The Kaje talks “So Runs The World Away” to Josh Ritter

To say that Josh Ritter has proved that taking a risk has its rewards would be an understatement. When he was starting out, Ritter was unwilling to wait around for a record deal and instead launched his 1999 eponymous debut album independently. The success was not immediate, but time on the road built his reputation and enabled Ritter give up his day job. Over a decade later, Ritter has been proclaimed one of the greatest living songwriters and on the dawn of album number six…

2006 saw you named by Paste magazine as one of Top 100 Living Songwriters. How did that feel?

It felt great to be included!

It is a long way to come for someone who started as an independent artist. What would you say was your secret to success?

I’ve always felt it’s better to be persistent than good.  You don’t need grace to push.

How much do you think the opportunities for independent artists have altered since you release “Josh Ritter” in 1999?

The world of music has become much more egalitarian since 1999, mostly due to all the things people always talk about: the internet, the ensuing fall of major labels, etc.  An artist can record a record in their bedroom in an afternoon and the entire world can hear it by dinnertime.  For all the hand wringing, I feel that music is much healthier now than it was then.  Anyone who wants to can jump in.

“So Runs The World Away” is your sixth album – did you ever think you’d get to this stage?

I never had a doubt in my mind!  No plan B!  Seriously, I never would have imagined the route I’d take to making six records, but that is the reason for doing it after all.  For the long strange trip it’s been.

Do you remember what drove you to make your debut album? If so, is the same thing your driving force?

Whatever it is, it’s deep, it’s obsessive, it can make me a real pain in the ass to be around, and I’ll never see a psychiatrist for it.

If there was any song, by any artist that you could have written what would it be?

There are thousands.  “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen.  “I Dream A Highway” by Gillian Welch.  Almost everything by Cole Porter.

Can you tell us a little about “So Runs The World Away”?

I worked on the record for over two years.  It is a big, tapestried record full of stories that include as many details as possible.  I’m very proud of it.

If the music had not worked out, had you thought of any back up plans?

No plan B!

You are about to embark on a UK tour supported by your wife Dawn Landes, are you a fan of the touring lifestyle?

It’s really the only one I know.  I’ve been doing it ten years and i love it.  I get itchy feet if I stay home too long.  I’ve learned to live with sandwiches and strange showers, and I love seeing new towns.

Do you foresee a time when you would rather be able to just release records and not hit the road for the touring?

When that time comes, I’ll know it and I won’t be afraid to do it.  I do hope that time comes, but I also hope that when I’m 105 and it’s time to die, that I die on stage, mid-song.

Now that you are established fully in your own right, do you ever get fed up that inevitable comparisons with the likes of Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen?

Comparisons are only really helpful in allowing people to find new music.  I take the comparisons to Dylan and Springsteen as great compliments, but I also keep in mind that they’ve been doing it thirty or forty years longer than me, and careers can only be judged in hindsight.

With the tour taking up most of the rest of 2010 – what other plans do you have for 2011?

I have a novel coming out in July.  It’s called “Bright’s Passage” and I’m very proud of it.  I’m also planning on putting out a new record next year, and I’d like to sit on a porch somewhere and drink some lemonade.

WIN! To get your hands on a signed copy of “So The World Runs Away” simply tell us the title of Josh Ritter’s wife… Email answers to thekaje@thekaje.com  Good luck!

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