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Actor/writer/director Josh Radnor and singer-songwriter Ben Lee were friends for a decade before they decided to make music together.

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Radnor and Lee
Radnor and Lee

Ben Lee is a noted musician and actor. He was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1978, and began playing music as a teenager in the band Noise Addict. He recorded his first of twenty solo albums in 1996. His 2005 release Awake Is the New Sleep reached number 5 on the Australian album charts.

Josh Radnor is a well-known actor, filmmaker, and musician. He is most familiar for his role as Ted Mosby in the hit CBS TV show How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014). He was born in Columbus, OH, and studied at Kenyon College and New York University. He starred in the Broadway adaptation of The Graduate in 2002 and had guest roles in a number of television programmes before landing the main role in How I Met Your Mother. He has directed two feature films, Happythankyoumoreplease (2010) and Liberal Arts (2014). In 2014 he starred in the Tony-winning play Disgraced.

Radnor and Lee met each other on the set of How I Met Your Mother in the mid-2000s and began writing songs together a decade later. They have released two albums, the self-titled Radnor and Lee (2017) and Golden State (2020)


(‘Wider Spaces’ by Radnor & Lee)

Be ready heart

For new endeavors

Oh youth

It won’t last forever

Saying yes to the new is a virtue, yet fear of the unknown can often be cause for procrastination. Not so for writer, director, actor, and recently musician, Josh Radnor.

Josh Radnor: After being on a hit television show for nine years, there’s no one in the world that would say, you know what you’re next move should be? You should form an Indie band with Ben Lee and make some beautiful, spiritually-based folk music. Like there’s no one who would say that. That is an absolute weird move to make, but for me, from like whatever GPS is guiding me, that’s 100% the right move.

Radnor met the Australian singer-songwriter, Ben Lee, a full decade before they decided to work together in 2015. The music of their partnership, says Lee, is driven by the same kind of deep, existential questing that fuels their friendship.

Ben Lee: Collaboration is two people checking each other out and going, we’ve kind of got a similar mission, we could be strong together. There’s like an alliance, an allegiance, and so what I’m always looking for with collaborators is people that are as concerned with consciousness and proliferating consciousness through their work.

(‘Be Like The Being’ by Radnor & Lee)

Be like the being

Free like the being

Being like the being ’cause the reason

For the being is to be like the being

Free like the being

Being like the being ’cause the reason

For the being is to be

Radnor: It’s interesting to be such good friends with someone and a collaborator with them and also be a fan of theirs, it’s really fun. The older I’m getting, there’s something nice about male friendships. I didn’t have brothers, I have two sisters. I really value my male friends to kind of check in along the way and go like, you feeling any of this, like how are we supposed to do this?

(‘Doorstep’ by Radnor & Lee)

Told me I was looking for you

Now we’re standing at the doorstep

Of True

Lee: Male friendships are kind of a bit of a sticky subject in a way because masculinity is so sticky in our culture. It’s kind of hard to, most of us didn’t see our dads and go like oh, wow, I really saw a great model for how to have intimate, creative, male friendships, you know? This is sort of new territory. So Josh and I had a moment where we were harmonizing on stage and we had this very tender moment at the end of a song and we were doing ‘ooohhs’. We were harmonizing and a woman started laughing, but it wasn’t mean-spirited.

AJC: Uncomfortable?

Lee: I’m not sure if it was even uncomfortable, it was just new. It was funny to her, and I said, I made a joke, I said, “Is it so funny just seeing two bros just singing some ohs in harmony together,” and she said, “Yes,” and we all laughed, and it was great, but what I realized is that like honoring that this is a journey that two friends are on together where we’re not afraid to ask big questions to each other and to the audience and in song, there’s a vulnerability in that that I think is resonating with the audience.

Radnor and Lee’s eponymous 2017 debut album was released on the same day as Taylor Swift’s chart-topping Reputation. Far from discouraging the duo, Radnor says the contrast with Swift’s massive commercial success only made them more earnest about their own humble endeavor.

Radnor: I have no idea how many people are listening to the Radnor and Lee record right now. We’re hearing really nice things from people all over, but it’s out there, and it’s doing its work, and it’s gonna be out there forever. So I don’t know when people are gonna find it, at what moment they’re gonna need it, at what dark night the song “All Shall Be Well” will come to them and give them some hope or faith in a really trying time. I don’t know if someone’s gonna use it in a movie, one of those songs and then it will explode. I have no idea which way this stuff goes.

Lee: The biggest ambition is truly like to touch the human heart. There is something that happens to an audience and to a performer when there’s the experience of genuinely seeing each other, and I think our songs. It’s not music just to put on and go out to the club and party to. It’s songs to connect heart to heart and in that moment when a audience and a performer are in their heart and connecting and sharing values, suddenly anything’s possible, and that’s what we want with our audience.

(‘Wider Spaces’ by Radnor & Lee)

The great unknown

Seeks not to restrain us

But lifts us stage by stage

To wider spaces