Stealing the covers. Starting a band on a first date. Playing board games like it’s World War III. Ridgewood-raised, singer-songwriter Christine Cuccio Radlmann captures all of these everyday romantic moments in We Need a New Love Song, one cut on Unhitched, the album her band, Southpaw, debuted on Valentine’s Day.
“I thought, there’s got to be a song out there that’s quirky and not just syrupy ‘love, love, love,’” she says. “So that’s what I wrote. Those anecdotes are absolutely about my husband and me. Even though they’re so specific, a lot of people say they can relate. One line stands out the most for me: ‘I hid a burnt dinner under our bed.’ The first time I made a meal for my husband’s mother, I was freaking out and botched the casserole. So, I just stashed it!” Reminiscing over her non-impressive cooking skills, she collapses into giggles.
In fact throughout our interview, Radlmann laughs often and easily—a beautiful thing, especially in light of hard times. She lost her father right before the pandemic. “He was always such a huge fan of my singing and would come to all my shows, even in dive bars,” she says. “I got my start playing with him and my little sister in our house. The first song we performed was Cocaine, at Christmas; he was a big Eric Clapton fan. I was eight-years-old, banging away on the drums and singing the lead with no idea what that key word meant. Maybe my dad was laughing on the inside, but he never showed it.”
Radlmann’s grief fueled her creativity. “His passing inspired me even more to put my music out there,” she says. “Hopefully, he’s looking down and nodding his approval. And he probably wants me to do a cover of Cocaine!”
Music has grown into a full-time career for Radlmann, the band’s lead singer. She works with multi-instrumentalists Colin McConnell and Sean “Squack” Garnhart, creating what they call a “savory mix of country-styled music, simmered in rock, pop and R&B influences.” But her roots lie in the literary world, first as an editor at The Atlantic, then later writing poetry for the North American Review and The New York Quarterly, among others. She also has copyedited for the Twilight series and for authors such as Kim Cattrall and Julie Andrews.
“At The Atlantic we’d have 20,000 poems submitted a year and we’d only publish one a month. I had to witness so much rejection, even of very talented people. It helps me to not take it personally now. You’re going to put out an album. Not everyone is going to like it. I can’t let that ruffle my feathers. I just need to move on to the next person who might love it.”
And they do! Unhitched spent time on Amazon’s Top Ten Hot New Country Releases, climbing to No. 3 for a while. “We were just blown away,” she says. Earlier this year, the band also released a music video partly shot during the winter on the Jersey Shore. Brrrr!
Catch Southpaw livestreaming until COVID-19 restrictions ease up. Safety permitting, the band hopes to resume gigs shortly at festivals and venues like Bridgewater’s Green Knoll Grill and the Stage House Tavern in Somerset, where Radlmann’s mother-in-law lives.
And that’s good. It’ll finally give Radlmann a chance to come clean about that burned casserole after 15 years! She's fairly certain her cooking has improved enough that she can redeem herself.
Listen to Southpaw at southpawcity.com.