Josh Ritter is nowadays better known for his fresh music, which always carries a very distinctive style that made of him and his Royal City Band one of the main attractions of the most recent Vancouver Folk Music Festival. But Josh Ritter is also a very multifaceted man: From being a neuroscience student, he followed whatever his heart dictated and immersed himself full time in his passion for writing and music.
Taste & Sip Magazine had a personal conversation with Josh Ritter to dig deeper into the mind and life of this multitalented individual. Here is what he shared with us:
ET: You come from a mixed background where you started in neuroscience, then you shifted towards writing and now you are into music. How has this transition worked?
JR: I went to school for neuroscience because I really wanted to be a neuroscientists, but then I discovered music and I started writing songs. I’ve been doing that for 10 years now, but only recently I just finished putting out my first novel. So for me it has been a matter of ‘you only get one chance to do the things that you love to do, and you try to used them to do other things that you have to do’. Life is full of good things.
ET: Did you find the transition between career paths difficult?
JR: Sometimes it was difficult. The only thing that was really difficult was admitting to my dad that I was not going to be a neuroscientist, because that’s what both of my parents did and that’s what my brother does, and that’s what I thought I would do. In a way it sort of feels like you’re giving up on the family business. But once that I realized that what I wanted to do was to play music and write songs, everything else has been hard work, but beautiful and fun hard work.
ET: So then, you are not active anymore in neuroscience but you are fully committed to writing and music?
JR: Yes, in fact I didn’t graduate from neuroscience. But the transition was fairly easy and fun. I have always enjoyed reading, I read tons of books and I love writing. Song writing and novel writing are so similar, any type of writing is very similar: you start with a blank page.
ET: What kind of novels is it that you write? What is your recently finished novel about?
JR: It’s about a guy who came home from WWI with an angel, as he had no one left. It’s him and the angel escaping a wildfire for 5 days.
ET: Seems that your novel has a lot of historical background then
JR: A lot of my songs have a lot of history too. I love reading history, it is so much fun. History is the study of the links we have to the past. There are so many fascinating little things in history that can lead off to a story.
ET: So aside from history, do you have any other influences that inspire you musically?
JR: Sure. I think like a lot of people my age, we grew up in the shadow of Bob Dylan. His music has been a huge influence, but also Johnny Cash, Radiohead and Jay-Z have been very important people in terms of that.
ET: When you look backwards at your different career moves and realize the success that you have achieved at all of them, how do you feel about that?
JR: There are great reviews and all that, but it’s not about that. It’s about excitement. It’s enjoyable, I feel like one of the lucky people who get to do what they love to do. And what I love to do is very simple: I love to write songs, I love to write novels and I’m very lucky to be able to do that for a living so I’m very happy.
ET: Is there any message that you’d like to convey to people who listen to your music out there?
JR: I’d say, for people who are getting started playing music themselves: The most important thing is to realize that getting to do what you want to do is success in life. No matter how much money you make, or how many people listen to your music; if you are doing what you love to do it will never get better than that.
ET: And is there any words that you’d like to leave for people in Vancouver?
JR: When I was 20 years old I came here for the first time, for my first show here. This is the place that I have been coming to my entire life, I grew up coming to Vancouver, camping around here and enjoying the life.