The acclaimed singer-songwriter plays the Acoustic Cafe Folk Series in Grand Rapids on Thursday. The Local Spins interview, with a chance for readers to win tickets to the show.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO FOR ‘SPECTRAL LINES’ AND LOCAL SPINS TICKET GIVEAWAY
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Since 1999, Josh Ritter has released records and traveled the globe to share his tender songs. In a recent interview with Local Spins, Ritter talks about traveling, painting and his upcoming record, “Spectral Lines,” which officially gets released on April 28.
The Idaho native returns to Grand Rapids on Thursday (March 2) to perform at St. Cecilia Music Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the show begins at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets, $35-$65.00, available online at scmcgr.org.
Local Spins: What can listeners expect from your new record?
Josh Ritter: I think this record, for me, was a very big learning experience in terms of how I listen to my own voice. And how over the past several years, I’ve found music to be one of my primary ways of reaching out for connection. During a time when none of us could leave the house, I still needed to be able to reach out with music. It was my way of approaching the world so that things felt less alone and less scary. And I wanted to bring that kind of philosophy into my record, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. You know, I didn’t know what kind of tone I’m gonna take. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. And then I started to learn more and more about my own connections to the people that I love, and how we reach out for connection. And as weird as that sounds, that gave me a way of thinking about my music at the time. I’ve also been so interested in the world of astronomy. I think about that all the time and I found such poetry in it, and I really found that I wanted the record to sound very astral and spacey and, and full of colors that felt like they were coming off a telescope.
Local Spins: How did your ways of connecting with others change during the pandemic?
Josh Ritter: I was pretty busy before, with a normal tour schedule and putting out records at certain times. I felt like that part of my life had a certain routine to it. And then all that was taken away, I couldn’t play shows and I wasn’t working. Art became distilled down to a very simple thing. And that, for me, was the connection with the people that I was making the art for. So that really became a beautiful relationship, that perhaps I was in danger of taking for granted, you know?
Local Spins: You read “Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat-Moon during your early touring years. In what ways could you relate to that book?
Josh Ritter: When I discovered that book, which was maybe 2002, I was touring. I was in Bratislava. And I was on one of the main shopping streets in Bratislava, totally living hand to mouth, you know, on these little tours, which were really incredibly fun. I was walking up the street with my guitar, and I went to this place, and it had some books in English. And this book literally fell into my hands. It was before you could have an entire library on your phone, and I carried that book with me everywhere. I realized it was giving me a way to look at the next period of my life in a way that acknowledged that there was loneliness, and sometimes pain, and, and all sorts of things like that. But there was also so much adventure down every kind of road. And that book really gave me a way to think about what became a long period of my life.
The first person to email firstname.lastname@example.org with “RITTER” in the message field will win a pair of tickets to Thursday night’s show.
Local Spins: What was it like when you first met Glen Hansard?
Josh Ritter: I met him at an open mic in Boston. He was playing a show somewhere down the street but he came down and played a song. I didn’t know anything about him, and then here comes this dude singing this incredible song, you know, like, just this whirlwind dropping into the middle of our Boston open-mic scene and just blowing everybody out of water. It was so cool.
Local Spins: You mentioned having temp jobs in those days. What kind of work were you doing?
Josh Ritter: I can look back on all of them now and think ‘Really?’ You know, wow, that was some really crazy stuff. I don’t think I had any that were profoundly positive. I remember, you know, it was during the time when they were digitizing hospital records in Massachusetts. So a lot of the times I would get called in to deal with files. Then I worked at Providence Rhode Island Landfill. I worked at a luggage factory. I also worked as an MRI safety screener, which I should not have been. I remember working at an enormous biotech company with a big gravestone in the back. Really bizarre things.
Local Spins: You paint as a hobby. Any advice to someone who wants to begin painting but is apprehensive?
Josh Ritter: I would say just enjoy getting lost for a few minutes. Even doodling, art is nothing bigger, you know? The joy of creating something is the real joy. There’s nothing better than that. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the joy.
Local Spins: I read a tweet of yours I found thought provoking and was curious if you could tell me what inspired it?
Josh Ritter: I was just thinking about all this crazy stuff going up in the air and the fact that no matter how high you look or how small you work, we’re always finding new things that just defy the current explanation. And we discover them all the time and that’s beautiful. To keep our minds open to the idea that the world is larger than we can understand sometimes. We might not always be in control of all the understanding as humans; I think it’s really important to remember that.
VIDEO: Josh Ritter, “Sawgrass” and “For Your Soul” (from “Spectral Lines”)
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