Josh Ritter – An Interview

Josh Ritter is on tour again, this time stopping in small towns and quirky venues all over this great nation (and a few in Canada, if I’m not mistaken). If you are lucky enough to be attending one of these shows, I envy you, but I also encourage you to take a pen and paper, because the man’s wit is exemplary. When he and the boys played at Langerado, the set list was incredible, and included “Mind’s Eye”, “Wolves”, “Good Man”, “Naked as a Window”, “Monster Ballads”, “Harrison, PA”, “Temptation of Adam”, “Rumors”, “Girl in the War”, and “Kathleen”. There were four or five more in there, but I couldn’t keep up, I was too busy singing along. Two highlights were when the entire band switched instruments for the end of “Real Long Distance” in a rather hectic Three-Stooges-Slapstick kind of way, and the 30-second slow dance that Josh incited in the crowd, even as the festival people were threatening to turn off his mic because he was over on time. Check out the tour schedule online at his website , and find the time if he’s going to be near you, I promise it will be more than worth it.

Twangville: Hi, Josh, I just wanted to say thanks so much for taking the time.

Josh: Oh, absolutely, thank you.

T: So, I was wondering, what was your initial inspiration for your Small-Town Tour?

J: It’s funny because a lot of these places aren’t really all that small, but most of the stops are places I’ve never played and I wanted to get to them. I grew up in a small town, and it seems like I’m always in cities now. It’s funny, because we’re playing Brooklyn, which is 2.5 million people, so you find the smaller venues and bars and try to make the big small.

T: Speaking of venues, what are some of your favorite to play in?

J: Oh, I love, in the States, The Fillmore, it’s so beautiful. I also got a chance to play Carnegie once, but I try not to get used to that. Stubb’s, in Austin, is great, too. There’s just a wealth of places that are great, but, you know, there’s also terrible places that are great because the show was so much fun.

T: Tell me one of your funniest touring-mishap stories.

J: Oh, there’s so many, I remember one time we were touring in this big green van, it was our bass player’s, and it was when we were recording ‘The Animal Years’, and we were just outside of Wahl, South Dakota, and we broke down and the van would only drive backwards, which we would have done, but it’s kind of hard with a trailer. So this state trooper stopped and got us a tow and we ended up in this hotel, it was called the Four Seasons, and it was made of cinderblocks and it was one of those places that’s, in the off-season, like $25 a week. I had to have my guitar delivered and it wasn’t there on time and it was all just crazy. Every time something goes wrong, though, and you kind of stop noticing.

T: It becomes standard?

J: Absolutely, but it’s still funny.

T: Where’s your favorite place to write?

J: I don’t really have a favorite place, it’s just kind of wherever it works at the time. I think the same writing conditions every time could sort of lead to the same writing, so I like the variety. I’ve just never been a creature of habit about that, like I like cooking in the kitchen and I have some favorite places to run, but with writing it’s really wherever works.

T: Okay, I’m going to ask you one of my favorite questions; If you could see any artist at any point in their career, who would it be and when?

J: I’d say it would probably, no it would definitely have to be either Shakespeare, around the time of ‘Henry IV’, or Mark Twain in the 1890’s, if he was doing a comedy-lecture sort of tour, either would be good for me.

T: Since your brought it up, what are you reading right now?

J: A friend gave me Hemingway’s ‘Moveable Feast’, and it’s amazing, I just love it. I haven’t read much of him before, I wasn’t an English major. I also recently read ‘Theodore Rex’, which is about Teddy Roosevelt.

T: So, to completely change direction, what kind of music did you grow up with around your house?

J: We didn’t really have all that much around the house, but there was always a pretty good mix. We had top 40 radio, country, rock, and NPR, which was talk. I grew up playing violin, so there was some classical, and a lot of harpsichord. There was also a Christmas rebels record and a sounds of nature album too, you know, everything. The Hokum boys were a pivotal group, too, they had an album cover with two guys in tuxedos with a cougar on a leash, that was amazing. Thankfully, I heard more, though.

T: So, just as a last question, being from Florida, of course I was at Langerado, do you have any good stories from that weekend?

J: It was crazy because we had just done 4 ½ weeks across Canada, so we had parkas with like just a t-shirt underneath. I remember, in Tallahassee, we ate at some crazy Bavarian restaurant that was next door to an S&M club. When we got to Langerado we were so exhausted before the show that I was curious if we were going to make it through, but then you walk out on stage and the sunlight hits your face and gets you going, it was a great day. Also, you know they printed my name wrong in the program, but at least they spelled John right.

T: Too, true. Well, again, Josh, I just want to thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the new tour. I hope to see you in the future.

J: Oh, absolutely, thank you very very much.

Langerado 2008 – The Quotes

It’s taken me awhile to get to posting this stuff, but I came home with over 50 pages of notes, and it took some work to get them all into a legible state.  Here are the best and the brightest, the most memorable quotes of Langerado (at least the ones that I heard).  I’ll be doing individual show reviews in the days and weeks to come, but for now, this is a good primer.  Expect full reviews of Josh Ritter, Will Hoge, The Wood Brothers, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, G. Love, Beastie Boys, and Ben Folds, and coverage of The Dynomites, Sam Bush, Les Claypool, That 1 Guy, The Wailers, 311, REM, State Radio, Gov’t. Mule, Jonah Smith, Keller Williams and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.  It’s a lot to tackle, but I figure if I could see them all in one weekend, by god, I can write about them all in a month.

“Tell everyone at Twangville I said ‘Hi and thanks’.” – Will Hoge

“Send my regards to everyone over at Twangville.” – Josh Ritter

“It’s a beautiful night in the Glades, we rode in on a fan boat because that’s how we do.” -Mike D.

“Did you just say the Glades are in the house?” – Adam Horovitz         “Yup.  I did.” – Adam Yauch

“I’m having some delicious hair for lunch today.” – Oliver Wood, about the wind blowing his hair in his face

“This is the windiest gig of our Wood Brothers career, it’s a momentous occasion.” – Chris Wood

“I need some SPF 1,000.  I’m a little pale.” – Chris Wood, in response to people asking him to stay on stage longer

“I forgot my band-aids and now I’ve broken a nail.  Most people, if they broke a nail, they’d just go home, but not me.”- Ben Folds

“I’m pretty sure there are some Floridians here, and I’m pretty sure there are some people from neighboring states here, and I’m pretty sure there are some Norwegians scattered throughout the crowd.” – Stipe

“Is that Moby?” – A guy who passed me in the crowd during REM’s set

“We hopped outta the van, got on the stage, and when this is over, we’re gonna hop back in the van and go back to Nashville, so this song is for us.” – Will Hoge, introducing the song “The Highways Home”

“We were in Ottowa yesterday and we had everything, ponchos and ski pants and at the bottom we had itty bitty little speedos.  It was great.” – Josh Ritter

“This is a song about falling in love in a missile silo.  I hope you get the chance.” – Josh Ritter introducing the song, “The Temptation of Adam”

“I’m from the generation of declining vocabulary, apparently, so I’ll just say it’s really cool to be here.” – Josh Ritter

“I wanna talk to you about two things, love and temptation…and I hope that in the remaining few hours you all get lucky.” – Josh Ritter

“My name is actually Josh Ritter, not John Ritter, like it says in the program, but I’d like to thank Landerado for everything.” – Josh Ritter

“That’s pretty hot.” – Josh Ritter, on people slow dancing at his show

“The Line is of utmost importance!” – Dan Deacon, trying to organize people into playing games during his set

“Really sassy now!” – Dan Deacon, on how to sing the line “Silence like the wind overtakes me”

“This next song I want to dedicate to my mother.” – G. Love, introducing the song “My Baby’s Got Sauce”

“Put ‘em up, Langerado, I’m pullin’ up in my El Dorado.” – G. Love

“We’ve been glad to start your day off funky.” – The Dynomites

“No matter what you do, do it with soul.” – The Dynomites

“Play because I’m yelling!” – Guy in crowd after Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood, as people were yelling for an encore there was no time for

Langerado and Trampled By Turtles

Hi, kids. It’s been awhile, I’ve missed this! School + work = me not writing much. However, I have managed to wrangle a long weekend to attend that most hallowed of Florida music festivals, Langerado (no offense, Fest lovers). The likes of Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers, G. Love, The Wood Brothers, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, The Beastie Boys and Ben Folds all promise to make this a most memorable weekend in the ‘Glades. Expect much ranting and raving from me in the weeks to come.

On a completely unrelated note, I have to share my newest musical infatuation with you guys. I was turned onto Trampled by Turtles by a co-worker of sorts (we work in the same building, but not for the same company) and I have been hooked since day one. If you love bluegrass of any sort, and especially if you love bluegrass even though you used to be into punk music, you simply must check them out. I would recommend that anyone who falls into the latter group begin with the song ‘Codeine’. The lyrics could easily have been written by Lagwagon or Pennywise, and hearing them in a bluegrass context both floored and seduced me. I spent the next week playing them on my iPod for friends in bars, my parents, bosses, anyone who would listen, and I’ve come away with more than a few converts. Check them out on their website, or in the iTunes store.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I promise I’ll do my best to try and keep up with you guys.