The many sides of Jason Ringenberg
By night, Jason Ringenberg is a hard-working solo folk singer, by day he’s his even more hard-working “identical twin brother”, children’s entertainer Farmer Jason. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, now he’s back on stage in another guise.
Ringenberg is back where it all started, at the front of his band Jason and the Scorchers. They’ve released their first all-new studio album in 14 years and they’re bringing the house down across Europe. Ringenberg admits he never thought the Scorchers – the originators of cow-punk in the early 1980s – would play again.
“We’re having a big old time,” he says. “When you’re a solo guy you’re like a priest, you know, you live alone, you travel alone and then you go on stage and you’re alone up there. But when you’re with a band it’s a big party, a lot of fun, and I really enjoy it.”
Credit for the return of the Scorchers goes to lead guitarist Warner E. Hodges, one of the original Scorchers from the early ‘80s who put the time into bringing the band back to life, with new bassist Al Collins and drummer Pontus Snibb.
They struggled to find the money to pay for the making of the new CD – a constant problem for many artists, who have turned to asking fans to pay in advance or even auctioning themselves off to pay for their projects. “It’s hard to do,” Ringenberg says. “CD sales are so down that you have to be creative on how you find your funding.”
Eventually the Scorchers managed to make Halcyon Times by selling tickets to the recording sessions – not too much of a hardship for them, Ringenberg says. “We’re performers, you know, we’re nuts for performance, so we really enjoyed that.”
The new-look Scorchers recently completed a tour of the UK and Ireland, but they’ll be back for festivals in the summer. By contrast, they’ve hardly played at all yet in the US, though they may do later in the year.
“I think there’s more business here. I think people are willing to pay for music here more than they are in the US, honestly,” Ringenberg says.
The Scorchers are pushing the material from their new album heavily, but they still attract fans who’ve been following them for 30-odd years.
"There’s always new people that hear about you, but we still have that core audience who got into us back in 1983 or 1984, still pay attention to us. It’s a pretty neat thing, a lovely thing to see,” Ringenberg says.
Since the original Scorchers came to an end in the early 1990s, Ringenberg has been making a career for himself as a solo performer but increasingly his time has been taken up by his “twin” Farmer Jason, whose songs teach children about caring for animals and for the environment. It has proved to be the most commercially successful of his creations.
“He’s about the diametric opposite of Jason and the Scorchers, there’s no doubt about that,” Ringenberg admits. “It just came about because my own little daughters were young and were listening to a lot of family music. I thought it would be a cool thing to do. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, that’s the truth.”
Ringenberg says he usually manages to keep his multiple personalities under control – “It’s not as odd as you would think. It’s a different world and you kind of adapt to it pretty quickly.” But he does sometimes get caught out, and a few parents who’ve brought Scorchers records to be signed at Farmer Jason shows have walked away with “Keep those plows goin’!” scrawled across their CDs.
Asked how he sees his time being divided in the future, Ringenberg says he thinks it’ll be 70% Farmer Jason, 20% Jason and the Scorchers and 10% Jason Ringenberg. And that’s how he wants it.
“I don’t know if the Scorchers will be regular like it used to be, but I think we’ll always make music, certainly always play shows. We love doing that.”
As for Farmer Jason, “I love doing that, I am really committed to that.”
Jason and the Scorchers on Backroads