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On 'Animal Years,' Josh Ritter's Sense of Place

Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006.
Bryan Bed
Getty Images
Josh Ritter, performing at the Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge in New York City, May 2, 2006.

Close your eyes while listening to parts of Josh Ritter's new CD, The Animal Years, and you could swear you're hearing a young Bob Dylan, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter calls the comparison "a huge compliment," but he says it's "not a shadow I would choose to live under."

Yet Ritter says he owes much to Springsteen, who has "been a really big inspiration... He's somebody that I look to for guidance and for making a life for yourself besides just a career."

Asked to elaborate, Ritter says, "I think you can never really do something well unless you're able to leave it, and have a family and have a home, and have a place that you're from that you're really dug in."

When he was in college and just starting to write music, Ritter sent a tape he had made to folk legend Pete Seeger.

"He didn't know me from Adam," Ritter says, "but he wrote me back and he said, 'The most important thing you could ever do is to choose a place and dig in.'"

And there is a sense of place in much of Ritter's music. One example, from the new CD, is "Idaho," about his home state.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.
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