Josh Ritter

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Josh Ritter
Ritter with the Love Cannon String Band Wexford, Ireland on October 20, 2009
Background information
Born (1976-10-21) October 21, 1976 (age 38)
Moscow, Idaho, United States
Genres folk, alternative country, rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, author
Instruments Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, lute, violin
Years active 1997–
Labels Signature Sounds
Sony BMG/Victor
Associated acts The Frames, Hilary Hahn

Josh Ritter (born October 21, 1976) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and author who performs and records with The Royal City Band. Ritter is known for his distinctive Americana style and narrative lyrics.[1] In 2006 he was named one of the "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" by Paste magazine.[2]

Early life[edit]

Ritter was born and raised in Moscow, Idaho, a college town in the northwestern part of the state. As a teenager, after hearing Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” on his parents' copy of Nashville Skyline, he attempted to write songs on a lute that his father had built, before abandoning the lute and buying his first guitar at K-Mart.[3]

Ritter graduated from Moscow High School in 1995[4] and attended Oberlin College in Ohio to study neuroscience, but later changed his major to the self-created "American History Through Narrative Folk Music".[5] At the age of 21 Josh recorded his first album Josh Ritter at a recording studio on campus. After graduating, Josh moved to Scotland to attend the School of Scottish Folk Studies for six months.[6] Josh then moved back to Idaho for a few months, before moving to Providence, Rhode Island, then Somerville, Massachusetts, where he worked temporary jobs and played at open mic nights. During this time, Ritter sold copies of his album and was spotted by Glen Hansard and his band The Frames, who invited him to return with them to Ireland. As an early sign of his success to come, Ritter found on the trip to Ireland that his album sold particularly well at open mics there. With the money from merchandise sales, Ritter was eventually able to quit his day job and devote himself to music full-time.


A year and a half after recording Josh Ritter, Ritter recorded his second album Golden Age of Radio for $1000 and self-published it. The album was recorded in three different studios: Soundgun in Philadelphia, Electric Cave in New Hampshire, and a friend's basement studio.[7] While promoting Golden Age of Radio, he met Jim Olsen, head of independent record label Signature Sounds, who offered to remaster and re-release the album after hearing Ritter play. The song "Me & Jiggs" was subsequently released as a single in Ireland, where Ritter was quickly becoming a word-of-mouth success, first opening for The Frames, then headlining his own shows. Ritter's third record, Hello Starling, produced by former Frames guitarist Dave Odlum, debuted at No. 2 on the Irish charts.[8]

Ritter, left, in concert with longtime bassist Zack Hickman

In 2003, Ritter shared top billing with the French Kicks at Sepomana, the annual music festival produced by WRMC 91.1 FM. Ritter and Ron Sexsmith headlined the Friday night singer-songwriter event at the Hotel Viking at the 2004 Newport Folk Festival. He also appeared at Oxegen 2005, and has headlined with artists such as Joan Baez, who later released her own version of Ritter's song "Wings" on her album Dark Chords on a Big Guitar. He was signed by a British label, V2 Records, in 2005 and Hello Starling was subsequently re-released. He began performing and touring in a crossover duo with the classical violinist Hilary Hahn in 2005.

In 2006, Ritter released his fourth album The Animal Years. 2006 also saw the release of Ritter's first full-length live album and DVD In The Dark - Live at Vicar Street which was recorded over two nights in May 2006. Ritter released his fifth album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, in 2007. Both The Animal Years and Historical Conquests received warm critical reception[9][10] with Stephen King calling The Animal Years the best album of 2006 in his column for Entertainment Weekly.[11] In support of Historical Conquests, Ritter appeared as a musical guest on such high profile television shows as Late Show with David Letterman in America and Later... with Jools Holland in Britain.[12][13]

Ritter re-issued his second and third albums, Golden Age of Radio and Hello Starling, on April 7, 2009 and January 17, 2010, respectively. Each re-issued album was packaged as a two-disc deluxe edition. The deluxe editions contain both the original studio album as well as solo acoustic versions of all the original tracks, live and remixed bonus songs, and never-before-seen photos and artwork. The deluxe editions also feature liner notes written by Ritter fans, including Dennis Lehane and Cameron Crowe.[14][15]

In Autumn 2009 Ritter toured with Love Canon String Band, where he reinterpreted his songs with a band composed of banjo, double bass, mandolin and guitar. This tour included three nights in Whelans Dublin, where he performed his albums Golden Age of Radio, Hello Starling, and The Animal Years in full.[16] In 2009, Ritter also provided the soundtrack for the documentary film Typeface, by Kartemquin Films.

Ritter's sixth album, So Runs the World Away, was released April 23, 2010 in Ireland and May 4, 2010 worldwide.[17] The vinyl version of the album had an earlier release on April 17, 2010 as a part of Record Store Day celebrations. The vinyl record came packaged with a CD version of the album as well.[18] To promote the album before its release, Ritter made one of the songs, "Change of Time", freely available online.[19] The song also appeared in the March 23, 2010 episode of the television series Parenthood and the trailer for the 2011 Natalie Portman film, The Other Woman.[20] In support of the new album Ritter toured with his newly named The Royal City Band – starting with six dates in Ireland – including a sellout performance at the newly opened, 2100-capacity Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin,[21] and continuing with an extensive tour of the United States.[22] So Runs the World Away largely garnered positive reviews.[23][24]

On February 15, 2011 Ritter reissued The Animal Years on vinyl and as a two-disc deluxe edition on CD. The deluxe edition contains both the original studio album as well as a solo acoustic version of the album. The bonus disc includes four b-side recordings, two videos, new artwork, and liner notes by author Tom Ricks.[25]

During his early 2011 tour, Josh Ritter released an EP album of previously unreleased material from the So Runs the World Away recording sessions, titled To the Yet Unknowing World. Ritter began streaming the EP for free on his website as well as made it available for digital purchase on February 8, 2011.[26] To the Yet Unknowing World hit Apple's iTunes and record stores February 15, 2011.[27] In February 2011, Ritter and his band continued their extensive tour in support of So Runs The World Away touring America and Europe.[28] During his European tour in April 2011, Ritter released his third live album, Live at The Iveagh Gardens. The limited edition two CD and one DVD set is a live recording of Ritter's performance of 21 songs at the Dublin venue on July 18, 2010.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Josh Ritter married Dawn Landes, a fellow musician, in Branson, Missouri on May 9, 2009.[30] However, in a February 2011 interview with the Boston Herald, when asked about Dawn Landes, Ritter said "we’ve actually decided to split, which is hard, but is going to be better in the end".[31] On November 11, 2012, Josh's current partner, author Haley Tanner, gave birth to their first child, Beatrix Wendylove Ritter.[32] Tanner is the author of the book Vaclav and Lena.[33] Tanner and Ritter own a home together in Woodstock, New York.

On November 22, 2009, Ritter played at a Benefit Concert at Moscow Junior High School in Moscow, Idaho for Jim LaFortune, an Earth Science teacher at the school struggling with a brain tumor. LaFortune was one of Ritter's teachers. Ritter attended the school from the 7th through the 9th grade.[3]

Apart from music, Ritter also has an interest in writing. Ritter has claimed many different writers as influences on both his songwriting and fiction work. Some of his favorite authors are Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, and Dennis Lehane (who wrote the intro for the Deluxe Edition of Hello Starling). The title of Ritter's sixth album, So Runs the World Away, comes from a line in the third act of Shakespeare's Hamlet.[34] Ritter's own novel, Bright's Passage, was published by Dial Press on June 28, 2011. Ritter has said of the novel, "Besides my songs, Bright's Passage is the first [written] work I’ve wanted anyone to see".[35] Ritter has said that "It’s about a kind of sweet normal guy from West Virginia. He goes to the first World War and he comes back and he has an angel. And it's about him and this angel escaping this wildfire for five days. It's sort of this short little comedy".[36]

The Royal City Band[edit]

In 2010, Ritter's band members – some of whom had been performing with him from the early 2000s – were given the name "The Royal City Band" (a reference to the song "Thin Blue Flame" from The Animal Years).


  • Josh Ritter – Lead vocals, guitar
  • Zack Hickman – Bass, guitar, tuba, strings
  • Sam Kassirer – Piano, keyboards, organ, accordion
  • Austin Nevins – Guitar, lap steel, baritone
  • Liam Hurley – Drums, percussion



Live Albums[edit]

  • In The Dark – Live At Vicar Street – Live Album/DVD (November 24, 2006 in Ireland, February 5, 2008 in U.S.)
  • Live at the 9:30 Club (April 19, 2008)
  • Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Live at The Iveagh Gardens (April 2011)
  • Josh Ritter: Live at the Record Exchange (2006)
  • Josh Ritter: Live volume 1, Somerville theater, Somervile, Mass (March 2014)



  • "Hello Starling (Snow Is Gone)" (May 31, 2004, UK single)
  • "Bright Smile" (2004, Irish single)
  • "Man Burning" (2004, Ireland promo-only single)
  • "Thin Blue Flame" (2005, US promo-only single)
  • "Girl in the War" (April 11, 2006)
  • "Lillian, Egypt" (May 29, 2006, UK single)
  • "Wolves" (July 25, 2006, promo only)
  • "Mind's Eye" (October 15, 2007)
  • "Right Moves" (December 17, 2007)
  • "Empty Hearts" (March 31, 2008)
  • "Real Long Distance" (May 5, 2008)
  • "Change of Time" (March 16, 2010)
  • "Lantern" (2010)

Other contributions[edit]


  1. ^ Bob Boilen's Top 10 (Really 9) Albums Of 2010 : All Songs Considered Blog : NPR
  2. ^ Ritter, Josh. "Josh Ritter". Huffington Post. 
  3. ^ a b Josh Ritter interview – Arts Talk – Capital Region arts and entertainment news – – Albany NY
  4. ^ Moscow-Pullman Daily News – Moscow's star returns home – 2008-01-17 – p.5C
  5. ^ Weinstein, Elizabeth. "Another Chapter for Josh Ritter '99". Oberlin Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Interview with Triste Magazine
  7. ^ – Interview – Josh Ritter
  8. ^ "Pre-Christmas gigs for Josh Ritter". RTÉ News. October 1, 2004. 
  9. ^ Metacritic page for The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
  10. ^ Metacritic page for The Animal Years
  11. ^ King, Stephen (February 1, 2007). "The A-List". Entertainment Weekly. 
  12. ^ BBC – BBC Two Programmes – Later... with Jools Holland, Series 30, Episode 5
  13. ^ Josh Ritter Returns to Letterman ("To the Dogs or Whoever") – Elbows Music Blog Aggregator
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ [4][dead link]
  18. ^ [5][dead link]
  19. ^ [6][dead link]
  20. ^ Watch: Natalie Portman in 'The Other Woman' Trailer Premiere |
  21. ^
  22. ^ Blitzen Trapper adds dates to summer outing
  23. ^ Sisario, Ben (May 5, 2010). "Flying Low, but Staying on Folk's Radar". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ [7][dead link]
  25. ^ Josh Ritter » ‘The Animal Years’ Re-Issued in Deluxe & Vinyl Editions
  26. ^ Blogs – Stream the new Josh Ritter ep
  27. ^ Josh Ritter » To The Yet Unknowing World EP
  28. ^ Josh Ritter » April 2011 Ireland + Europe Shows Announced
  29. ^ Josh Ritter » Live At The Iveagh Gardens: On CD & DVD
  30. ^ [8][dead link]
  31. ^ Blagg, Christopher (February 10, 2011). "Josh Ritter stages Valentine's brawl". Boston Herald. Retrieved February 10, 2011. 
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Kornbluth, Jesse (May 4, 2010). "Josh Ritter Talks About His New CD". Huffington Post. 
  35. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ Sundance Interview: Josh Ritter talks songwriting, his new novel and blood and guts –
  37. ^ Josh Ritter » About the Band
  38. ^
  39. ^ " album page". album page. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  40. ^ " album page". Retrieved 2014-10-20. 
  41. ^ " album page". Retrieved 2014-10-20. 

External links[edit]