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Stereoboard Interviews Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter Josh Ritter

Saturday, 24 July 2010 Written by Adam Simpson

Stereoboard received the opportunity to interview acclaimed singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, following the release of his 6th recorded album, So Runs The World Away and ahead of his impending UK tour in September.

The artist who has been named as one of the top 100 songwriters of all time and compared with the great Bob Dylan talks about inspiration, his 10 year career so far and the music business.

Who inspired you as a songwriter?

ďThe simplicity of Johnny Cashís music and Hank Williams and even the early Dylan stuff, but really I think that simple core train is so old itís hard to say where that influence really started maybe it started with hymns I donít know. All I know is it feels real natural.Ē

Who then inspired your sound as a musician?

ďI grew up playing the violin and playing classical music and I always found it so frustrating playing what other people wrote, I couldnít add an extra bar when I felt one needed to be there. So hearing things like Girls From The North Country or The Pogues really. It was understanding that if you made your own music you could make your own rules about the way it was supposed to be and at the front of it was hearing that sort of music, it was maybe like when people first heard Nirvana or Sex Pistols. I missed out on grunge and I was too young for punk so the closest thing I can approximate to that was hearing Girls From The North Country that first time, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and just that feeling of looseness, the feeling that something can be done well without having to be too complicated.Ē

Greg Hansard first took you over to Ireland, how important has he been to your career?

ďIt was a great introduction; it was a moment that gave me a chance to see things and a chance to start. I wouldnít say it was the reason for my career but it was an important moment.Ē

Stereoboard Interviews acclaimed singer/songwriter Josh Ritter

So how important was the connection with Ireland for you?

ďAs time goes on I sell more records and have bigger shows in the States but Iíve learned so much from touring and playing in Ireland, everything that has happened to me in the music business has happened to me first there and Iíve just learned so much from the people and enjoyed some of the best moments of my entire life on stage or off there.Ē

Why did the Irish take to you so well?

ďI always think if language is technology, then the Irish are ten years in front of everybody. They have a way of making up words and describing things that is highly valued. I really responded to that and found that really interesting and I feel a real rapport and itís never something Iíll really understand but I totally respond to it.Ē

How does it feel to read and listen to the critical acclaim that you have received?

ďItís always amazing when something is received in the spirit that it is offered, a lot of the comparisons are only really valid to somebody over a very long career, I donít lay claim to any of those comparisons, you know when Iím writing Iím writing and when Iím recording Iím recording so anything else is just peopleís opinions, but I love what Iím doing and Iím happy that people are enjoying what Iím doing and appreciate it.Ē

What means more to you, finishing a track that you have written or performing live?

ďThatís very hard to answer. When Iím performing itís almost like Iím asleep, my body goes to sleep and Iím not noticing anything, Iím just in love with that moment it feels very uncomplicated, thatís one thing that I love about it, performing is such a simple pleasure when you are doing it, itís all there is, itís the same as writing, when Iím writing thatís all there is as well, the hours just go by. When Iím recording its different, when Iím recording itís a different feeling all together, your creating something and looking more closely at the bones at it all, they are very different things but itís hard to say which gives you the best feeling. Itís an amazing moment when you can unveil something youíve been working really hard on.Ē

What can you tell me about your new album?

ďWell itís my 6th record, I worked on it for about a year and Iím over the moon about it. Iím really happy with it.

Do any of the tracks hold any special sentiment for you?

ďYou work so hard on a record and to single out certain things is difficult, I donít have any fillers on my records if there is stuff I donít feel are up to the standard they are put aside. There are songs like The Curse which is my way of opening into the record and itís important to me personally but I canít single out songs from a record and I donít want people to think about what Iím thinking. I donít write autobiographical songs. I donít want people to think I am just writing from my diary I hate it when people write autobiographical songs, I wanna see what people see in normal life or even fantasy.Ē

Your upcoming tour is massive, do you enjoy being on the road for so long?

ďI love it, Iíve been touring for ten years and itís never got boring, you see a new thing every day it keeps me excited, when your writing you need ideas and ideas sort of come at you every day if you keep your eyes open.Ē

Is there any place in particular you are looking forward to visiting on your tour?

ďThereís all kinds of places I guess going back to Montana, back in Ohio and Idaho and Canada and Iím really excited to be coming back to the UK and playing places that Iíve heard about but never seen.Ē

If you had to choose somebody from the past or present who you would love to play live alongside. Who would you pick?

"Benjamin Franklin, I like the idea of getting on stage with somebody who has seen it all, he wrote a good song and I can relate to that. A glass harmonica jam would be great.Ē

What has been your career highlights so far?

ďOver ten years I think the thing that sticks out is that Iím still making music, the music business has gone to hell but thanks to a lot of great people Iím still making music, itís down to a lot of hard work and a lot of luck and my amazing fans.Ē

So why has the music business gone to hell, do you think?

ďYou have to take it with a pinch of salt, the people who hold a large proportion of the media are also the ones who are complaining the most, the bark may be louder than it actually is. I personally think that in the last 70 to 80 years where music has been sold on a recording is up for admiration, but for thousands of years before that, people still made music and made it to survive. I donít know if there is a huge place for large record labels anymore. I donít feel they are contributing, itís not that they're bad, Iíve had great experiences with record companies but I donít feel that they can maybe exist. I see small labels are the way forward. Theyíre like me, they are not trying to sell loads of records, theyíre trying to make records to make a living and put records out there. But the business is where it is basically because technology has gone beyond it and we got pretty greedy there.Ē

People havenít stopped making good music though, are there any present acts that are doing it for you?

ďI love hip hop, I love Jay Z and Lupe Fiasco, I think thatís were the best lyrics are coming from these days.Ē

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