On 'Animal Years,' Josh Ritter's Sense of Place

From 'All Songs Considered'

Ritter has been featured on NPR's online music show:

More from the Interview

Hear Web-exclusive excerpts from John Ydstie's interview with Josh Ritter.

Listen: Ritter on the risks of becoming a political songwriter.

Close your eyes while listening to parts of Josh Ritter's new CD, The Animal Years, and you could swear you're hearing a young Bob Dylan, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter calls the comparison "a huge compliment," but he says it's "not a shadow I would choose to live under."

Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006. i i

Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006. Bryan Bed/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Bryan Bed/Getty Images
Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006.

Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006.

Bryan Bed/Getty Images

Yet Ritter says he owes much to Springsteen, who has "been a really big inspiration... He's somebody that I look to for guidance and for making a life for yourself besides just a career."

Asked to elaborate, Ritter says, "I think you can never really do something well unless you're able to leave it, and have a family and have a home, and have a place that you're from that you're really dug in."

When he was in college and just starting to write music, Ritter sent a tape he had made to folk legend Pete Seeger.

"He didn't know me from Adam," Ritter says, "but he wrote me back and he said, 'The most important thing you could ever do is to choose a place and dig in.'"

And there is a sense of place in much of Ritter's music. One example, from the new CD, is "Idaho," about his home state.

Something else was on my mind

The only ghost I'm haunted by

I hear her howling down below

Idaho, oh Idaho.

 

Wolves, oh wolves, oh can't you see?

Ain't no wolf can sing like me

And if it could, then I suppose

She belongs in Idaho.

 

Wolves dance through much of the territory covered by The Animal Years.

  

"The wolf in this record was my reminder to myself that down the path of total conviction you end up just like any other animal that runs in a pack — and that's not a place I would like to go."

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Animal Years

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Album
Animal Years
Artist
Josh Ritter
Label
V2 Ada
Released
2006

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