Josh Ritter: The Guitar Is America

"The idea of America is that we all have our own unique voices...and that’s the same as guitar. Guitar is not an instrument that's stuck in a canon, or stuck in a particular form." As an instrument of democratic self-expression, the guitar has been Josh Ritter's best friend. Having once taken an aptitude test that predicted he'd be "an undertaker or a plumber, or somebody who worked in the woods," Ritter instead found his voice as one of today's most acclaimed folk rock musicians. He shares that voice, both in conversation and song, in his Big Think interview.

With his sixth studio album, "So Runs the World Away," debuting today, Ritter discusses the changes his songwriting has undergone since his early career and the effortless quality—like that of a perfectly tailored suit—he strives to achieve in each song. As a special demonstration, he breaks out his guitar and plays a single off the new album: the mellow, lyrical "Change of Time."

Ritter also reflects on the current upheaval in the music industry, pointing out that tanking album sales have forced musicians to rock harder in concert, since "that's the only way now" to make money in the business. And while he marvels at the connection a show can create between performer and audience, he offers a few wise words to Twittering rock stars who try to maintain that connection 24/7 online: "Don't overstay your welcome."

Image courtesy Mike Ritter.
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