Josh Ritter has never made it a secret that he isn’t much of a fan of writing autobiographical songs. He prefers to be a story teller. (His previous album, “So The World Runs Away,” for instance, had songs whose characters included an awoken Egyptian mummy and a showdown between murder ballad writers Stagger Lee and Louis Collins, among others.)
“I don’t like writing autobiographical songs,” Ritter said in a recent phone interview. “I like writing songs about other things. There’s so much more to write about in the world than what happens right in front of you on a daily basis. And my favorite books are flights of imagination. I always feel that it’s really important to write those rather than write about yourself because that’s where so much fun stuff happens.”
But with his latest CD, “The Beast In Its Tracks,” Ritter couldn’t avoid writing songs with autobiographical content. In 2010, his marriage of 18 months to fellow singer-songwriter Dawn Landes came apart.
“To turn around and pretend that it hadn’t happened, I think it would have felt dishonest,” Ritter said. “But it would have also been a huge missed opportunity to write about something that mattered so much to me at that moment. I’d never had something where I felt like this matters so much to me that I had to write about it even though it’s personal.”
In talking to Ritter, it was obvious how much pain and sadness the divorce had inflicted. The end of the marriage came suddenly, while Ritter was on tour in November 2010.
“It did happen in a way that it came about very unexpectedly,” Ritter said. “It was my decision that that stuff was all over. I decided that a line had been crossed that I was not going to be able to come back from. And it was cold. It was hard. It was really bad. It was at times like really, impossible to sleep. It was an awful, awful time.”