Throughout his nearly 20-year career, singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has written songs about interesting, strong female characters who sometimes succumb to or overcome their circumstances and environment.
His latest album, “Sermon on the Rocks,” is no different. Songs such as “Henrietta, Indiana” and “Getting Ready to Get Down” feature those kinds of stories. Maybe that’s because Ritter’s empathy for women is magnified by becoming a father to a young girl. His daughter with novelist Haley Tanner is now 3.
“All I really want for my daughter is to grow up with the strength of her own convictions because there’s enough people telling each other how to live their lives. I want her to grow up as free as possible,” says Ritter, calling from a venue in St. Louis. “I noticed it as a theme after the fact. There’s a lot of ladies on this record.”
“That’s always what happens. When you’re writing, the themes don’t jump out because you’re so busy taking things down,” he says.
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Ritter plays Urban Ministry’s Housing Fest to End Homelessness at the Fillmore Saturday with Matrimony, Lindi Ortega, Nikki Hill and Jim Lauderdale.
“I’m lucky to work with people who are always on the lookout for shows that are special,” says the Idaho native, who now lives in Brooklyn. “It wasn’t a festival I knew about, but it’s certainly one I’m grateful to be playing.”
Ritter has never been an artist one would describe as self-absorbed, or a diva, so to speak. But like many new parents, his worldview expanded with the birth of his daughter.
“It seems like becoming a parent can take you outside of yourself as far as what kind of impact what we do now has on the future,” he says. “For instance, this awful law that’s been passed. I considered seriously not playing (North Carolina).
“Not playing and punishing my fans or playing and donating to a cause that will fight the law – both of those are single efforts that won’t change the fact that this is an awful law,” says Ritter, who ultimately decided to honor his commitment to the benefit concert. “I really respect people like Bruce (Springsteen), who made his choice, or Brandi (Carlile), who made her choice.
“You get behind the things that really get to you. This is something you think long and hard about the best thing to do. I think about what I want. The roads I want to open for my daughter. It definitely widens your outlook, your gaze,” he says.
“Having somebody who grounds you and brings you back to very simple things is good. It makes you look for simple things in life and realize the preciousness of it and how easily it can be taken away,” he says. “(It’s a) horrible position for trans people to be in, and it’s a bad position for everybody. It’s a bad thing all around and everybody is trying to react. It’s good to be coming in playing Housing Fest, doing a show that will matter to a lot of people.”
Want to go?
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.