You may recognize Columbus native Josh Radnor as the actor who played Ted Mosby on the show “How I Met Your Mother,” and you may recognize Ben Lee as a seasoned musician with hits such as “Catch My Disease.”
Now, these two friends are embarking on a journey together as they travel all over the world as the singing and songwriting duo Radnor and Lee.
Before it hit the stage at A&R Music Bar on Sunday, The Lantern had the chance to talk with the pair about performing in Columbus, becoming a music duo and the future of Radnor and Lee.
Q: What prompted you guys to take on the project of Radnor and Lee?
BL: I don’t think we went that far down the line. When you start something, unless you’re very, very career-minded, it’s more experimentation and before you know you’re actually doing a project. It grows legs and it becomes a project. I think for us it was more a sense of play and exploration of friendship.
JR: Yeah. We’d been friends for a decade before we started writing songs together. It’s just a fun way to spend some time together. We wrote this song we both really liked, and the next week we wrote another song. We just had this flow and a vibe and an ease with writing and it was also a great way to hang out with a friend and do something creative. We played a couple songs for our friends and got a really nice response, and then we kept writing and started playing hotel cafes and had a name for what we were calling ourselves which took a lot of ingenuity. We really had to figure that one out. Next thing we know we’re hitting the road and we’ve got a thing.
Q: What do you want fans and listeners to take away from your music?
BL: I don’t think we would ever be as presumptuous enough as to say that there’s one particular thing. It’s like making love or talking with a friend. You have a very specific goal, but you can’t really control it. I think we’re more interested in, “Can we connect?” Like, “Can we connect with our audiences, Can they show up and be present?” From there, anything can happen.
JR: Yeah. I dig that.
Q: Josh, you’re from Columbus and you guys are performing here this weekend. What is it going to be like performing for your hometown?
JR: I think Ben’s done a lot more of the hometown performing than I have, at least in terms of music. He’s been doing this quite a bit longer than I have. I do always try and come back to Columbus. I spoke at Ohio State a few years ago, I’ve spoken at Capital University, Ohio Wesleyan. I’ve done a lot of college speaking over the years, but it’s really nice to come back home just generally. My parents still live there most of the year, one of my sisters and her husband and kids and a ton of my friends [are] coming to the show. It’s just really nice to do a hometown show because you don’t feel like you’re facing a firing squad. You’re performing for a lot of people who want you to succeed and are going to enjoy it. I found, even when I was a kid growing up going to see either music or theater, it is a town that has great audiences. It’s certainly got a more robust art scene. Ben, you’ve actually played there solo.
BL: Yeah. I’ve always had a great time. It’s a little bit of an artistic oasis when you’re popping through the Midwest. You suddenly hit this town where it’s just like, everyone loves music.
Q: What hopes do you guys have for the future of Radnor and Lee?
BL: I think in a healthy way, we’re sort of ambitious about it because in our individual careers, we both wanted to work toward the next level in whatever we were doing. I think we mutually really wanna take this just as far as it can go and make it as excellent as it can be.
JR: Yeah. There was a moment where, it kind of happened in Brazil a little bit, but probably a little bit before that. It wasn’t weird for us, but it might have been weird for other people to say like, “Oh, I didn’t even know they were friends, now they’re making music together?” But I think we were writing songs that were probably for smaller venues initially. Without even thinking about it, our songs were just a little more contained. Then we played for some really great audiences in Brazil in January. We just got a different sense of what the music would be so it kind of changed our songwriting, the sky got a little clearer, and the ceiling was lifted off. We kind of felt like, “Hey, people seem to be responding to this and there’s no reason we should put a limit on what this should be.” I think we’re saying “yes” to things that feel right and we’re, to quote one of our songs, we’re “putting one foot in front of the other”. We’re just letting this thing tell us what it wants to be as much as we’re also steering it. It’s a kind of interesting pile up between us and what we want to be doing and where the thing feels like it’s flowing and how it’s morphing. It’s super fun. It does feel like we have some wind in our sails. We don’t want to talk about it too much, we just want to keep making music and performing for people.