Singer-songwriter released his self-titled debut album in 1999, and has gone on to put out ten studio albums, earning acclaim for his unique blend of folk, Americana, and rock. Now, more than 20 years into his career, he’s still prolific, releasing an EP, See Here, I Have Built You a Mansion, on August 28. For songwriters wishing to follow in his footsteps, Ritter offers some insights and words of advice.
“It’s definitely a compulsion,” Ritter says of songwriting – though, like many writers likely feel sometimes, he can also can find it frustrating: “It comes with a fair amount of dissatisfaction. The satisfaction with the work that I might be doing or how I’m doing it. There’s always a little bit of, you have an idea in your head of the perfect song. And then there’s the way you keep hearing it [in reality], which is not quite the same.” His advice to other writers who experience the same thing is, “You have to let go of what you want to have happen.”
Ritter also advises aspiring songwriters that “Not everything is going to be for everybody. I feel that that is an artistic trap that’s easy to fall into, is trying to be the enormous song about everything. Anthems are great, but you can’t artistically live on anthems. You’ve got to have a wide scope of stuff.”
Ritter’s career shows how this is possible: he has a fervent fanbase, and he says he’s seeing some of his original fans bringing their children to shows, so he now has multi-generational appeal for his music.
Finally, Ritter has some very specific thoughts about songwriters about how to navigate these strange and troubled times: “What I really feel is important is that we realize that the art we create is filtered through the moment that we’re living in, and I feel like we don’t even need to write specifically about this pandemic,” he says firmly. “I think no matter what, the time that we’re in will flavor the art that comes from it.”
Instead, Ritter says, “Go places in your mind that are fantastic and take you out of this present moment, if you need it. Let that be the art. Let that stuff rise to the top.”
Josh Ritter’s See Here, I Have Built You a Mansion EP is available at his website: https://www.joshritter.com/