In a bio by Steve Leggett, Carly Ritter is described like this, in part: The daughter of actor John Ritter and the granddaughter of Tex Ritter, her childhood was one where creativity was encouraged. She was raised in Los Angeles and attended high school in Santa Monica, then left for New York following graduation, attending Vassar and spending her junior year abroad in Scotland. Her debut album, the self-titled Carly Ritter, which included guest contributions not only from Juliette and Joachim, but also father Ry, as well as Robert Francis, was released by Vanguard Records in 2013 and is available for purchase on Amazon.com (http://smarturl.it/CarlyRitter.AMZ) and iTunes (http://smarturl.it/CarlyRitter.iTunes ).
I describe her as kind, loving and sincere – and one of the people I would dearly love to meet in person. Through this John Ritter tribute site, I have made many, many wonderful and sweet connections which add a lot of colour to life. Being able to connect with, and feature, his daughter Carly is possibly one of the most wonderful moments of my life. I contacted Carly because of John and discovered that she is a person who I admire and respect greatly in her own right.
Your entire family is creative and this site is inspired by your dad John Ritter. Your grandfather was Tex Ritter (Singing Cowboy) and your mom Nancy Morgan is also an actress. Did your parents actively encourage creativity and how would you say this influenced your decision to become a singer?
My parents encouraged creativity, yes, and also encouraged us to pursue whatever we were excited about, whatever brought us joy. I feel very fortunate that I grew up knowing whatever path I chose, I had my family’s support. Honestly, I think my parents put more emphasis on what kind of people my brothers and I were in the world over what careers we chose. Whether I became a singer or a nurse or a UN Ambassador (other dreams of mine!), it was more important to my parents how we treated other people. In any job you can be kind, loving, and generous. That’s what is important; that’s what really matters. Not what you do, but the heart you put into it. That being said, after years of doing mostly non-profit work, I did feel a desire for creative expression, and music has been such a joy for me. A way for me to be creative and also, hopefully, touch other people and make a small, positive impact.
Your brothers Tyler and Jason are both actors (and Tex was as well) – when and where did you realise that you wanted to go into music – and by so doing honour your granddad? Would acting be something you’d consider in the future?
I loved acting growing up, but as I became more and more self-conscious and insecure in my teenage years I gave it up. That’s when music became a respite for me. I would come home from a day of high school and play piano for hours to process all that teenage angst! I loved (and still love) music partly because it’s something I can make, and keep, in private. But I guess in my very late twenties, once I started writing my own songs, I was at a point where I figured I had nothing to lose by sharing them! And could only grow and improve by putting myself out there. The last few years have been a wild, intense, and wonderful learning curve for me. It’s been so special feeling connected to my grandfather, who I never met but have learned so much more about in the years since I started making music. As far as acting goes, and as I’m learning with music, to get great at any art takes years of dedication. Right now I’m working hard to improve my writing, singing, and playing – with still so far to go! I’ve watched my brothers grow profoundly as actors as they’ve studied and worked at that craft, so I really appreciate the serious commitment it takes to ‘act naturally,’ as Buck Owens (and, of course, Ringo) sang. So I’m happy giving my time and attention to music for now, and will leave acting to the pros!
During college, I took a lot of visual art classes and classes in music and art history, but I actually majored in Religion. I certainly didn’t plan on that, but my Freshman year the Religion Department had a class called “Love: The Concept and Practice” and another called “Religious Responses to Suffering and Death” and I couldn’t believe I could get college credit for studying the subjects I spend most of my time thinking about anyway!
How would you describe finding your own way in the world from young teenager to successful adult, growing up with a very famous dad who had a famous dad of his own? I think that there must be a number of pitfalls in being the child of a wellknown person, but you and your brothers seem to have navigated these very well, and not only that, you honour the previous generations too just by the very work that you do. Do you have any comments or insights about that?
I think I’m still finding my way in the world, but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that perhaps I’ll always be stumbling along, doing my best and trying to learn from my mistakes while clumsily moving forward. It certainly helps the navigation process having grown up with parents who loved us unconditionally and told us so all the live-long day. They protected us as best they could from some of the dark and shallow sides of fame, and they raised us with the idea that success is not how rich or famous you are, but how much love you put out into the world. There are definitely times I’ve felt like a failure, countless times I’ve embarrassed myself and let myself – and others – down. But then you just go on, and realize most people are much more forgiving and understanding than you’re giving them credit for. For the most part, people have forgiven how far off-key I’ve sung (perhaps never forgotten, but oh well!), so long as I’ve been kind. So I’d say, as you grow up, focus on love and you will always be a success! When I think of how many people I love in my life, and who (at least seem to) love me back, what else really do I need? I may always sing out of pitch, but by the end of my life, I’ll be happiest if I’ve gotten close to mastering the art of loving other people well.
Country / folk music is specifically quite emotive and stories get told – and people FEEL. Your song “Princess of the Prairie” is one of my very favourite songs of all time, as it really moves me to feel that any little girl or woman can feel like a princess wherever she is in the world – she doesn’t need riches or glory. You strike me as someone with a lot of soul and a huge heart – is this another reason that you chose country music? (I guess what I’m trying to ask why you do what you do)
First of all, I can’t tell you how much your support and encouragement have meant to me over the past few years. I’m so touched that “Princess of the Prairie” is one of your favorite songs – and thank you for sharing it in South Africa! I am proud of the message of that song, and so happy that others have responded to it. And you’re right! I fell in love with folk and country music because of the masterful storytelling. More than singing and performing, I want to become a better songwriter. I want to tell great stories! We understand ourselves and each other better through story: we can see ourselves in the great heroic quests (from Odysseus to Luke Skywalker) and recognize our own pain in the tragic ballads from hundreds of years ago – where, even before Facebook, people felt the very same heartbreak! We learn from these stories, and are even transformed by them. That’s what this music has done for me and what I hope I can do with my music, as long as I keep working at it.
Carly Ritter – Princess of the Prairie
Is there anyone outside of your granddad who you would say had an influence on your music?
I could list 100 people who have influenced me, and it would only be the first ice cube off the tip of the iceberg. Juliette Commagere and Joachim Cooder, though, opened up so much for me. They are both such brilliant musicians, on a level I don’t think I even understood existed. They have really inspired me to learn more, listen to more, write more, sing more, play more… There was so much I didn’t even know that I didn’t know about music! So the doors they opened for me I will continue exploring the rest of my life, I’m sure.
Carly Ritter – Storms on the Ocean
In one of his interviews your dad spoke of the golden thread of humanity, which is really what my site’s all about – helping the people who tweak the golden thread of humanity get their message out. This is something he did fantastically well and which you do today in your music and your work. Is it something you actively try to do, and something he tried to instill in you (and your brothers) when you were kids?
It certainly means a lot that you think I tweak the golden thread! I hope I do. My dad definitely instilled in us how connected we all are and how great our capacity is for making a difference. In your art, if you move someone to tears, it can be a great catharsis. Of course, making people laugh might be the greatest gift of all. I know he hoped that even his silliest comedy brought some joy where joy was needed. And it did. I’ve heard from so many people about how much laughter my dad brought into their homes, how much they felt his sweetness of heart and loved him for it. I know in the depths of my grief over losing him, there were times I watched some video of him that made me laugh – when the idea of laughter seemed impossible – and that moment of lightness and joy helped me not only see that I could continue to live but even enjoy living. So my dad continues to pluck the golden thread even now. How powerful is that! With words and by example, our dad encouraged us to live a life that touches the thread of humanity and also makes it that much more golden.
The internet is something that was not available during the 80s and 90s but I think it’s something that we can use immensely today to tweak the golden thread. It has pitfalls and advantages though. How important is the internet to today’s artist?
The internet is so important – for all of us! At its best, it enables us to reach people around the world and share ideas, share what we’re creating, support one another, learn about each other. Just look at you and me! If all I got from the internet was a chance to know you, I’d feel lucky. I have to figure out, though, how to best utilize the internet and social media, so that it’s both something positive in my own life and that I’m not just cramming up other people’s feeds with my stream-of-consciousness blather. I know I’ve wasted a good amount of time on the internet, when I could have been more engaged in the world around me. You just gotta hope that being connected to the whole world online doesn’t disconnect you from the physical human beings standing around you waiting for you to look up from your phone. So I’m trying to figure out how to use social media more effectively and positively, because the potential for reaching people is huge – and I also want to be sure I step away from the computer and hug my mom and lots of trees on a regular basis.
Did I hear a rumour that you’re releasing some new music soon, and if so, when will it be available? Is there anything else in the pipeline we should be aware of?
Just last week we finished recording and mixing my second album, so hopefully I’ll be able to turn it around and release it relatively soon. I decided to make an album of all cover songs – old country and western and bluegrass music. It’s definitely a tip of the cowboy hat to my grandfather and his peers, and it was so much fun to make. It’s produced by Ry Cooder, Joachim Cooder, and Juliette Commagere, and we recorded it in Nashville with some of the finest musicians I’ll ever hear in my lifetime. I’ll keep you posted on its release once I figure out what I’m doing with it!
You’re involved in a lot of philanthropic and community activities all over the world – from fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Society, Meals on Wheels, planting an olive tree in Beirut with family members of 9/11 and the Lebanese Civil War victims, working with children in Haiti – which I LOVE and these are just ones that I’ve seen on your FB page. Are there any others you’d like to mention – and how can members of the public get involved with supporting?
Wow, you did your research! Yes, I will always love participating in this kind of work and have been so fortunate to connect with such remarkable projects and organizations. My mom has been involved with Conservation International for over 20 years, and they do brilliant work with governments and people around the world to protect vital ecosystems so that nature can continue providing us with all that we depend on to survive. I became involved with the Vassar Haiti Project my senior year of college, and what they’ve done in a mountain village in Haiti is so inspiring. I volunteer periodically at Comfort Zone Camp, a camp for kids who have lost a parent or sibling, and the importance of their work can’t be overstated. I’m always happy to talk about these causes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you actively follow any “words to live by” and if so, what influenced your choice? (mine are ‘live with love and laughter’ – which I strive for, but often don’t get right!)
I might have to steal your “words to live by,” I really love that one… And the best we can do is strive – no one gets it right all the time! I guess my main one is simply “LOVE!” and I blame/thank my family for that. J
I’m also sending you a piece of a letter my dad wrote me while I was at summer camp in Estes Park, Colorado. He was responding to some world tragedy (not sure which one, sadly) – you can see where so much of what we’ve talked about in this interview came from. How very, very lucky I’ve been…
Related post: Chris Mann – author of Come and Knock on Our Door