not a member? click here to sign up
With the huge success of his sophomore album and a brand new masterwork in the offing, 2004 has been a capital year for US singer-songwriter and adopted son of Eire, Josh Ritter.
Colm O Hare, 09 Dec 2004
2004 has certainly been a good year for Josh Ritter. Following a hectic Europe and Stateside touring schedule in support of his second album, Hello Starling, the tousle-haired troubadour rounds off the year with a handful of Christmas dates in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
According to the Irish-adopted, Idaho-born singer-songwriter, these shows will be his last performances before he goes into the studio to start work on his third album.
“It’s a strange but very exciting time for me right now,” he says. “I’ve been touring for such a long time that just starting to think about making a new record is exciting. I’m also looking forward to vegetating for a while. But it’s been great to be able to work up to a point where you have a lot of options.”
Ritter found a virtual second home in Ireland following a chance meeting with Glen Hansard in a Boston bar a few years back. Since then he has performed here regularly, building an audience to a point where he can now sell out major venues. On its release in August 2003, Hello Starling shot to the number two spot in the Irish album charts. Why does he think audiences here have taken to him with such enthusiasm?
“I don’t really know, but I do know that I haven’t seen a songwriter scene like the one in Ireland anywhere else in the world,” he says. “When you look at the artists and writers that have come from Ireland and the amazing amount of creativity and the breath of cultural knowledge that exists here, you’re really starting on a different level.
“I hadn’t played all that many shows before coming to Ireland but the thrill was so intoxicating that I had to keep coming back to get that fix.”
His debut and the follow-up showcased a sensitive, emotionally-centred artist with more than a hint of classic American icons like Dylan, Springsteen and Cohen. How does he feel about those comparisons?
“It’s a natural thing for people to compare you with others but careers are never made or lost by comparison,” he says. “Anyway, it’s for listeners not for me to make those connections. Funny thing is, the comparisons never talk about where you’re going to go – it’s always about what you’ve done in the past.”
Hello Starling was recorded at the now legendary Black Box Studios in France with Dave Odlum at the control desk. Any hints on what direction the new album might take?
“I’m still working over it in my mind,” he says. “In a lot of ways it’ll be more puzzling lyrically – cryptic would be a perfect word here. I’m learning a lot from what I don’t want to do. Some songs are going to be fun but mainly I want my songs to sound like me. I never really got off on pain but I feel that emotional lyrics are always good, but it should be a by-product and not a product of the song.”
Josh Ritter plays The Opera House, Cork (December 13); Vicar St., Dublin, (16 & 17); and Black Box, Galway (19)