Author Daniel J. Levitin once wrote, “The work of artists and scientists is ultimately the pursuit of truth”. From this perspective it might seem self-evident that singer/songwriter and son of two neuroscientists Josh Ritter would have little trouble chasing such noble ideals.
But for Ritter, the pursuit of truth was disrupted when the songsmith fell under a self-described ‘shadow’. In attempting to follow up his 2007 release The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, the songsmith found himself despondent with the very vocation that had offered a means of unhindered expression.
Despite his constant efforts to write another album, a sense of desperation crept in. Bereft of the confidence necessary to appreciate his own work, Ritter in turn began to withdraw from music altogether. Then one sleepless night after a prolonged period of stagnation, Ritter was suddenly flooded with what would become the beginnings of 2010’s So Runs the World Away. As inexplicably as his connection with music had vanished, it has now returned and Ritter could once again rejoice in his own music and the music of others.
“Sometimes I think,’when am I going to hear something that really sounds good to me again?’. I wonder if I’ve lost my capacity to love music, and then I’ll hear something that’ll blow my mind and take me off to a whole other direction”, Ritter admits.
“Just being excited whether you’re working on something you’re writing yourself or being excited by other people’s music, other people’s writing…you can feel that spark.”
In order for Ritter to overcome the ailment of writers block, he first had to comprehend the nomadic nature of desire. Lifted from his recently released EP Bringing in the Darlings, Ritter’s latest single Love Is Making Its Way Back Home was partly inspired by his transition from enthused troubadour to disengaged musician, and back again.
“It changes like the weather…and you never know why, there’s never a reason for it”, Ritter subscribes.
“I feel like if love happens and you fall in love and then for some reason it goes away, it’ll come back; I’ve learned that. You can’t spend a lot of time obsessing about where it’s been, you just got to be excited for it in the moment and hope that it lasts.”
For the moment, Ritter has plenty to be excited about. 2010 LP So Runs the World Away has just been locally released in Australia, now including 2012 EP Bringing in the Darlings as a bonus disc, while Ritter’s national tour kicks off this Thursday, July 5.
However, the fickle depiction of creativity as described by Ritter raises questions of imagination’s genesis. Is creativity an internal construct of the mind that can be learned, trained and accessed at any time, or does it come from a metaphorical pool of unconscious collective thought seemingly tapped into at random?
“My parents are both neuroscientists, so the part of me that grew up that way thinks ‘of course it had to come from me…’ Then there’s the other side that says, ‘the chaotic and the randomness of the association of where the music happens and when it does happen you can’t really claim credit for'”, Ritter considers.
“When stuff does come, you know, ninety percent of the time you just sit there and look at the dog out the window, but on a few occasions you get something that really feels great. I think that’s when you can take credit, when you are waiting and you are the one who caught the song and no-one else.”
“I don’t want to sound too much like a hippy”, Ritter laughs.
Regardless of where creativity comes from, Ritter has overcome its elusive character thanks to his sustained effort in the face of adversity. Although at times he’s been disheartened, Ritter never submitted to a fear of failure.
In Ritter’s song Why, the thoughtful songsmith considers the lack of risk that actually exists in chasing one’s passion. Why directly asks the question, ‘What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen in attempting to achieve a dream’ and indirectly asks, ‘What is it that stops so many of us from going after what we truly yearn for’, or in other words ‘What stops so many of us from the pursuit of truth?’
“I think it’s a fear of being overwhelmed I would say. There can be a fear or falling on your face; there can be a fear of succeeding wildly; there can be all sorts of things, but the fact is that some things at some point in your life are going to wash over you and change everything. If you’re unlucky it happens a lot of times and if you’re lucky you’re just standing there with nothing in your way.”
“It’s going to happen anyway and I think being afraid of being overwhelmed by emotion or by the work that you’re doing or by someone else’s work can lead you to not take in new ideas and to not take chances in your own stuff and to not fall in love and not get out of love, there’s all sorts of things.”
“It can be terrible and it can lead you to not appreciate other people’s work, which is a huge tragedy. There’s so much good stuff out there if you’re not afraid to be wowed by it.”
So Runs the World Away including bonus disc Bringing in the Darlings (EP) by Josh Ritter out now.
Josh Ritter & Simone Felice – AUSTRALIAN TOUR – JULY 2012
ALL TICKETS ON SALE NOW AT www.lovepolice.com.au/tours
THURSDAY JULY 5 • THE OLD MUSEUM, BRISBANE, QLD
FRIDAY JULY 6 • NOTES, SYDNEY, NSW
SUNDAY JULY 8 • THE BASEMENT, SYDNEY, NSW
WEDNESDAY JULY 11 • THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE, VIC *
(*) FRASER A. GORMAN also appearing
Watch: Josh Ritter – Love Is Making Its Way Back Home