Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band play songs from the new release, The Beast in Its Tracks, during their soundcheck at the Crystal Ballroom.

“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 comparisions to the likes of Blood on the Tracks and Shoot Out the Lights stop.

“When I initially started writing,” he told 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, 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— indeed, “Joy to You Baby,” one of the songs perfromed during our set, sounds like anything but a breakup song.

We talked to Ritter about the process of working through The Beast and how he’s come out the other side with plenty to which to look forward: a new record, a new relationship, and fatherhood.

Hear the entire session (performances + interview), download “Hopeful.”


Audio Engineer/Mixing: Steven Kray
Video Producer: Ifanyi Bell
Videographers: Ifanyi Bell / Greg Boone / Nate Sjol
Interview: Jeremy Petersen
Executive Producer: David Christensen