Over the past year, COVID-19 has altered workspaces across nearly every industry. Teachers created classrooms in their living rooms, restaurants curated chic outdoor dining options, and people in business frequented Zoom calls rather than conference rooms.
Those in the music industry had to completely rethink ways to share their craft virtually or make changes within their careers due to the lack of live performances.
Daniel Radin, BC ’12, was touring with his band, Future Teens, when COVID-19 spread across the country last March. With performance venues shutting down and no opportunities to perform, Radin decided to instead focus his time on producing a solo album.
Radin grew up in Newton, Mass., where he began playing music from a young age. In his elementary school band, he played the trumpet, but he wasn’t very good at it and didn’t enjoy it, he said.
“My relationship with music was not super positive, at least playing music as a young kid,” Radin said. “Eventually, I got to the age where kids started getting guitars for Hanukkah or Christmas. I had two friends who got guitars, and so my parents thought it would be a good idea to get me a bass so I could play with them.”
Radin then began taking bass lessons and eventually became confident enough to try singing. While at Boston College, he started a band with a friend he had known since kindergarten, and they performed in various places around campus. One of their most frequented spots was O’Connell House, Radin said.
“That’s where we booked a bunch of shows,” he said. “It’s so haunted in there, I love it.”
Radin found booking live music shows on campus to be difficult, so he and his band often had to take matters into their own hands. One time, Radin utilized an empty room that he had noticed next to the McElroy mailroom.
“I was like, no one ever uses this room …I’m not going to throw a party, I just want to throw a show,” Radin said. “It’s impossible to throw a show on campus, so I just threw a show there without asking… We just played the show and broke everything down before anyone could be the wiser.”
Radin attended Boston University for his freshman year, but transferred to BC as a sophomore. At BC, Radin double majored in music and philosophy. BC’s music major allowed Radin to take a wide variety of classes—from the history of music to composition—that improved his songwriting skills, he said.
“I just absolutely loved the music program at BC,” Radin said. “It’s a pretty tight-knit group of professors and students, and I kind of knew everyone in the program… you could get a lot of personal attention if you wanted it.”
For Radin and many of his fellow music students, increasing the accessibility of music on campus was a goal of his, he said. While he was a student, there weren’t a lot of contemporary music performances, and it was challenging to arrange performances on campus, which his own experience putting on unapproved shows speaks to, he said.
“Trying to put on more shows around campus was definitely a big priority of mine,” Radin said. “I don’t know if it has changed since I went there, but there was like no live music, except like twice a year, and [nothing] other than classical and jazz.”
Part of Radin’s passion for music includes writing his own music. He started as early as high school, but it took years for his original music to be something he was proud of, he said.
“I wrote a lot of really bad songs in high school, and I wrote a lot of really bad songs my freshman year of college,” Radin said.
He didn’t start feeling pleased with his music until his junior year at BC, when he was studying abroad in Italy. His program was less academically rigorous than his course load at BC, he said, giving him more free time to write music.
“It was like the 1,000 hour rule or 10,000 hour rule,” he said. “I don’t know if I spent that long, but I spent long enough to have a grasp on songwriting I didn’t have in high school or the beginning of college.”
After graduating from BC, Radin began touring with his band, Magic Man, which played synth-pop music. The band had a booking agent and was working with a label, leading them to start touring across the country pretty quickly, Radin said.
“I think I’ve played all over the country except the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Alaska,” Radin said. “I’ve crossed the country many times at this point, and I just love it.”
Radin left Magic Man to pursue a folk project and began playing with his current rock band, Future Teens, in 2014. He continued to write folk songs and started touring again in 2017.
They toured with Take This To Heart Records, which Joseph Urban owns. Future Teens headlined a two-week Midwest and Northeast tour along with two other bands—The Sonder Bombs and Barely Civil—where over half the dates sold out, Urban said.
“We started touring quite a lot, probably more than I’ve ever toured before,” Radin said. “When the pandemic hit, I had a lot more free time.”
When businesses were just beginning to shut down because of the pandemic last March, Radin and Future Teens had just arrived in New Jersey for their first official weekend of headlining shows. They were supposed to play in New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston that weekend. When they got to New Jersey, their first show was canceled, and the rest of the shows followed.
“Like everyone else at the time, we had no idea how long it would last and hoped we might get to reschedule those shows for spring or summer,” Radin said. “It was a letdown for sure, but also we knew we wanted what was safest for us and our fans.”
With so much free time, Radin decided to work more on the folk songs he had already written and also write more songs. Radin’s manager told him it would be a great time to release a solo project since his band would not be releasing music until the next year.
“I like to write songs all the time, and if they fit into a band that I’m playing [with], I’ll pursue them, but if they don’t, I just kinda put them on the back burner for later,” Radin said. “Right before the pandemic started, I had five songs that I was like, ‘These don’t fit with my current band,’ but I liked them, and I wanted to do something with them, so I started developing a sound for them.”
These five songs—along with five new songs he wrote during the pandemic—formed Radin’s first solo album, a folk album entitled Good Things which was released this past October under Lake Saint Daniel. Radin recorded and produced everything himself in his basement in Watertown, Mass.
Radin has always loved folk and traditional country music, noting Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton as some of his favorite country singers. Along with folk music being a beloved genre, Good Things also was a fresh change from the type of music he was performing on tour, he said.
“I’ve been playing loud music on tour for seven months in a row,” Radin said. “It might be nice to just play some quiet music. I could sit down and play, you know. As much as I love jumping around on stage, sitting down in a quiet room—playing quiet music—there’s something to that.”
To stay connected with his audience, Radin has been performing Good Things on livestreams.
“I like the livestreams, but they’re just not even close to the same as a live performance,” Radin said. “Hearing someone’s voice in person is just so affecting, so I am definitely looking forward to that.”
Radin has also used his time off from touring to produce music for other artists, he said. His experience as a producer started with his own bands before he began extending his services to other musicians. The first person he produced music for outside his bands was his friend Hayley Sabella, and now Radin even has artists booking with him in advance.
“It’s amazing to see how my little studio has grown over the years, and I feel very lucky to work with so many amazing artists,” he said
Although the pandemic changed what Radin’s career looked like, he was able to adapt to the extra time. Urban said that despite the difficulties of succeeding in an ever-changing music industry, Radin remains true to his values.
“As long as I’ve known Daniel, he has been a driven, charismatic person, who not only strives hard to persevere through a very tough music industry, but ultimately keeps ethics first when more and more seem to let it slide throughout the industry,” Urban said.
Radin admits that he misses performing, but in some ways, the pandemic has redefined both him as a musician and his idea of what it means to be a musician, he said.
“The idea of if there was no pandemic and I didn’t tour, it’s like, ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen to me?’” Radin said. “But I think it has made a lot of musicians, including myself, reassess what it means to make a career out of music. Maybe having music and touring be a part of our lives, but not our whole lives.”
Photos Courtesy of Daniel Radin