
Joshua: Rooms like this – especially in churches – they’re so old and they’re usually built for pre amplification, microphones and things. So, the sound is great. And then it changes immensely when people get in the room. And they soak up a lot of the sound. So you never really know what it’s gonna sound like until you’re on stage with a roomful of people. Yeah, and they don’t even allow people upstairs to the balcony. I was shocked ! Because it was the show sold out and I thought they could have put more people up there and sold my tickets. But they said they never put people up there for some reason. I don’t know why … I guess that’s the policy.
Abby: So, you’ve also toured around the world. Where’s your favourite place to play the most and why ?
Joshua: So many different answers to that question. But generally, you know … after doing this for almost 20 years, when you’re on the road for a while, you miss your friends and family. So, my favourite places to play generally are where my most friends and family are. And that’s always five cities: LA, New York, Cleveland Ohio – where I grew up -, Stockholm, and London. I would say those five cities are where I have the most friends and family. There’s nothing like having a bunch of your friends and family in the audience. And then going out for drinks afterwards. You know, it’s just because you go through so many cities where you don’t know a soul. And it can feel a bit lonely. So, that feeling of being on the road but with friends and family is second to none, really.
Abby: Interesting. Usually people would mention really big venues or things like that, but never people. And is there a place or country you haven’t been to yet but would like to play live in ?
Joshua: Yeah, Japan. Uhh, not right now, but Russia. [laughs] Definitely not now ! It’s probably gonna be a long time ‘till that happens, but I always wanted to see Russia. Russian literature has always been my favourite, since I was in school … I’ve just read so much about it. And Japan seems so foreign to me. You know, I’ve toured in some places in Asia. But for some reason, I haven’t gone to Japan and I’m working on it now. So, it’s one of those places that I haven’t been that I’m sort of a bit fascinated by and I think it’d be cool. People keep telling me I would love it.
Abby: You have met and shared the stage with many big names. Who did you enjoy working and playing live with the most and why ?
Joshua: That’s another tough question because almost I mean, 99% of them that I’ve ever met have been just the kindest people. Uhm, Ed Sheeran, is maybe one of the nicest people in the world. He deserves everything he’s got.
Sheryl Crow was real cool. That was one of my first tours, opening for Sheryl Crow. And then we did a duet together and she’s just she’s kind of a legend. I don’t know, there’s just so many ! I did a tour years ago with an Irish band called The Script. They were nice guys. This was like 12 years ago or something. We toured together and we didn’t really stay in touch or anything. I think I was on tour with them for like a month, 12/13 years ago in the States. I think it was maybe their first tour of the states or something like that.
Abby: Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with ? Why ?
Joshua: Oh, it’d be pretty cool to write a song with Paul Simon. Yeah, it’s my dad’s favourite. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, I would have loved to work with Tom Petty before he passed away, Carole King, Joni Mitchell … because I love their music. I’m obsessed with all their music. Total fanboy for every single one of those people.
Abby: What would be your worst moment on stage ? If you have any.
Joshua: I don’t know if I’ve ever had really, really awful moments. But sometimes, when bad things happen, you freak out for a second. And then it really gives you an opportunity to see how you can fix it. Like, if the PA craps out and all of a sudden there’s no sound – that’s happened to me before and the first time that happened, I just took my guitar into the audience and started playing and people still to this day from that town in Indianapolis, Indiana. They’re still, every time I play there like: “we were at that gig ! And it was the greatest gig ever !” So, you never know. It’s things that you think could be really unfortunate sometimes turn out to be really a blessing in disguise.
Abby: What would be your most meaningful song and why ?
Joshua: I think there is no way for me to say that. They’re all like journal entries for me. So, it’s almost like if you opened your diary for the last 20 years. How could you pick one page, you know? It’s just impossible. I’m not the typical sort of artist that has like one or two songs that people know and they come to hear those songs and wait around for me to play those songs. Everyone in the crowd tonight will have a different favourite song. So, I’ll never get to all of them, you know, I’ve got like 10 albums out, so … But they all mean something different to each person. And I think that’s cool, I love that. I think most bands or solo artists have, you know, one song that they play at the very end to make sure that people stick around to hear it. Sometimes I play my most popular songs right off the top: “Now, if you want to leave now go, ahead !” And no one leaves.
Abby: I know we’ve already kind of talked about artists you really like, but which artists inspire you or inspired you to become a musician?
Joshua: All the ones I just named [laughs].
Abby: Alright, I’ll just copy/paste those names [laughs]. (As a reminder: Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell). And what would you be if you weren’t a musician?
Joshua: Well, I started as a painter. I wanted to be a painter, then I was a children’s art teacher – about 10/11 year olds. Then I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter. I did that for about six years. And then I picked up a guitar when I turned 30. And, you know … taught myself a few chords and started writing songs about six months after that. And I’ve been doing that ever since because I got such an early jump on it. And then I got a late start as a, you know, in music. But right when I started playing music, I signed a record deal a year later and I’ve been on the road ever since.
Abby: Wow ! That’s really cool, because sometimes people might already have one foot in that branch because of family for example …
Joshua: Yeah, no, no artists and my family are no one creative. I didn’t grow up playing any instruments or anything like that. But I always just loved music, just as a fan. I’d just go to concerts all the time and just wonder like, I would just be on that side of the stage over there [pit] and think: “how do you get on this side of the stage ?! There’s no way to do that ! There’s just like a magic trick, there’s no way !” or “I didn’t start early enough”, or “it’s too late for me”. So, when I picked up the guitar, I didn’t think I was going to become a professional musician. I just wrote a song going through a breakup and was on a TV show three weeks later, like a demo of it. And then other people started writing me, saying: “where can we get your music ?” And was like: “I don’t have any ! I better write some !” And I’ve been doing that ever since. So, to answer your question, I guess if I wasn’t a musician, I would probably go back to either painting or screenwriting.
Abby: Still in the creative arts, so.
Joshua: Definitely something creative. I always felt the need to express myself in some way, whether it’s a laptop, or a paintbrush, or a guitar. I think it’s just a way of life. It’s either something you burn to do or … Yeah, if all of the sudden, if tomorrow my music career was over, I would still go back to doing something creative. There’s no way I could just find a regular job in an office and have a boss; I just don’t know how to do that. I have a terrible problem with authority. Even record labels you know, I’ve had a bunch of record labels and they want me to be this, they want to do this. They want you to be that formulaic band or artist that has that song that hits the radio, and they know exactly what to do with it. But if you’re a band or an artist, your fans just come to see you whether you have a new record out or not. They might not even have heard the new record, they’re just coming to you every time you play. They’re just loyal and they just want you to create a vibe for a couple hours for them. And you do that year in, year out. But it’s a tough thing for a record company to understand how to monetise that … I guess I have like a little cult following around the world and I’ve never achieved anything that was like super massive or anything like that.
Abby: It’s still really cool though.
Joshua: No, I’m not saying it’s not. I just mean, I think it’s probably because of my mind. It’s probably because I have a terrible thing when it comes to authority … Which is why the new album is called Though The World Will Tell Me So. Everything is about questioning everything. The world says you should do this, look this way, love this way, work this way, eat this way, you know, travel this way … You should sleep during these hours and you know, be awake during these hours; I’ve always just been one of those kids as a little kid who was annoyingly like : “why ? Why ? Why ?” You know, like, what’s the reason for that ? Why do I have to do that ? Why can I just do it the way I wanted ?
Abby: [laughs] So you’re chill but you’re a rebel.
Joshua: Yeah, I guess I’m chill in a way that like when you hang out with me, it’s just chill. I’m not like a crazy party animal. I’m not a loud person, I mean, my music is very like me. But yeah, a quiet rebellion. A whispery rebellion. You can call your article: “A whispery rebellion.”
Abby: Are there any questions you wish journalists would ask you but never or rarely do ?
Joshua: That’s a good question. Nothing I can think of off the top of my head. I’ve been asked so many questions over 19 years.
Abby: It must be a lot of generic stuff.
Joshua: Most of the time, yeah. “What are your influences ? What comes first, lyrics or music ?” It’s amazing how many times I’ve answered those questions. And I’m always kind of like, you know: “you could just probably look up any other interview if you really want to.” That’s the question that you just asked that I wish people would ask me.
Abby: Okay, but you don’t know which question that would be [laughs].
Joshua: But I like the question. At least it made me think and it wasn’t a question I’ve been asked before.
Abby: And finally, what is the most useless talent you have ?
Joshua: Ping pong. Signs of a misspent youth in the basement with my dad. No, it’s super fun. And anytime I see a ping pong table and I’m with friends I go like : “alright, we’re doing this !” But then people are like: “I don’t understand how you’re so good at this. !” I’m not like a crazy athlete or anything. I guess when you grow up playing, it never leaves you.