Stars align

January 25, 2007|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

It's beautiful when a friend remembers you after he goes to Hollywood and suddenly becomes famous. And it's even more thrilling when he takes you along for the ride, changing your life for the better. Seemingly overnight, singer-songwriter Joshua Radin became a sought-after artist thanks in large part to his relationship with actor-director Zach Braff, perhaps best known as the neurotic medical intern J.D. Dorian on the sitcom Scrubs.

"He's one of those guys that if he's doing well he wants his friends to do well," Radin says.

The singer's career received a major push after Braff convinced Scrubs producers to use Radin's intimate ballad "Winter" during a funeral scene in a 2004 episode.

"All of a sudden I was getting e-mails from people all over the world who had heard the song on the show," says Radin, who performs Sunday night at the 8x10. "The response was overwhelming." Shortly afterward, the Cleveland native landed a deal with Columbia Records, the longtime recording home of his idol, Bob Dylan. Radin's debut, the ballad-laden We Were Here, hit stores in June. He's had more songs featured on Scrubs, as well as on episodes of North Shore and Grey's Anatomy, and Braff also helped get the song "Star Mile" on the soundtrack to the film The Last Kiss, which came out in September.

Before "Winter" was heard on Scrubs, Radin had no intentions of becoming a performer. When he and Braff met at Northwestern University, the singer was studying art. He painted and wrote screenplays on the side. But after a romance withered, Radin pushed aside his paintbrushes and manuscripts. Instead, he reached for a pen and an acoustic guitar.

"I started writing songs three years ago," says the thirtysomething artist, who last week was performing in Utah. "I was going through this bad breakup with a girl in New York. I needed to describe what I was going through lyrically, not visually. Actually, it was a combination of the two with the visual images of the lyrics."

The songs that "poured out" of Radin make up the bulk of We Were Here. With a poetic touch here and there, the lyrics detail the end of a love affair and its aftermath. Check this line from "Everything'll Be Alright (Will's Lullaby)": "There's a hole in my pocket that's about her size." The sparse, mostly glacially paced music -- echoey cellos and lots of indistinctive guitar strumming -- underscores Radin's breathy, rather colorless singing style.

Save for the syncopated handclaps and understated percussion on "These Photographs," the album drifts on whispery, expressionless vocals and predictable folkish arrangements that veer dangerously close to parody. Elliott Smith is an obvious influence here, but Radin doesn't use his voice to convey pain (or any emotion for that matter) the way Smith did.

But on stage, Radin says, the musical experience is different.

"It's cathartic," says the Los Angeles-based artist. "It's like going to a therapist, playing in front of a live audience. I still feel like I'm finding my way. I don't think the nerves go away. You get that rush."

With looks made for magazine layouts and a sensitive-guy persona loads of young women would love, Radin's star is steadily rising. He has recently graced the pages of Elle and Rolling Stone, which in August gave We Were Here a four-star review.

"My life did a whole 180," Radin says. "I did the struggling, poor starving artist in New York thing. I wondered if I was going to be 70 years old with a dollar for lunch every day. So [the singing career] was a welcome change, to say the least. I feel like the luckiest dude in the world."

With an influential, music-loving friend in Hollywood, luck couldn't get any better.

See Joshua Radin at the 8x10, 10 E. Cross St., Sunday night at 7. Tickets are $10 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT or going to

Hear clips from Radin's album at

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