Classic folk troubadour.” - Michael
Moab-based songwriter and folk
artist T.R. Ritchie says his favorite songs are those
that “arrive,” with something unexpected,
as he is writing. He calls it a “true direction,”
and he says he tries to live his life the same way.
“The first part of our lives we think ourselves
through,” he said over a cup of coffee at Arches
Book Company, his favorite watering hole. “The second
part you can give yourself over to whimsy.”
Moab is T.R. Ritchie’s home base, the place T.R.
says he feels the buzz, the hum, and an aliveness that
carries him through the rest of the year on tour in 60
to 80 shows across the United States. He came here with
his wife and fellow recording artist Cozy Sheridan in
the mid-1990s. This time of year he’s booking gigs,
writing and relaxing.
T.R. was 20 years old before he picked up a guitar, and
would play regionally in the Seattle area for 20 more
years before being recognized as one of the finest contemporary
songwriters and folk artists in the country. Professionally,
it was a songwriting festival in Kerrville, Texas in 1990
that catapulted his career. He became one with a folk
world that he says is very close.
“You have to wear so many hats as a songwriter,”
T.R. said. “I’m my own booking agent, publicist
and graphic artist. We maintain our own mailing lists.
This year I started a web page. The internet has been
a boon to the folk world because we have access to gig
information and grant information. In that sense you can
live anywhere because the money is out there on the road.”
T.R. said he had to learn how to build a web page –
out of necessity. “When you’re short on resources
you have to learn stuff,” he said. He put it together,
learned about it in the process, and then rebuilt the
page. T.R. said recording is like that. “The process
has taught you how to do it,” he said.
“It’s easy to be consumed by the business
part of it, even though that part is easy to do. It’s
nuts and bolts kind of stuff. But it’s time consuming.”
First T.R. finds the gig, gets a date and builds his year
around it. Unique to T.R.’s process is that he builds
“House Concerts” into his touring. He offers
a concert in someone’s home, an intimate setting,
less expensive for rural folk to put on a show, and fun
when combined with a community event, potluck or jam session.
T.R. is big on community.
“A nice aspect of music is that it can be value
added to any community event,” he said. “Ice
cream socials, the Art Walk; music adds another dimension
but it doesn’t have to be about me, or about the
When T.R. talks about music he begins with the guitar
and ends with a proclamation that animals don’t
think about who they are, they just are. It makes perfect
sense in the context of our conversation.
“The best songs have a sort of magnetic field,”
he said, that pulls you back to it no matter what you’re
doing. It’s a true direction. You can wander around
without getting lost, until you arrive.
“You become a lens. The songs come from somewhere
mysterious, but it can’t come without you being
there. All of you comes into it; your favorite authors,
language and images.”
T.R. said he likes boots, trees and empty space. These
are reflected in his music. He writes about the quality
of light in October.
“I like a spare kind of writing. Then I can build
on the space around it and focus on what I shine the light
“I like to sound effortless. Sometimes you have
to throw away cleverly crafted lines; I can overwrite.
Most of what happens with music happens in the listeners
head, so you have to leave room for that.”
T.R. said he likes to finish his songs with an intellectual
and emotional burst.
“You can’t just say, ‘feel good now.’
You have to allow that to happen.”
Most of T.R.’s gigs are in the west, and though
he grew up in Kansas, he prefers the country west of the
Rockies. He calls his migration to Moab an accident, as
most of the “great” things in life are.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, but it
does matter where you come home to. When you find that
place where you buzz, hum with aliveness, you owe it to
yourself to spend time there.
“The other night I went Contra dancing for the first
time and thought the real regrets people have are about
not giving themselves over to something whimsical. I say
give yourself to it, as soon as you can. There’s
no big scorekeeper and nobody really cares what you do.”
This is where the animals come in.
“I think they are the gods,” T.R. said. “They
just are who they are. They don’t think about making
their mark in the world. You don’t need to make
a mark in the world. There are enough marks already.”
This from someone who was instrumental in helping with
Moab’s first Folk Festival last fall, which T.R.
emceed and hopes to do so again next year. He said the
festival, which surpassed organizers’ expectations
in attendance, was as good as any he has attended or performed.
T.R.’s music is available on three CDs, “Changing
of the Guard,” “Homeground,” and “My
Father’s Wildest Dream.” Information about
house parties, photos and music clips are available on