"I always felt like I was being stalked by that feeling of heartbreak." That's Josh Ritter talking about the beast that exists in the title of his seventh and latest record, The Beast in Its Tracks, an album written in the wake of his 2011 divorce from singer-songwriter Dawn Landes. To the extent that these new songs were written post-divorce, this is Ritter's "divorce album," but that's where comparisons to the likes of Blood on the Tracks and Shoot Out the Lights stop.
"When I initially started writing," he tells us, "I thought, 'I'm going to steer these songs in a really vicious direction.' But then, when I wrote those songs, they just felt like zombie songs. They didn't really feel like they had any humanity in them."
Eventually, Ritter began to see his experience differently: "I couldn't force myself to forgive," he says, "but I could intend to forgive somebody." The result is a collection of songs that are informed by the divorce without being defined by it — by the end, "Joy to You, Baby" sounds like anything but a breakup song.
Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band recently played "Hopeful" for this opbmusic soundcheck, recorded at iconic Portland venue the Crystal Ballroom.
- Video: Ifanyi Bell
- Photos: Ifanyi Bell
- Audio: Steven Kray