Interview with JOSH RITCHIE
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I don’t think any one thing or event got me into music. It’s just always been in my life. It’s impossible to think of a version of me without music. There is no moment where my mind is quiet. There is always a tune or lyrics or melodies going through my head. It’s just a part of who I am. If I weren’t doing music I would still be doing something creative — probably some form of writing.
How long has your band been around?
That’s a more complicated answer than you might expect. The band has sort of evolved and morphed over time. I started out mostly playing solo and sometimes duo with my Dad on keys. As my sound developed and we started playing slightly bigger gigs we had our great friend and drummer extraordinaire Beaker Granger join us in 2019. As that trio we played around as much as the pandemic would allow. Then just this year we added the missing piece of the puzzle: bassist Curtis Jagt. He’s really only been with us for a handful of months but it feels like he’s been playing with us for years.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’’m based on the Bruce Peninsula right now. I’m not sure it influences my music at all really. Part of the allure of music and getting to play it is constantly being on the move, both physically and creatively. I don’t like to spend too long in one place or one path really. That’s what’s so exciting to me about being a musician is to get to go off on different paths and adventures and see how far a song can take you.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
There are two that really were magical nights. The first being the night of my first album’s release in a place called the Colpoy’s Bay Village Hall, a great little music venue that always puts on great shows. I remember I was nervous because it was my first full show and there was no support act or opener or anything like that so I was really worried no one was gonna come. I just remember coming out on stage and kinda doing a double take because the place was packed! It was the best first show I could have ever asked for and I will never ever forget that feeling of first walking out on stage. The second was only last October at Lee’s Palace. It was my first proper show after the pandemic and it was so beautiful to see everyone run into people they hadn’t seen for over two years. To be the reason that people got to reconnect after so much time apart was really humbling and special, it really reminded me of why I do what I do. It was also the only time I had a sound person ask me to turn my amps UP and for that alone I will love it forever.
What is your favourite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
It’s hard to pick just one favourite. I love different venues and settings for different reasons and to get a mix of them keeps it fun. Sometimes you’re craving the energy of a club or a bar. Sometimes it’s the close attention of a soft seater audience. Sometimes it’s the intimacy of a house concert or the chaos and spontaneity of a festival. They’ve all got their own little quirks and bonuses. You gotta have a bit of everything or else you’ll be left wanting a bit. As far as places I’d like to play in the future, I’d love to do one of the big festivals like Mariposa. That would be a weekend to remember. The absolute dream would be to get to play at the opening ceremonies of the 2026 FIFA World Cup that will be co-hosted here in Canada. As a life long soccer fan to get to “play at a world cup” would be pretty cool.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would involve time travel but my dream would be to go back in time and be the first act on the bill with Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Queen and U2. That or if they did some sort of Live Aid 2 kind of thing and all my closest friends in music and I got to play a massive international concert together.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
It’s the same piece of advice for both actually. It’s that in creating there’s no right or wrong, there’s just different. You can’t play a guitar the wrong way you can only play it your way, there’s no wrong sounds there’s just different sounds. Embrace that because the more you play with different sounds the more you’ll find your sound. And that doesn’t mean your genre or style of music, your sound is in your bones. It’s that thing that makes you identifiable just from a few notes. It’s that thing that you can do that no one else in the world can do. It’s the magic of your craft and you can’t let the fear of being “wrong” stop you from finding it.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
There’s this quote from a movie I love called The French Dispatch. This editor is speaking to a writer of a magazine and he says, “However you go about it, just try to make it sound like you did it on purpose.” And I think that quote would be the advice I would give to myself. It’s kinda the secret to confidence in a nutshell really. Whatever decisions you make or things you do, try to make it seem like you did it on purpose.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
"9-1-1" is the first song on my second album and it’s probably the one I’m most proud of. It’s about outrage and anger. As a Black man I have to be careful with anger; I can't lose my head when racially abused, I can't react in any human way without being labelled as a dangerous, angry black person. "9-1-1" is what you call when you have an emergency. We, as Black people, are in the midst of an emergency as powers that be destroy our lives with impunity. It’s a battle cry because we have no one left to call and no one left to trust. I’ve always been really moved and inspired by music with purpose, music that can start change. This is my attempt to do that and that’s why it means so much to me.
Which songs are your favourite to play and which get requested the most?
My favourite is always the newest in the set. We’ve just put a brand new one in that’s only seen one show so far. It’s this big rock anthem and we got the audience singing along and we have this big freak out ending. It was a hell of a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do it again. I also love the songs we can jam out on for as long as we feel like. “Champion of Thieves” is a good one for that. It’s different every night but it’s always a ton of fun.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
It really depends on how “written” the song is I’ve brought in. Sometimes they are just learning the parts I’ve written, sometimes they’re figuring it out as we go and sometimes it’s a bit of both. It also depends on how crazy I make the LP versions. Sometimes there are arrangements and instrumentations that we can’t really do in a live setting so we have to get a little creative to pull it off. Sometimes we just do stuff differently than the recorded versions for fun. It’s always different but that’s what I love about playing with these guys; they’re all so damn good we can really take things in any direction.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I’ve always been drawn to music with purpose. Music can shape culture and I think that as creators of music or really any art form, we have a responsibility to try and do so. I’ll talk about anything that I think needs to be talked about. It’s how I deal with things and how I process and cope.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
You know, we really don’t have disagreements about music. This is very much my vision and the guys are really great about fleshing it out. When we work together it’s all about the song and egos go out the window. What we do disagree about is how to properly utilize a merge lane, the proper way to drink chocolate milk and whether school buses are orange or yellow.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m in the process of producing records for other artists at the moment. It’s something I really love to do and I want to do more of in the future. With more and more things opening up we hope to be on the road as much as possible. We’re looking forward to Paisley Bluesfest on July 23 and the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on August 18.