Talent, it seems, often skips a generation. Or at least that's the theory of Carly Ritter, who — like her grandfather, bass-voiced C&W legend Tex Ritter — was born with a gift for singing and songwriting.
It just took her a little while to discover it: Ritter recently turned 31, and her eponymous debut disc, which will finally be coming out on Vanguard this August, is filled with breezy Lulu-laced, '60s-style tracks like "It Is Love" and the kickoff single, "It Don't Come Easy."
Having dabbled in acting, she also wouldn't mind having the comedic timing of her late father, actor John Ritter. "But I didn't get that gift from my family," she says with a sigh. "I think it might've missed me somehow."
The photogenic singer has already appeared in two shorts, Slice and Monsieur Balloons, mainly just helping out some film-director friends, she swears. But it's also an extension of growing up in an especially animated household.
"I couldn't have been luckier than to have a dad like that," she recalls. "His favorite thing was to make people laugh, so he was always doing different characters around the house, and always trying stuff out on his kids, and we loved it. But then he also had a very deep side — he had that artist's eye, that way of really observing the world and its beauty and being curious and always learning. And those are things that definitely helped me as a human being and, I hope, as an artist too."
Ritter told his kids they didn't have to go into show business if they weren't feeling it. Any career choice that wasn't shady or life-threatening was fine with him, says his offspring, who tried administrative work at first, considered nursing, then wound up studying religion at University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Initially, she was thinking philosophy, but then she stumbled upon two life-changing religious courses called "Love — The Concept and Practice" and "Religious Responses to Suffering and Death."
"I'm 90 percent of the time thinking about love and death anyway," says Ritter, "so by the time I had to declare a major, I'd already taken a bunch of those classes."
She went on to get her degree from Vassar — but not before she delved deeply into traditional English folk in Scotland, then traced it all the way up to American folk by combing the Vassar music library. She picked up a guitar, began singing, and soon had demos she felt were worthy of sending to some old high school chums, Joachim Cooder and his missus Juliette Commagere, musicians who'd launched a production duo on the side.
Ritter was toying with a classic country vibe at first, but the team — with Joachim's legendary father Ry Cooder sitting in on guitar — helped guide her toward a more comfortable sound reminiscent of Jackie DeShannon and Lee Hazlewood.
"I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how all this happened," Ritter marvels at her own good fortune. "But I was really fortunate that it all came together, because I would've had to go back to — and I still might have to go back to — whatever job I needed to do. But for right now, to have this creative chapter? Hey, I'll be soaking it up, every moment, for however long it lasts." She pauses before adding, "I think my dad would be proud."