Coming from a famous family, singer-songwriter Josh Ritter had to make his own mark on the music scene. He’s done just that with his narrative lyrics, which he’ll bring to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) this weekend.
How did you come to make the switch from neuroscience to what you do today?
It was frankly very easy because of organic chemistry. I had it in my head to be a scientist, and I ended up checking out chemistry and realized, well maybe my first intuition of playing music was correct, and it turned out to be. I discovered music and playing music when I was 17, around the time I was getting ready to go to college. I thought I’d do music on the weekends and see what happens. What I love about music is what scientists love about science. It’s all about the question, about learning and examining what you are thinking about and looking for solutions for different problems in the work that you are doing. Anyone who has a passion like that is lucky, and should use it. They need to get the boogie-woogie out.
What kind of questions do you look to give your audience though your music?
The best songs aren’t ones that are educational. They aren’t instructive. There isn’t a cause and a question when you deal with big subjects like love, death, God and all these things that don’t offer an answer. They point at the questions we all have. In that way I feel music fosters a community in a way that it shows that we are all having these strange questions and thoughts.
Of all of the music you’ve written and performed, is there a song or an album that best reflects your passion for music?
In terms of records and songs, the way I see the work is whatever I’m working on at the moment is my favorite. I’ve made a lot of records and I make them on a fairly regular basis. I found that doing it that way allows me to see parts of my life through the lens of the record that I made. It allows me to see what was I like and what was I doing back in 2008. It’s a little wormhole into a past self. I couldn’t really say which one was my favorite because they are so interconnected to my life.
What can the audience expect when they come to see you in Westhampton?
My hope always is that the little bit of fire that you carry from show to show stays in the frame. On a good night, anywhere you are should feel like the best place to be. I’m always concerned that each show should have the same charm, and for that reason I work hard on choosing the songs I play, and I like to play stuff from all over my catalog and like to play some new songs that I’m working on. That’s important to me. I hope people will come and see something they haven’t seen before. I believe it will be a night of fun and laughter with such an intimate crowd.
What are you most excited about in the future?
I’m continually amazed how the songs keep on coming. You have a limited number of chords and the words in our vocabulary are set. It’s amazing how, through these combinations of chords and words, feelings and emotions can arrive. I think back 20 years ago when I started all of the songs—they make me a better problem solver going forward. Writing for me is a form of exploration and there are always new places to explore. I think that’s what’s most exciting.
See Josh Ritter at the WHBPAC on Sunday, August 12 at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets on whbpac.org or by calling 631-288-1500.