Song Premiere: Josh Ritter - "Why"

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We’ve got a big surprise for Josh Ritter fans today. Ritter—one of our 100 Best Living Songwriters out there—is releasing a six-track EP on Feb. 21, and you can stream one of the songs, “Why,” exclusively through Paste.

The collection of songs, which Ritter calls his version of lullabies, came from a recent writing session. The songs didn’t fit with the tracks Ritter was writing for his still-untitled forthcoming album. As he described it, the tracks were “strays,” but that’s not all they had in common. Every track on album contains the word “darling” at some point. In bringing the collection of songs together, Ritter had his title for the EP: Bringing in the Darlings.

“It always kind of rolls off the tongue,” Ritter told Paste about the reoccurring word. “It certainly fits in the songs, I think it’s a plaintive word. I imagine, what would a cowboy say to a longhorn?”

To Ritter, the songs felt immediate and “small,” so he wanted to make sure those qualities transferred to the recording process. Ritter, who’s known for sonically impressive records like The Animal Years and So Runs the World Away, decided to take a more direct route to record the songs that appear on Bringing in the Darlings.

“As time goes on, it’s good to remember that recording is not necessarily a long process,” Ritter said. “It’s always a fun process, and what you’re trying to do is balance the art form of the recording with the excitement of recording it. I think there’s a certain spark when something’s written and it rolls off the tongue easily, and you can always hear the person’s excitement when it’s happening.”

The album’s six songs were recorded in three days in a small studio in Brooklyn called Homeward Sound. As they were recorded, Ritter didn’t really have plans for the tracks, but the idea of a small, surprise release became more and more appealing.

“Suddenly the songs were here,” Ritter said. “I thought it would be a really fun project to do something that was secret and was just pick up and go.”

The songs that appear on Bringing in the Darlings are exclusive to the EP and won’t appear on Ritter’s forthcoming album. Ritter will also release the album on iTunes, along with a limited edition run of CDs and 10” records on Feb. 21. Listen to “Why” in the streaming player below.