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(Soundbite of song "Right Moves")

Mr. JOSH RITTER (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) All of a sudden, now you're back again. I thought you were happy with whoever or did you…

ALISON STEWART, host:

That's singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. He's currently on a tour, appearing in Portland, Maine and then onto Westport, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. next week. He's performing material from his latest release, "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter." It hit stores in the U.K. today, where he has a huge following.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Josh Ritter came by THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT studios a few weeks back before he went on tour. I can still taste that delicious lamb.

STEWART: Here's some of our interview with Josh Ritter.

Mr. RITTER: I made a record last year, put out called "The Animal Years" that was really, I just - I thought it was really, you know, I spent a lot of time on every little tiny bit and getting lots of things just how I wanted them because I wanted all the songs to fit together. And that sort of thing, you kind of, you react to it by kind of wanting to, you know, blow something up, yeah, you know, and punch a wall on occasion, you know. And that's sort of what I wanted this record to sound like. It was just, you know, having fun. It's so much fun to play this stuff live. It's just kind of wild music, you know. And I always started - I really started up in, you know, coffeehouses, you know, where, you know, there's no liquor and everybody plays very quietly, you know. This was really fun for me.

STEWART: Well, you grew up in Idaho, right?

Mr. RITTER: Yeah, yeah.

STEWART: And I've been to Moscow, Idaho.

Mr. RITTER: You have?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I know it's not a whole lot of folks up in Moscow, Idaho.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RITTER: Wow. Well, it's amazing you were there.

STEWART: Yeah, it's beautiful. Beautiful. But I'm curious how growing up in a sort of a remote area like that really shaped the way that you developed your music and you learned to write.

Mr. RITTER: I think mostly the amount of free time that you have…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RITTER: …and the inability to get in any kind of trouble, which is like, you know, there's just nothing out there to get in trouble with. I mean, I spent, I think - I started playing guitar because, you know, I lived way out of town and there was nothing really else to do, you know. And I mean, we threw rocks at rocks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RITTER: You know, that was a big…

STEWART: It's been done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RITTER: Yeah. Yeah. There's a team, you know, and so…

BURBANK: It's a team sport there in Moscow.

Mr. RITTER: Yeah. And it's huge.

STEWART: Because the Winchester population is 262. I spent a night in Winchester.

BURBANK: Did you listen to…

Mr. RITTER: Wow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: …did you listen to a lot of Built to Spill? Because that guy - Doug Martsch is from - he writes about Idaho all the time?

Mr. RITTER: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Those guys are great, you know. And I think that, you know, there's a lot of stuff - I always feel like no matter where I go, I always have like a fair amount of Idaho in my music. It comes out, you know, just because there's just - you know, I first came to New York on St. Patrick's Day in, I think, 1999, and I got lost in Central Park. And a bunch of Lebanese guys wearing shamrock hats helped me find my way out. (unintelligible)…

STEWART: Had you been drinking? Are you sure?

Mr. RITTER: Yeah, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Are you sure?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: It's cool when you go to Amazon.com. They asked you about music that people should listen to.

Mr. RITTER: Yeah.

STEWART: And you mentioned Dylan.

Mr. RITTER: Yeah.

STEWART: You mentioned Bach, but you also mentioned Nina Simone. (unintelligible)

Mr. RITTER: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

STEWART: Let's take a quick listen to a track from Nina Simone for people who aren't familiar.

(Soundbite of song, "Baltimore")

Ms. NINA SIMONE (Singer): (Singing) I say, oh, Baltimore, ain't it hard just to live…

STEWART: So what it is about Nina Simone and this track that really moves you, that you think people need to hear it?

Mr. RITTER: Well, I mean, I - love the sound of her voice. And for me, you know, I don't have like a really pretty voice, but I really love the way that she has this, like, she could say anything and I would know what she was saying. You know, like, when she sings like "Put a Spell on You" or something. It sounds like she's just grown nails and she's about to pluck out your eyes, you know. And something like "Baltimore," well, you know, I just know what she's talking about. I mean, she - even if I'd never been to Baltimore, I would know what she meant, you know. And she also had this way of finding songs like Randy Newman, songwriters, and just - and finding something totally new and that wasn't there before. I just - I love her music.

STEWART: Well, before we let you go, we're going to ask you to play for us.

Mr. RITTER: Yeah. I'll do "To the Dogs or Whoever."

STEWART: Okay.

(Soundbite of song "To the Dogs or Whoever")

Mr. RITTER: (Singing) Deep in the belly of a whale, I found her. Down with the deep blue jail around her. Running her hands through the ribs of the dark, Florence and Calamity and Joan of Arc. I love the way she looks in her underwear. There's a page in the plots in the book, that I swear, she makes the most of her time by loving me plenty. She knows there'll come a day when we won't be getting any.

The stain of the sepia the butcher Crimea. Through the wreck of a brass band, I thought I could see her in a cakewalk she came through the dead and the lame. Just a little bird floating on a hurricane. I was flat on my back with my feet in the thorns. I was in between the apples and the chloroform. She came to me often. I was sure I was dying. It was always hard to tell if she was laughing or crying. I thought I heard somebody calling. In the dark, I thought I heard somebody call.

Joan never cared about the in-betweens. Combed her hair with a blade did the Maid of Orleans. Said Christ walked on water. We can wade through the war. You don't need to tell me who the fire is for. And bring me a love that can sweeten a sword. A boat that can love the rocks or the shore. The love of the iceberg reaching out for a wreck. Can you love me like the crosses at the nape of the neck?

Was it Casey Jones or Casey at the Bat?

STEWART: And that was Josh Ritter, a song called "To the Dogs or Whoever" from recent live performance here at BPP headquarters. His album "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" was released in the U.K. today. Check out our blog: npr.org/bryantpark for the video of that performance, as well as his tour dates. He's going to be on the road in the States through November. Our first…

BURBANK: (unintelligible), we did it.

STEWART: It's true. Our first official hour of THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT has come and now officially gone. We want to give a shout out for the NPR stations embarking on this experiment with us: WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Vermont Public Radio, Rochester, New York's WXXI, WBUB in - I'm going to say - Indiana?

BURBANK: Yes.

STEWART: Columbia, Missouri's KBIA HD3, and Tacoma, Washington's KXOT.

(Soundbite of whistle)

(Soundbite of music)

BURBANK: Also thanks to all of you listening to us Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 134, as well as those of you catching us on the old interwebs on the MyFace, streaming at npr.org, always available as a Podcast at npr.org and on iTunes.

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