If the winter holidays leave you feeling blue, Joshua Radin is here to help. Although his new album, Onward and Sideways, is still a few weeks away from its Jan. 6 release date, he’s sharing a empowering new track titled “Belong,” which feels like a strong arm around a trembling shoulder.
Read a Q&A with the insightful singer-songwriter, who wrote and recorded the new project in Los Angeles, where he lives, as well as Stockholm, Sweden, where a new relationship was unfolding. Radin’s U.S. tour begins Feb. 5 in Boston.
CMT Edge: This song captures a feeling of isolation and loneliness quite well in the opening lines. What was going through your mind when you started to write the song?
Radin: This song came from a few different emotions. I wrote the song for a woman who was going through a very difficult time. She had confided in me that she had felt alienated her entire life. I have felt the same thing many times throughout my life, so I mined some of my past and made the song an amalgamation of the two of us.
On a side note, I was in bed watching television while working on the lyrics, and when I was about halfway through the song, the news reported that Nelson Mandela had passed away. So immediately I was transported to another memory which was having spent time on Robben Island, where he was held prisoner for so many years. I stood in his jail cell. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. So obviously some of this experience made it into the song, as well.
I like the pulsing rhythm on the chorus. It feels big and powerful. I like the message of encouragement, as well. What do you remember about the day you recorded the song?
I remember when I recorded this song in Stockholm, the rain was coming down really hard outside the studio. And all I could think was that this rain would wash away the feeling of alienation I had battled. The pounding of the kick drum felt like thunder in the studio.
In your career and your relationship, you’ve spent a lot of time away from home. Did you write this song as a message to someone else, or was it something you needed to tell yourself?
This song is very special to me for many reasons but mostly because I hope that when I perform it for a live audience, I will touch some people who feel like they don’t belong anywhere they go. And I hope they will, for at least a moment, realize they’re not alone. I truly hope for this song to become an anthem for whoever feels lonely, dejected or unwanted.
That’s why I wanted a driving beat throughout the track so it could become a sing-along of sorts. I imagine the crowd helping me with the percussive element and for us all to become one beautiful unit while we bask in the idea that not one of us is alone. There are likeminded people all around us. We just need something like a good song to bring us together.