Happy Birthday Josh Ritter! 40 Lyrics

So, the most joyful of 40th Birthdays to Josh Ritter, the best singer/songwriter, lyrical genius, happiest smiling performer, political commentator, novelist, sound tracker of my life! Anyone who knows me knows of Josh, because I am such a fan of all his work, and have been for many years. Age 16 I was swept away by the lyrics on a random CD my first ever boyfriend gave me, it was a copy of 2002’s Hello Starling, and from the first song, Bright Smile, I was captivated. The music has gone in many wonderful directions since then, but I have to say that one little pretty song has always held a special place in my heart.

There’s been 5 albums since, I have had 11 or so years of listening to this wonderful wordsmith. I have never found any lyrics or music that spoke to, comforted me in difficult times and buoyed up my successes like the works of, or should I say the Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. I think I have saw him in concert here in Ireland 10 times, and met him on a handful of happy occasions. My favourite time was the porch of the Empire Music Hall in 2009, during my first month or so of University. We bonded over Muriel Spark if I remember rightly.

My bestie Aisling and me bumped heads trying to hug Josh after one of my first times seeing him in Letterkenny, probably in 2007. My Mammy still feels a little ill when she listens to Kathleen because she was pregnant with Ellen when she listened to the album a lot and it calls up the morning sickness. Josh was there when relationships came and went and the words surrounded me on my best and worst days. Every workplace I was in or class I took I always converted a few to the Book of Ritter! To the point of being teased.

I have made so many memories, and met some good friends. This music has really enriched my days and I’m not doing it justice here.

As part of the celebrations, to let the birthday boy know how much all his songs are loved and appreciated, I bullied  requested that my friends and family help me out on a little lyrical project. Aisling gave me the idea of my 40 favourite lyrics, and I loved that idea, so these are at least 40 significant lyrics (I probably could go on forever.) And then to make it interesting, I assigned different people in my life some lyrics to hand write, and decorate as they saw fit. There are some works of art here. I think I might finally get an idea for a tattoo…

These lyrics all mean something to me, so take a wee minute to be inspired. 

In no particular order, I give you 40 lyrics from the man of the moment, Idaho legend Josh Ritter! Happy Birthday, Josh. Thank you for writing such rich and magical poetry to music. These songs have genuinely made a big difference in my life.

I think I will let the lyrics mostly speak for themselves. It’s only little snippets, but I strongly advise you chase the song up and give it a listen. Enjoy!



Beginning how it began, Bright Smile.

@thebadactress is now my username for most things… including Twitter. Where Josh follows me! Huzzah.
























I find more and more depth to this song every time. Considering ending the world just to stay in an underground bunker with your love…











A magical story of a ‘cursed’ Egyptian Mummy falling in love with an archaeologist.






















Beginning of relationship questions and wishes!























Like, what a compliment… and Ellen did a great job of the mini Aurora Borealis.




A beautiful story song that gets me right in the feels every time. Also cleverly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. The first time I heard it I assumed it was an old cover of a classic song.










A definite ‘up there’ for my favourite song.








This song was a bit of a commentary on the Bush administration 10 years ago… but so apt today.











If you’re familiar with the next line, Jacob (7) drew a blackbird, a starling and winter being over by spring flowers. Awww.




Joy to you, Josh, wherever you are on your 40th Birthday. You have done the music world, and the world in general so much good by being here. Thank you for keeping me company through music, and offering so much inspiration through your words. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please come back to Ireland when you can.

Happy Birthday!

Fiona x

Huge THANK YOU to my artistic contributors who were put under some pressure! I am so impressed and I owe you :

A. Breslin

Dr. A. Duffy

L. Gilmour

C. Lafferty

R. Harley

Dr. M. Montague

E. Mc Callion

J. Mc Callion

P. Mc Callion

S. Rooney

M. Turner

C. Tracey

And an extra special thank you to A. Nelson who really made me want to get my friends involved cause of her calligraphy skills. Beautiful! 


Do You Realise?

You were buried today. Somewhere in Donegal, while I did a driving test. I last saw you about 10 years ago. Cancer, a young wife, a devastated family. You were 29 years old.

Thank you for giving me a handful of CDs to listen to, including Hello Starling by Josh Ritter which spellbound me straight away. (The rest is history!)

Thank you for shyly bringing me a heavy bag full of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. For liking me when I thought no one ever would.

You were never serious. You drank brandy at 19 and got in bar fights. You had a weirdly warped sense of humour. You lived for music. There were so many mad stories ten years ago, I bet they got more crazy as the years went on and the travelling intensified.

I’m debating whether to write to your family. I might. You really looked up to your brothers. A kind word can almost always help.

Praying and thinking about your parents, brothers and wife. The situation is shattering.

When I was 16 and you were 19 The Flaming Lips were your favourite. This song was on the first mix CD you made. It’s so relevant. I can’t stop singing it quietly. Liberated from suffering now, I hope you are always with your wife in spirit, and getting into stuff for free forever more.

Weekend Coffee Share

First of all, this post directly inspired by the Monster in your Closet. A blog I have followed for years.

If we were having coffee today, I would most likely over share because that’s how I am! I would tell you how I have been feeling stressed and worried and questioning what sort of person I am, and my relationships and everything. I cried on a driving lesson and cried a lot and felt like I was stuck.

I haven’t really been writing. Blogging has slipped again. BUT the last thing I wrote was an attempt at a Shakespearean Sonnet which I wrote for SHIFT magazine and they said they would print it. I’m delighted but half dreading it because it is so simple. Their theme was women though and recent events have made me even more fiercely feminist so I had to!

I had a fun day at work dressed as a Gryffindor student on Halloween. And then although no one had a clue, I loved channelling Virginia Woolf at a Gothic Ball we went to that night.

Thanks GC Photographics !
Who’s afraid of Fi?

I can’t stop listening to my old favourite Josh Ritter’s new album ‘Sermon on the Rocks.’ It took me a few weeks to buy it – I thought it was a bit close to the bone for a wee struggling Catholic like myself.

However, it’s a masterpiece as usual. Ritter’s songs always seem to provide the best backdrop to my life, and although he definitely pushes it a bit with the religious imagery, there are many grains of wisdom and truth in there. Also gorgeous lyrics, as per. Loved this review from Rolling Stone.

Men  in my life always assume I fancy Josh haha, but I just have this soul connection to the music, and I always have. Since 2006 anyway age 16.

Do yourself a favour and buy this album!

I’ve written four or five letters in the last few weeks. And adored one from an old Uni friend R, who has moved to Liverpool and sent me this excited letter about meeting/kissing/starting a relationship with ‘the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my entire life.’ Don’t you just love love?

I’m really enjoying Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling. Not being a fan of crime I didn’t pick it up until now but it’s J.K Rowling for goodness sake of course I will love it. We got the third instalment, A Career of Evil in work and I thought it seemed great but I better start at the start.

Oh, had a lovely date at an Indian/Italian place that we like to go to last night. I like remembering the first time we went like five days after the first kiss and how nervous I was! When we came home we watched Song for Marion on BBC2 – I really recommend you watch it. Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave were phenomenal in it and it will make you cry. BBC iPlayer right now 🙂 Gary said he loves when old people are in love. Don’t we all? What hope! It’s the most beautiful, devastating but ultimately hopeful film dealing with love, family and cancer. And singing.

Well that was cathartic and although there was no rhyme or reason to the post I feel a bit better for having written something. Hope you all have a lovely Sunday.

Six Strings and Stigma


The Clarendon Street Beacon Centre presents…
CD launch of the “Six Strings & Stigma” project.

14 Stories and 14 Songs – all penned by local artists. Featuring songs by:

Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas • Little Hooks feat. Tillie & Henderson • Declan Mc Laughlin • The Ard Ri Band feat. Roy Arbuckle • The Wood Burning Savages • Teknopeasant • The Murder Balladeers • Jeanette Hutton • Tracy Cullen • Tara Gi • The Gatefolds • We Are Aerials Intermission • John Deery and the Heads

‘Six Strings and Stigma,’ delivered by the Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (PHA), captured the experiences of individuals with enduring mental health needs. They presented their stories to local songwriters such as Paddy Nash, John Deery, Declan McLaughlin, Little Hooks and Eamon Friel, who created an album of original songs that highlight the stigma associated with a diagnosis of mental illness and how people have overcome it and achieved recovery in their lives.

(I submitted this to HotPress magazine around 16th October to The Write Touch Competition. Still haven’t heard anything, so hope it’s ok to put it on my blog.)

(As one of my BFFS said, it’s been a while since the Lyric part of my blog got a look in.)

The launch of ‘Six Strings and Stigma’ took place in the City of Culture on Saturday 12 October , in the wonderful Culturlann Ui Chanain building. 14 stories. 14 songs.  Local artists were approached by The Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (HSC) with the individual stories of people’s experiences with mental illness. What resulted is a compilation of songs that capture and challenge the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental illness, and the individuals’ recovery. Being honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but with Mental Health Day coinciding with the launch, and the promise of Paddy Nash, The Murder Balladeers and John Deery to name a few artists, I was intrigued. It was a chance to see a few bands I hadn’t had previously.

The venue itself was small, and as I am too, I resigned myself to only seeing a little bit of the stage. However, between each set the stage alternated to one on the opposite end of the room, so I turned around and to my surprise I was now near the front. Beginning with the wonderful Tracy Cullen, each act played around 4 songs, and in this way it was a perfect showcase of Derry’s talent. Most singers offered some human relation to their story, and there was high emotion in the room on more than one occasion. Highlights for me was the final gig for Intermission who are now going to perform under Glenn Rosborough, and Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas whose mere name is enough to bring a smile to my face. Most catchy: ‘Seized’ and ‘Rushing In.’ An excuse for a night of music and a step towards stamping out stigma.

Six Strings and Stigma is available from Cool Discs music in Derry, or on http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sixstringsstigma . I urge you to get it, it’s very impressive. Mental Illness is a cause that is close to my heart, also.


M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
Photo by Jamie Mollison

Once (again)

I watched ‘Once’ (2007) for the second time on Sunday night. It’s been haunting me ever since. I loved it the first time I saw it and continuously played the soundtrack.

I’m sure everyone knows about it, but if you haven’t seen it, I really recommend it. It’s an indie ‘modern musical’, set in Dublin on a low-budget, and features the original songs of Glen Hansard (The Frames) and Marketa Irglovia a Czech musician. Glen Hansard plays a broken-hearted busker, and Marketa a refugee I suppose, who sells flowers and the Big Issue and actually stops to ask him about his songs. A friendship blossoms once the guy realises that she is a talented pianist and singer. They collaborate. Things happen. It just about broke my heart, twice.

The song ‘Falling Slowly’ won the 2007 Academy Award for best original song, and the soundtrack won a Grammy.

It’s made all the more interesting because Marketa (who was 17 at the time of filming- she’s basically the same age as me!) and Glen began a relationship while filming. They are still in the band The Swell Season together, but they are no longer a couple. Aw.

*This video for ‘Falling Slowly’ is basically the whole film, spoiler alert*


I think it’s up there with Eternal Sunshine as one of my favourite films. It makes me want a different ending, fancy Glen Hansard, rush back to Dublin the city I love  and marvel at the intricacy of human relationships.

Monday Music : I’ve come to test the timber of my heart…

I first saw Joe Pug in December 2010, supporting Josh Ritter at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin. M and I didn’t know him but as he set up M shouted ‘Go on Joe!’ and Joe tried to look straight at him (he couldn’t see with the lights) and he said ‘Thank YOU, man.’ He reminded us of our very good friend Regular John. We liked him.

One night recently when I was despairing of life, (nothing is wrong per se, I just despair sometimes. A lot.) M put Joe Pug on and it just filled me with a sense of drama and poignancy. He just understood me, you know? *sniffs*

I can’t stop listening to this song. Every word strikes home, and a few lines make me fill up if I’m concentrating enough. On the bus, say. It’s pure beauty. Perfect lyrics. The way to my heart!

I’ve come here to ignore your cries and heartache, I’ve come to closely listen to you sing…

I’ve come here to insist that I leave here with a kiss, I’ve come to say exactly what I mean. And I mean so many things…

I have the urge to type all the lyrics, but just you listen to it. Word of mouth is really important to Joe and for a long time he gave away his music for free. You just emailed him and asked for it. He once sent me a very nice email saying they had run out of CDs but he sent me the tracks anyway. He just asked that we share them. The video is slightly silly but his voice is brilliant, deep with a slight lisp, and the lyrics are worth it. Here’s his website :  http://www.joepugmusic.com/

We survived Monday, everyone. Well done.