Interview: Singer Josh Ritter Prepares His ‘Sermon’ For Philadelphia

By Michael Cerio 

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Josh Ritter is readying himself for the road.

The 39-year-old singer-songwriter stops in Philadelphia for a sold out show at Union Transfer on Sunday February 21st, but as we talked with him from his New York home this week, he’s focused first on packing.

“I’m checking to make sure I have everything I need, and making sure I bring my guitar with me” he laughs. “Living on the bus is like living on a boat. You can’t bring too much.”

In October Ritter released his eighth studio album Sermon On The Rocks, a back porch collection of strutting folk that sketches out small towns and leans on love. It’s an exuberant departure from his last effort, 2013’s Beast In Its Tracks, which unfolded like a personal post script to his divorce and found Ritter looking inward as he sorted out feelings.

“Making Beast In Its Tracks, a record about divorce and the good stuff that came after, that was a very important record to write about at the time. Doing the right thing and getting it out as I felt I’d written it, that was terrific. It took a lot of control” explains Ritter. “This one I think was a reaction to that one. I wanted to let loose. I didn’t want any constrictions on what I wrote about. I wanted to open up my mind, and open up myself to the songs that were coming out that were new and strange and weird – and I feel like that couldn’t of happened unless I had written the Beast In Its Tracks.”

Packing bags and pondering his work, Ritter explains that getting older with a growing family has brought some light to his latest album, and his overall appreciation of life. “You start to realize that you’ve got the chance to do something in the moment that can be very exciting, and you could miss that moment so easily and it may not come back” he says. “Right now this band and me, we’re really playing with the kind of abandon that I think comes out of realizations.”

As Ritter heads out on the road, he brings with him this new bundle of “strange and weird” tunes, the guitar of course, some canvas and paint for a “smoothing” experience before the show, and the often forgotten but no less essential, pajamas.

“I always find that it’s often overlooked but, pajamas. Pajamas are great” Ritter explains.
“After a night of playing a show and then you shower and you get in your pajamas, you feel like a human being.”

You can hear Josh Ritter in all his pre-pajama glory at Union Transfer on Sunday February 21st. To hear more from Ritter – like his short-lived dream of being a neuroscientist – check out the full interview below.

 

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