Joshua Radin picked up a guitar for the first time about a decade ago.
The 38-year-old Shaker Heights native didn't spend his high school years jamming with friends in their parents’ garages, and he never took guitar lessons.
He taught himself to play, and used the instrument to soothe his nerves, especially when he was frustrated while writing screenplays in New York City. He wrote six films, two of which were bought but never made it to the big screen.
“I had no aspirations to become a professional musician by any means,” Radin said, who also taught art to middle school students in Chicago and majored in painting and drawing at Northwestern University. “I found that I would pick up a guitar and it would calm me.”
Little did he know the hobby would turn him into a household name.
Radin will soon release his fourth album, and his songs have been used more than 100 times in television shows and movies.
The singer/songwriter is also in the midst of a summer tour, which includes stops in London and Germany, and he will perform at Evans Amphitheater in Saturday.
Normally Radin plays “No Envy, No Fear” at each concert.
“It’s sort of become a mantra for me because I say it over and over to myself before I go on stage,” said Radin, who used to get nervous before shows.
Fans can also expect to hear the stories behind some of Radin’s songs.
“It’s very intimate … You really get to know me by coming to the show,” said Radin, who has been compared to his musical heroes Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. “I kind of make myself as vulnerable as possible up there … I think when you tell stories about where those songs come from, (the audience) thinks, ‘Oh, OK. There’s another person out there feeling this way.
“People come and I sing and I tell stories and I talk about my life and my emotions and I try to make people feel. Certain bands try to make people dance, but I try to make people feel.”
His music certainly made Ellen DeGeneres feel something. She asked Radin to perform at her wedding with Portia de Rossi. The women cried as he played, according to his bio.
And the first song he wrote about his girlfriend inspired his college friend and Scrubs star Zach Braff to pitch it to the television show’s producer, Bill Lawrence, in 2004. You can now hear Radin's music on Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy, House and American Idol, just to name a few.
Though he said he won’t play many songs from his new album Underwater, which comes out July 31, he did explain how he came up with the title track.
Radin was born with a hole in his eardrum, and he wasn’t allowed to put his head under the water.
“I could just basically wade in the shallow end, which is pretty humiliating as a kid. You just want to fit in,” he said.
But just last year a doctor said his eardrum was healing and gave him special earplugs so he could finally do what so many of us take for granted.
“It was mind-blowingly cool,” he said in his bio. “I never realized the silence one experiences underwater. My brain was totally free to come up with a melody line, and that’s where this album began, underwater.”
His dad, who bought him his first guitar, and his mom will be at the show Saturday.
When he plays in Cleveland, he likes to spend most of his time at home. But sometimes he goes to Coventry, where he liked to hang out as a kid.
Blossom Music Center was another favorite spot for Radin.
"I grew up going to a lot of concerts at Blossom. I’d try to see every concert ... It would be a dream to play at Blossom."
Joshua Radin, with special guest Tristan Prettyman/My Name is You. Saturday, July 28 at Evans Amphitheater in Cain Park, 8 p.m. $20/18 advance (Patron Series $17.00 only at Cain Park Ticket Office), $23/21 day of show. Wine Tasting $10, 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. for ticket holders only. Call 216-371-3000 for a reservation. Visit the Cain Park website for more information.