May 18--Sensitive singer-songwriter Joshua Radin says his stellar new disc, "Wax Wings," could easily be a concept album.
The record -- whose title refers to the Greek myth of Icarus, whose wax wings melted when he flew too close to the sun -- "is about a romance of mine years ago, and I guess there was just still something left over, something I still needed to get off my chest. That's what this album is for me."
Well, it could be a concept album, were it not that every record Radin writes is about the same subject, he says with a laugh in a recent phone call from Los Angeles.
"I shudder to say that because, you know, most of my songs have always been about falling in and out of love, and this album's no exception," he says. "It's usually the main topic that inspires me. But let's just say that this album is about one romance, the love of my life, and it's about the ups and downs.
"But since I write about love most of the time, it's just another chapter in my romantic life, I guess," he says, laughing again.
With the disc released May 7, Radin now is out on a short tour that's a fan appreciation jaunt of sorts -- just 11 stops, all venues with capacities of 350 or fewer. It comes to Philadelphia's World Cafe Live on Tuesday for its penultimate stop. Every ticket-buyer also receives a free download copy of the album.
Radin doesn't say it, but certainly a high-profile romance in his life was actress/singer-songwriter Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek, with whom he toured for two years and wrote one of his best known songs, "Paperweight." It was used in the romance movies "The Last Kiss" and "Dear John."
Asked whether "Wax Wings" is about a former love, Radin says, "I don't like thinking of love as having a beginning or end."
"It's more like certain people you meet in your life inspire you in a certain way, and they're rare that way. And this album's about one of those people in my life. One of the very few. I like to think about it in terms of circularly instead of linearly. So even though it's not on now, you never know what life brings you down the road, 30 years from now, whatever."
As with "Paperweight," Radin has had far more success marketing his music through movies and television shows than the usual sales methods. After his stellar 2006 debut, "We Were Here," his last three discs have broken the Top 15 on the rock chart, but none hit gold sales.
Meanwhile, his songs have had more than 100 placements in other media. He even had a recent cameo role on the TBS series "Cougar Town" with one of his songs.
"When I started playing music ... seven, eight years ago, the first songs I ever wrote were on TV shows or commercials. That's how I garnered my exposure, rather than radio or magazines and newspapers and things like that. Licensing was the new way to get your music out there all over the world," he says.
"And I started doing it right away and so I got a foothold really early on in that licensing boom, I guess you could say. And so now, it's become something I've really depended on to get my music out there. ... I'm not a big radio artist or I'm not going to be on the cover of music magazines or things like that. I've got my own little path of how to get my music out to people."
Because of that, Radin self released "Wax Wings."
"For independent artists who are writing music like I'm writing, it's not something that you're going to hear on Top 40 radio," he says. "Maybe a handful of artists really benefit from what record companies still have to offer, I think.
"It just might be my experiences, but if you have that entire machine behind you -- like Universal or Sony or whatever -- and they're pumping your records on the radio and it's all over the place, then I understand spending millions of dollars marketing and all this stuff. But I'm making small, little records that have more cult following. So with social media the way it is, you can hire a few different people to do what these labels do for you."
He says that even if he sells fewer records, he profits more on each record. "And so far, so good, you know? Talk to me in a year and we'll see."
But the biggest reason for self releasing the disc, Radin says, is "you can have full creative control and you can just say whatever you want to release, and you can hire whoever you want to hire, and you get to keep less cooks in the kitchen. When you're an independent artist like myself, you relish in that."
Noting that "Wax Wings" represents the shortest time between releases for him -- just a year -- he says, "There's no one to tell me I can't release it. It's been fun because we don't have any arguments anymore. There's no one saying, 'Well, we want to do this.' Which, when you're on a record label, that tends to be one of those things you hear a lot."
The type of quieter, sensitive music Radin does -- he's called it "whisper rock." -- may be finding a broader audience. Told, for example, that hit newcomer Ed Sheeran sounds an awful lot like Radin's early albums, he responds, "I understand what you're saying, it's got a similar vibe."
"But my songs have a similar vibe to a lot of other people, too, and music is just about borrowing and stealing and who steals the best. Like Keith Richards says, 'The best songwriter is the one with the best record collection.'"
with My Name is You
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
-- Where: World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia
-- How much: $40
Set list: Songs from his new disc, "Wax Wings," including the stellar single "Beautiful Day," as well as his best-known songs, such as "Winter," "Paperweight" and "I'd Rather Be With You."
-- Info: 215-222-1400, http://www.philly.worldcafelive.com
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