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Early this cold Saturday morning, the sun was just barely pushing through the clouds when singer-songwriter Joshua Radin, accompanied by backup guitarist Brandon Walters, trundled into the WERS studio to play a few stripped-down acoustic versions of several of tracks from his newest album, Underwater.
Known best for his beautifully quiet, yet distinct, voice and songs structured with sweet and personal lyrics, Radin’s set provided the perfect way to start the morning. To begin, he broke into the catchy tune “The Greenest Grasses,” what he introduced as “a lil’ love song.” While on the album the track was recorded with a steady beat of drums and a backup harmony of strings, this slowed-down, acoustic version still exuded a similar beauty. The next song he played, “Let It Go,” was a bit faster-paced and featured Walters strumming a bass ukulele in the background. In his live interview, he stated that the track reflected his desire to move past the stress of creating his last record in favor of a freer, more independent process. “In the rearview there’s only madness / I’m gonna save myself from Los Angeles / So tell everybody they’ll never find me / I’m letting go,” he sang. To finish off, he played through his new single, “In Her Eyes,” the sentimental and lovely tune written for his younger sister’s wedding, “to make [his] parents cry,” he said with a smile.
Since coming onto the scene in 2006 with his debut album We Were Here, Radin has been heavily praised by fans and media elite alike, including Zach Braff, Ellen DeGeneres (incidentally, whose wedding at which he performed), and Michelle Obama. His music has also been featured in over 72 television shows and films. Despite his great success, when talking with him, it’s easy to forget that he’s so well-known. Polite, well-spoken, and overwhelmingly humble, he simply comes across as a person who is grateful to be doing what he loves. “I’m just really thankful that people are still coming to see me play,” he said with a laugh.
For anyone familiar with Radin’s previous work, it’s evident that his fourth project stands out as a very distinct creative endeavor. In some ways Underwater feels like an evolved hybrid of Radin’s first and second album; more upbeat and complex than his incredibly intimate and quiet debut, yet mellower than the folky-sounding Simple Times. It is certainly on a different field from his last album, the experimental and bass-heavy The Rock and the Tide.
Radin stated the overarching goal for the album was to create “a timeless sound, a record that sounded like it was made in a different era.” To accomplish this, Radin and co. set out to record the album on 2” tape in the notoriously known California studio, Sound City. Cutting out the use of computers completely, Radin worked to capture a much more live-sounding performance. When asked about how he reconciled this “old school” process to the nearly ubiquitous practice of digitally transporting compressed mp3s, he acknowledged the challenges, but said he believes the process is more for the musicians than the masses, “It’s not just the sound, it really was when you know – when everyone in the room knows – that you can’t just redo that take or redo that chorus or redo that verse or punch an edit or things like that, everyone brings their A-game … that’s really what it’s all about these days.”
As for what comes next for the musician, Radin says plans are up in the air. After a long haul of touring, he said he’ll take some time off and reassess whether or not he wants to continue putting out full length records or shift towards exclusively producing individual singles. Based on his previous repertoire, whatever he chooses will be exciting to see.
Radin’s newest record, Underwater, is out in stores now.