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Josh Ritter is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist, named one of the "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" by Paste magazine. He started out studying neuroscience at Oberlin College, but later switched[…]

Avoiding the dreaded “girl/world” rhyme, and other songwriting tips.

Question: What mistakesrnor clichés do you try to avoid when writing songs?


Josh Ritter:rnWell, I think—I have lots of like, tics, that I think that—or lots of rnthingsrnthat bug me.  I sort of think aboutrnit, it’s kind of like fashion.  Arnsong has to feel good when you’re singing it.  It rnhas to feel like somebody will put on a suit.  Yourn have people that you know that putrnon clothes and they look effortlessly good in them and it’s like, there rnwas nornwork.  And whether or not that’srnthe case, the fact is that you have to feel comfortable singing what rnyou’rernsinging and so some things that make me feel uncomfortable are rhymes rnthat seemrna little too obvious.  Rhymes thatrnseem a little too—rhymes that are overused: “girl/world,” girl/world rnsyndrome,rn“knife/strife,” “shelf/myself,” you know, I stay away from all of those.  I don’t like autobiographicalrnsongs.  I don’t think thatrnthey’re—and I don’t like autobiographical singing.  Irn don’t want to think about the person singing the song onrnstage.  Like I feel like the songrnis your chance to like—like a short story, or anything is a chance to rnliverninside a character that’s been given to you.  You rnare being given this character and then you can liverninside it, not a chance to see inside somebody else’s private life.  You know, I don’t like that, and Irndon’t think it leads to very original songwriting.  Yourn know?  Those are some things that bug me.  And rngood songs, they’re just things thatrnyou can sing in the car, on the way home without a guitar, that you can rnplayrnyourself and learn how to do.

Recorded April 5, 2010
Interviewed by Austin rnAllen