Joshua Radin didn’t start writing music until a few months before his 30th birthday. He had earned an art degree at Northwestern University and was teaching art to kids and writing screenplays when he acquired his first guitar. It felt like home.
“I’d gone to concerts all the time,” Radin said in advance of his Wednesday, May 8, performance at the Manship Theatre. “I always looked up at the stage and thought, ‘I wish I had started that when I was a kid.’ I loved music so much and I wanted to be part of it.”
Radin recorded his first 10 songs in a friend’s bedroom. The novice songwriter caught a break when he performed some of those songs for actor-screenwriter Zach Braff, a friend he’d met at Northwestern.
“Zach said, ‘Oh, I like these songs. Maybe I should put one in my TV show,’ ” Radin said. “I didn’t think I was going to have a music career, but then Zach put the first song I ever wrote in an episode of ‘Scrubs.’ ”
“Winter,” featuring Radin’s whispery vocals, signature sincerity and gently played acoustic guitar, accompanies a poignant scene in a 2004, season three episode of “Scrubs." His soft and earnest style resonated with the show's viewers big time.
“It inspired this crazy reaction from the show’s fans,” Radin remembered. “And I was like, ‘All right. That’s crazy. Maybe I should write more songs.’ ”
“Winter” launched a run for Radin of more than 150 songs in TV programs, movies and commercials.
“I never had a big break,” he said. “It was more like little break after little break. I got lucky that it didn’t happen quickly, that it grew organically with fans all over the world trying to find my music. Now they feel an ownership of my songs, because they weren’t shoved down their throats on pop radio.”
Frequent film and TV placements for Radin’s songs, however, led to a deal with Columbia Records, which released his album debut, “We Were Here,” in 2006. His major label experience also includes Universal Music in Canada and Warner Bros. in international markets.
“The thing is, every time you sign with a major label, they’ve got these people telling you you’re going to be a big priority,” he said. “But you find out quickly that, if a major label doesn’t hear a pop hit, they give up on you quickly. I’m fine being left to my own devices, but it’s ridiculous to share the money.”
After a post-major label period of releasing music on his own, Radin recently signed a licensing deal with Nettwerk Music Group. The Canadian company’s artists have included Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne and Coldplay.
“They do a lot of work with acoustic singer-songwriters,” Radin said. “I’ve been doing everything myself for the past few records. It was working out fine. Nice to be the only cook in the kitchen and release whatever I want, whenever I want. But I thought, ‘Why not a licensing deal? And I’ll still keep creative control.’ I took the album to Nettwerk and they loved it.”
Radin anticipates that his eighth album, “Here Right Now,” will be released by late summer.
He wrote the songs last summer on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
“I heard Ibiza was all clubs, and I’m not a club person,” he said. “But a buddy of mine told me about the north side of the island, where there’s just a couple of restaurants and cafes. It’s super chill. I spent some weeks there looking at the sea and writing songs.”
In a nutshell, Radin said, “I call the album ‘Here Right Now’ because I always have anxiety about the future and, sometimes, the past. I have a difficult time being in the moment. I figured if I went to Spain and just watched the sun rise and set, drank good wine and ate good cheese and met friendly people, that would help me be in the present.”
The Spanish sabbatical apparently worked. From 2006’s “We Were Here” to 2019’s “Here Right Now,” Radin says his new album is his best work in years.
“It still sounds like me; it’s still intimate,” he said. “But I used a lot of new instrumentation on this album. I hope my fans will get something different this time around.”
On the road, another different something is guitarist Danny Black from the indie-folk band Good Old War. Wednesday at the Manship Theatre, Black will make his debut as Radin’s supporting player.
“I’ve always loved Danny’s guitar playing,” Radin said. “And then when his band broke up, I said, ‘Hey, man, you want to come on the road with me?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ ”
Joshua Radin / The Cary Brothers
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 8
Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.