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Singer's first wedding gig: Ellen DeGeneres' nuptials

  • Story Highlights
  • Joshua Radin's new album is "Simple Times"
  • Radin, a friend of Zach Braff, had songs played on "Scrubs"
  • Ellen DeGeneres liked one tune, asked Radin to play her wedding
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By Shanon Cook
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- He performed at Ellen DeGeneres' wedding this past summer, and he's as quick-witted as Adam Sandler. Could Joshua Radin be the next great wedding singer?

Joshua Radin got a push from old friend Zach Braff, but has been making his own fans.

Joshua Radin got a push from old friend Zach Braff, but has been making his own fans.

"No, don't say that," the singer-songwriter says good-naturedly. "Wedding singers play covers and they're usually Motown songs. I don't know any Al Green."

Maybe not -- and Al Green didn't record for Motown, either -- but Radin hopes to put a little love in your heart with his sophomore album, "Simple Times."

"It's about my whole life. Every song I write is an honest account of my life. They're sort of like journal entries," he says. "So this one's about falling in and out of love, it's about my friends, it's about my family. It's about the world we live in."

Radin's world has been anything but simple these past few years. Since actor Zach Braff -- a buddy from Northwestern University -- promoted the Cleveland, Ohio-born musician's tunes on the TV sitcom "Scrubs," Radin's vulnerable lyrics and whispery delivery have caught on. Primetime programs like "Grey's Anatomy" and "American Idol" also used his music, and before long Radin had a debut album -- 2006's critically acclaimed "We Were Here" -- and a reason to hit the road.

Radin (who has a loud, hearty laugh for a guy whose songs are pretty melancholy) dropped by CNN's New York offices to talk about how he landed that wedding gig, and some of the unusual surfaces he uses to jot down lyrics. The following is an edited version of the interview. Video Watch Radin cause hearts to melt »

CNN: A lot of your songs are about heartache and heartbreak. Are you sad all the time?

Joshua Radin: No, not at all. Just tired.

CNN: Why so tired?

Radin: Because I play a lot of shows all the time. When you're trying to get your music out to as many people as humanly possible, you gotta go places ... all the time, and talk about it and play songs and you get a little less sleep than you might like. It's cool. But in terms of the heartache I guess I get my sad out by writing songs.

CNN: How do you get your happy out?

Radin: Hanging out with people I like.

CNN: Speaking of people you like, Zach Braff [is] a big buddy of yours ...

Radin: Never met him.

CNN: Liar!

Radin: He's a very close friend and he's been very supportive.

CNN: Some might say that without Zach Braff's support you might not have come to the fore as you have ...

Radin: I wouldn't even be born.

CNN: Do you sort of feel like you are going to be indebted to him for the rest of your life?

Radin: No, he's pretty much indebted to me. I mean he got to launch my career (laughs). I'm just kidding.

CNN: You sang at Ellen DeGeneres' wedding. How did that come about?

Radin: I played her show in January and she came up to me after we soundchecked the song ["Today"] and said, "That's the song I want to walk down the aisle to." And I thought she was just being nice, really.

And then about two days before the wedding -- I was on tour -- I got a call saying she wanted me to come in and she was going to have her wedding for a very intimate gathering at her house. And she wanted me to play about five or six of my songs ...

CNN: The happy ones, I hope.

Radin: Yeah, I only have about five or six songs about falling in love. The rest are about falling out of love or about politics or something ... things that maybe wouldn't be great for a wedding.

And I'd never played a wedding. [I] had never really gone to any weddings ... but I sang six of my own songs and it was really cool. [There were] about 20 people sitting around a couch in her living room, and Portia [de Rossi] and Ellen were sitting in two chairs right in front of me and I got walked in. I was Ellen's surprise for Portia.

CNN: Tell me about the single.

Radin: It's called "I'd Rather Be With You." It's a little love song. I wrote it about my ex-girlfriend right after we broke up and I was missing her. But the song doesn't sound sad. It's sort of about someone who waits on you a long time to make a decision and then after it's over, how we all want something more ... after it's gone. The video is just me and Katrina Bowden, the actress from "30 Rock," and we shot it on Super 8 so it's real grainy and looks like an old home movie. It was Zach's concept.

CNN: You started out as a screenwriter ...

Radin: Sort of. I started out as a painter and an art teacher for kids. That's what I studied in school and I taught fifth through seventh grade in Chicago. And then I lived in New York for about six years writing screenplays. And then about four years ago I wrote my first song.

CNN: So in terms of expressing yourself artistically, songs are where you feel at home?

Radin: At the moment. I like to express myself creatively and it doesn't matter the medium. Whatever medium I choose at that moment, whatever works the best. It's like choosing production on a song; whether [you use] drums or piano or guitar ... you service the song. So in terms of the medium I guess I service the sentiment. If there's something that I really need to say that I can't say by speaking to someone, I usually write it in a song or a letter to someone. I usually can be more honest writing songs than actually talking to people.

CNN: What would you say is the best setting to listen to your music?

Radin: Driving in the car on a road trip. Riding the subway. Traveling. It's traveling music.

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CNN: Because you're a traveler? You're a bit of a nomad?

Radin: I am and I write my songs usually while I'm walking around. Or in a car. Or in a bus, a plane, something like that. I jot down lyrics wherever I am. Usually it's on a vomit bag on an airplane or something. [I] just look for a pen (laughs).

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