Josh Ritter's Conquests

The thing that you hope to do is have something be accepted in the spirit that it's offered. You kind of have to write to yourself, saying the things that you need to hear for yourself. And you try to write it in a generous enough way that other people can see themselves in that same situation.

-Josh Ritter


Exactly. He still does right by his fans. I actually first heard Springsteen when I was about five. That's what led me into this industry.

Josh Ritter
My dad bought my mom Sgt. Pepper's when I was ten. The record came out four days before my parents got married.

What about the covers you're playing? What made you choose Springsteen's "The River?"

Well, I played that at the Springsteen tribute. It's kind of about the changes that happen in your life. It's kind of like the sublime moment where you know something's happening and you have no power. You're the witness to your own part in it [and] you have no power to change it and you know it's going to affect you. It's the power to see the immediate future. That's what Springsteen's songs are about to me. It's just a killer. "Body tan down at the reservoir." All of The River is an amazing record, that and "Stolen Car." I feel like "The River" is the ultimate for me.

What about playing solo versus with the band?

Both are necessary, I think. I started playing solo. The energy's very different. With a solo show, you have a cable that connects you and the audience. They're really pushing you forward into the audience and back. It's much more amorphous. I really enjoy it. Playing with a band, I can create a whole new set of emotions that I couldn't do on my own. But nothing gets you sharper than playing solo. At the same time, you can't even approach the highs you get playing with a band.

What about the references to the band in the song "Rumors?"

Josh Ritter by Doug Rice
I was mostly listening to hip-hop when making the record - Biggie, Lupe Fiasco and Jay-Z. There's violence in it but there's always a wink behind it all. There's some funny stuff in there. It's very dark and strange but it's also super creative. I like that cohesive unit of someone in a band, like me and my friends are going to fuck you up. But, there's always a total wink behind it. I like that feeling of capturing a whole different sound and song. It's like you climbed a fence and you're in a whole new pasture that's all your own. It feels like someone's handing you a balloon.

Like on "Mind's Eye" it sounds like you're pissed.

There is [anger] but you can't tie yourself totally to a character. It's more fun than being yourself, and a lot of the time, much more satisfying artistically. It's not so much anger as getting into the feeling. Okay, yes it is anger [laughs]. It's never satisfying staying that mad for that long.

What about "The Temptation of Adam?"

I didn't write that in the studio. That was a lucky one that came into my head. It felt like a play or a short story. I wrote about eight drafts, all the symbols that are there. It's supposed to be a song about regular people. The situation is fantastical, like the Garden of Eden or fish in an aquarium, but it's just a couple people falling in love, but realizing that real life is creeping in.

How is it now being on a major label?

Josh Ritter
I think these guys [Sony BMG] are doing a kick ass job. I talked to a lot of people but I figured why not? I wanted the record to come out this year. I wanted people who know how to sell a lot of records, but I wanted someone to leave the art side to me, and they're letting me do that. Whether you're on a tiny label or a big label, you pay to play. They haven't tried to direct me. I think it's hard these days for a record label to start a new act. You have to work with a label. You have to do a lot of legwork. It's so easy to blame the majors but at the end of the day you're the person in charge of your career. Not to say that they're saints but the people I'm working with are doing an amazing job.

Last night I was writing these questions and listening to "Empty Hearts" and there was a moment where I got choked up. What is it like knowing you can impact your fans that much?

It feels like a fairly new thing. When I first started selling my records and doing open mics, if I could sell a couple I was over the moon. I really needed the money. When somebody bought a record that was money in my pocket. I never really thought that they'd listen to the record. I mostly thought they were being nice. People who actually go out and buy records still, that's incredible because you don't have to anymore. The thing that you hope to do is have something be accepted in the spirit that it's offered. You kind of have to write to yourself, saying the things that you need to hear for yourself. And you try to write it in a generous enough way that other people can see themselves in that same situation. Leonard Cohen said that you shouldn't be the one declaiming it. People shouldn't be thinking about you but the poem. If people are influenced or involved in the songs it's because I was lucky enough to say something the right way for myself. Then when I'm onstage, I really want to influence people. I want people to feel things when they come to a show. But, when I'm writing I try to say things for myself the way I would want them said to me.

JamBase | Idaho
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[Published on: 11/20/07]

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aquariumdrunk starstarstarstar Tue 11/20/2007 12:40PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


One of the best albums of the year, from one of the best songwriters alive. He just continues to impress. Nice write up!

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/20/2007 01:08PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Oh wow! I have been waiting to see a feature on Ritter for a while. I think this guys is going to get bigger and bigger. He's got a lot of talent, a LOT of creativity just screaming to get out.

This album is most definitely at the top of my favorites for 2007. Girl In The War is also amazing...

An incredible talent! I can't recommend him enough... I wish there was a bit more to read, but a great article nonetheless.

Robusto Tue 11/20/2007 01:13PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


'Animal Years' is one of the best albums I have heard in years. Period.

Leupey starstarstarstar Tue 11/20/2007 01:50PM
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Great interview! Ritter writes some of the best songs I've ever heard.

lovemusicfood star Wed 11/21/2007 06:51AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Blah, Blah, boaring, blah

G$Love Wed 11/21/2007 07:21AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This new album is amazing. Animal Years was in my Top 3 albums for 2006, and this one will be close as well. It's definitely outside the bounds of any of Ritter's previous albums

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Fri 11/23/2007 05:24AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

I did not like his album much. seems that sometimes the AAA charts just do not always have the best on them. oddly enough our station adds everything on the list regardless, thats how I came to hear some of Ritters songs..

roberto767 starstarstarstarstar Sun 11/25/2007 12:13PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I though Josh Ritter was awesome in "Three's Company." Jack Tripper is the man!

Fred T. starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/28/2007 10:30AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Fred T.

good stuff. nice work, chris.