Josh Ritter’s latest record flirts with Folk and Rock and leaves AltCountry in the dust, capturing the Idaho singer/songwriter whispering melodies over pianos and acoustics or getting a little dirty with organs and guitars. So Runs the World Away is one of his most lyrically dense records, with the reanimation-themed song “The Curse” leading the narratives.
In fact, released in April, the record is a nod to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ritter references the Bard’s canon like it’s The Bible.
“As a writer, you run into a blank page and start thinking, ‘Well, what can get me started?’ You can flip anywhere in a Shakespeare work and get an idea,” Ritter says. “If you’re going to steal, steal from the best. He wrote love stories, but he wrote about being human. If he had bad guys, they weren’t purely bad.”
“As for Hamlet,” Ritter adds, “there’s so much you can relate to. The wavering … the fact that sometimes he feels like a full-grown man and sometimes a 14-year-old, but forges ahead anyway.”
Including So Runs the World Away, Ritter has seven albums and a few EPs to his name and is buzzing in the U.S. and UK, where he received some of his earliest support. Around 2001, he did a stint in Ireland after a stateside run-in with Irish darlings The Frames, Glen Hansard’s Rock band preceding Swell Season. Ritter’s career took off from there.
This year, Ritter has plans for spring tours, followed by a book tour for his novel Bright’s Passage, slated for June.
“Touring without a guitar will be interesting,” Ritter says of the book tour.
Writing a novel isn’t too different than writing a record, according to Ritter.
“You just sit down and go with it. You don’t ask yourself whether it’s good or bad. Then it’s (the process of) taking out everything that doesn’t work, being ruthless and making sure every single word is adding to the whole and not taking away,” he says. “That’s something I didn’t realize when I was working on the novel. You just have to be a killer to take the stuff away.”
Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band play the 20th Century Theatre Wednesday, Feb. 16 with guest Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit.