Q & A with Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter, acclaimed Americana singer/songwriter and best-selling novelist, will perform an acoustic show with his trio at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University.
Ritter is touring with his latest album, “The Beast in its Tracks,” which was released in March of this year to mostly positive reviews.
Maddy Costa of “The Guardian” called the album “a gentle meditation on what it is to be rejected and to love where love has flown, to feel lonely yet feel warmth towards the world outside oneself,” while Stephen Deusner of Pitchfork described it as Ritter’s “most ostensibly personal album to date, smaller in scope yet deeper in detail than anything he’s done yet.”
Ritter recently answered a few questions regarding his album, its reception and how his latest tour is going.
NICO SALVATORI: Could you briefly talk about the inspiration for “The Beast in its Tracks”? Many people are calling it your “break-up album.”
Are you comfortable with that label? Or is there much more going on?
JOSH RITTER: I’ve always thought it foolish to try to control how others think about songs, or whole records, once they’re finished and out in the world. “Beast” is a record about a horrific time in my life and all the good things that came from that time.
All I hope is that other people find it good to listen to, and perhaps useful if they happen to be going through the same kinds of things that I was.
NS: How would you compare this album to your previous albums? Specifically, what is different about it in terms of inspiration, writing process, lyrical style, musicality?
JR: Lyrically the songs are much more succinct, more terse. I had the desire to write, but not the desire to be playful in my language. That being said, there are lines on this record of which I am supremely proud.
NS: Now that “The Beast in its Tracks” is written, released, and you’ve been touring with it for awhile, do you look at the album from a different perspective compared to how you saw it early in its life? Has it taken on new meaning for you? If so, how?
JR: I believe in making records fairly regularly. The reason for this is my conviction that a record can encapsulate a small period of time in the musician’s life. Because of this, it’s easy to look back at previous records and remember what was going on at the time.
“Hello Starling” [Ritter’s third album] was made in France, and was the beginning of the first really rigorous period of touring.
My relationship to each record changes as I get older and get more experience in life, but I can always look back at each record and know that, at least at that time, each record was the best thing I’d done.
NS: Do you have a favorite song on “Beast?” Which one and why?
JR: I don’t play favorites with the songs, because the only reason a song makes it on to a record is if I really believe in it. There are scores that don’t make the record. The ones that do are my war horses.
NS: What do you like about the acoustic tour compared to a more traditional approach?
JR: I would say that the acoustic show offers the chance for a greater dynamic range. Sometimes at rock clubs it’s easy to miss out on the subtlety of some songs.
It will be exciting to get so quiet that quiet becomes rock-and-roll again. I can’t wait!
NS: How have audiences reacted to the acoustic tour?
JR: I believe that if I’m doing my job right, playing with conviction and having fun myself that people will enjoy it too. It’s my primary job to enjoy the concert myself. If I’m having fun hopefully others will too.
NS: How have audiences reacted to “The Beast in its Tracks” itself?
JR: The reaction has been stellar. I genuinely did not believe that anyone was really going to like this record. It was about a painful time; the songs weren’t sprawling and lyrically dense. I was so surprised that people have taken to it the way they have. I feel so lucky.