Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has played venues from Dublin to Manhattan, lived in locales from Idaho to Scotland to his current home in Brooklyn. But when he plays the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center tonight, it will mark his first visit to the Hamptons. “I’m looking forward to my trip to the Far East,” he says with a laugh.
Before kicking off his summer tour here on the East End, the creator of such classic tunes as “The Curse” and “Kathleen” took the time to speak with DansHamptons.com about keeping company with Springsteen and Dylan; his first novel, Bright’s Passage; stealing from Shakespeare; and the murderous potential of a sandwich.
You’re heading back onstage after a break, and you’ll be touring throughout the summer. Is it tough going from the solitude of writing to doing live gigs?
I always think of those nature shows where the penguins line up and then go diving in the water, you know? That’s how I feel about touring. You kind of get swept along in a wave, and you’re in it. It’s coming back out again that’s hard, the day before and the day after you’re a little bit shell shocked. You’re on stage every night, and suddenly you’re in a room all alone, wondering where the crowd is.
Do you ever look forward to the break from writing?
It’s always all about writing. When you’re on the road you’re collecting ideas, you’re reading, you’re meeting strange people and cool people and hearing stories, and taking that home, it’s a collecting expedition, and it’s really important to the process of writing. All the stuff you bring home, the twigs and branches, you can start to make a nest out of them.
Paste named you to its “100 Greatest Living Songwriters” list, alongside guys like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. That’s some heady company.
It really is. I just hope to keep going and deserve that some day. But as it is, I’m very happy to be in the list of the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters and not the 100 Greatest Dead Ones. That may be my greatest achievement so far.
Who are some writers who inspire you?
I love Pete Dexter and Flannery OConnor and Mark Twain—he’s a bad-ass. Top of the list has to be Shakespeare. I’m aware that’s not very original, but I love him.
The title of your album So Runs the World Away was plucked from Hamlet, right?
If you have to go and rip off from somebody, rip off from the best.
And now you’ve taken your writing to a whole other level with Bright’s Passage. What made you go out and tackle a novel?
Long before I was a songwriter I was a big reader. When I realized I needed to start making some goals for myself, I wanted to run a marathon and I wanted to write a novel. So I ran a marathon—and the novel was way harder. But it taught me that you have to be able to do something every day, and the little chunks will add up to something.
You have a long tour ahead of you. Any comforts of home that you’re taking with you on the road?
My pajamas and slippers. One of my favorite moments on tour every night is when we’re all packed up and we’re all piled back on the bus and I have my pajamas on and a beer in my hand. I don’t know that there’s too many other feelings better than that.
What do you enjoy when you’re not writing or playing?
I love running, that’s one of my favorite things. I go to museums a lot. And cooking, when I’m home, is something that’s become a big thing. I’m just learning, but I do a good brisket. Mostly what I try to avoid is anything having to do with a sandwich. I have so many sandwiches on the road. Sometimes that’s the moment when I think that it all has to end, if I have one more sandwich.
You’ve never been out to the Hamptons before. Any expectations?
It’s nice to have the opportunity to come someplace you’ve never been. Around the country, there are places that are exotic, and that’s how I’m viewing it. I’ll be the first from the Ritter clan in Westhampton Beach, so that’ll be cool. I’ll bring the Ritter family flag and plant it on the beach in a solemn ceremony.
And then you’ll right a song about it.
See Josh Ritter live at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, June 3, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$70. For more information go to whbpac.org, or call the box office at 631-288-1500. [/expand]