Christmas on the Farm with Farmer Jason is racking up some excellent press cover and sales are the best of any Farmer Jason release in years. American Songwriter and The Huffington Post are two notable publications that will be running feature interviews with Jason in the near future. In the meantime here is are round of some of the best articles and reviews so far –
The former (and possibly ongoing since their 2010 reunion) frontman with Jason & the Scorchers, as you’ll likely know, Ringenberg’s staple musical diet is rebel rock country with gunslinger guitars, yeehaw vocals and basic good time tunes interleaved with more melancholic balladry. Digging back into his Scorchers past, you’ll find a wealth of such great tunes as Broken Whiskey Glass, Blanket Of Sorrow, Harvest Moon, Hot Nights In Georgia and Golden Ball and Chain as well as their tear it up covers of Lost Highway and Absolutely Sweet Marie.
Four solo albums have also provided their fair share of favourites, among them The Last Of The Neon Cowboys, his cover of Steve Earle’s Bible & A Gun, Chief Joseph’s Last Dream and Trail Of Tears, the latter two both songs about the American-Indian experience.
Rather stretching the definition, he’s appearing here as part of the Birmingham Jazz Festival playing a couple of free solo shows, though just because he’s one man and a guitar don’t think he won’t have the place jumping.
Ironically, however, it’s his alter ego as dungarees-wearing hayseed Farmer Jason that’s brought him more success than his band or solo endeavours, releasing albums and winning an Emmy for his It’s Farmer Jason public broadcast TV series, all devoted to teaching children (pre-school and primary) about farming, animals and respecting nature and the land.
This may all sound a bit Tweenies, but Ringenberg doesn’t dumb down the music, using bluegrass, Western sing, and Texas country rock n roll to educate the kids. He’s just released his third album, Nature Jams, which is pretty much about what you’d imagine with titles like Buffalo Or Bison, The Moose Lives Where?, Meadowlark In Central Park and Manatee. What you might not expect, however, is to find him joined bythe likes of REM’s Mike Mills, the Saw Doctors, Suzy Bogguss, Brandi Carlile or, making a very rare recording appearance in Prairie Riddles, Iris De Ment.
The subject of some of the songs might not mean a great deal to Birmingham’s inner city sprogs, but his free music workshops should be great fun.
7pm. Free. The Lord Clifden, Great Hampton Street Hockley + Wed 11. 8pm. Free. The Walkabout, Broad St. Farmer Jason Wed 11. 12.30pm. Free. Mailbox
Farmer Jason says he has two strong Oklahoma ties.
He loves Woody Guthrie … and oil.
“Does that count?” he said with a hearty laugh.
Sure enough, it does. He was raised on a farm, too.
Throw in his DIY work ethic and love of music, and he’s practically one of us.
He brings his kid- and earth-friendly indie rock to Mayfest on Saturday and welcomes children of all ages to the festival’s KidZone at Sixth and Main streets, on the H.A. Chapman Centennial Green.
Much like his hero Woody Guthrie, Farmer Jason’s not afraid to write workin’ man tunes for kids, and he loves to teach people about the planet.
There’s a very punk, do-it-yourself ethos to what Farmer Jason does.
“Yeah, you throw Hank Williams III into anything, and I can totally see that. There’s a punk ethos to making my own albums my own way, on my own terms. It is a lot like hog farming,” he said.
It turns out that a lot of musicians agree with Jason’s kid-centric, DIY ways. As Farmer Jason, he’s worked with members of R.E.M., Cheap Trick, the Ramones, Hank III and more.
“It’s messy, it gets the bills paid … it’s extremely rewarding, and there is absolutely no pretense to any of it.”
Is he talking about recording music or farming?
“Yes,” he said, and he laughed again.
He should know. He was raised on a small hog farm, and his ties to the land go back for generations. He is also founder of Jason & the Scorchers, an influential 1980s hard rock-punk-country act (Does the name Jason Ringenberg ring a bell?) that tilled the soil for cowpunk and alt-country movements that have since taken root.
When he started a family, he recorded an album for his kids about his own childhood, geared toward 2-to-8-year-olds.
“I didn’t plan for this to become my career,” he said.
But it is.
“There are some nights, we’ll do both Scorchers shows and Farmer Jason shows. But there’s a difference. Once I put on those overalls and the hat and the red shoes, I’m Farmer Jason.”
This side of his career includes a string of successful, highly acclaimed children’s albums and live performances, too.
In more than 30 years making music, he’s also worked with some of the most talented names in the biz. He’s cultivated those friendships and included their contributions on his albums, as well.
On his latest album, “Nature Jams,” R.E.M.’s Mike Mills celebrates hiking, Steve Gorman (the Black Crowes) hails Bison, Hank Williams III and Tommy Ramone (the Ramones) exalt manatees and Todd Snider even praises the mighty moose.
“These are the best musicians in the world. You could change the lyrics on any of these songs and they’d be perfect for the Scorchers. These are real productions with real musicians making real music,” he said.
“I’ve known all these guys for a long, long time. I called each of them. We pulled out all the stops for this. We wanted chemistry.”
His live show is just as fun, he said, except he’s bringing the energy to the children and their parents, which includes sing-alongs, dancing and discussions about nature, ecology and, yep, farm critters.
“I love to talk to them, to get them worked up,” he said. “There’s something really ‘unhinged’ about kids having fun. There’s no pretense – it’s just pure energy.”
This is the first time Jason’s been in Tulsa in nearly three decades, he said. The last time was the mid-’80s with the Scorchers.
“This is gonna be good,” he said. “Howdy little farmhands, rock on in!”
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/article.aspx?subjectid=269&articleid=20120513_269_D1_CUTLIN535817
By JENNIFER CHANCELLOR
Farmer Jason was thrilled to have been chosen byAmerican Songwriter as their Songwriter of the Week. You can read the interview here.
This past weekend, the family and I joined the huge downtown party that was the J&R Jr. Grand Opening Kidstravaganza! The girls were able to watch live performances from Laurie Berkner (!!), The Little Maestros (!!) Farmer Jason (!!), The Dirty Socks Funtime Band (!!!), plus meet Dora & Diego (!!). The girls were so happy and tired once we brought them home, especially with their bag full of J&R Jr. books, puzzles and toys that we also picked up during the afternoon. Check out the pics below and scroll down to read my interview with Farmer Jason and my giveaway of his new CD “Nature Jams”, which released February 7th.
At the end of Farmer Jason’s live performance, I had a few minutes to catch up with him before he left to kick-off his family concert tour across North America and Europe to promote his new CD, “Nature Jams”, which you’ll have a chance to win. Details below.
You’re a Dad to three girls, right?
Yes, they are 22, 14 and 11 years old.
Back in the day, you were part of a band where your audience was made up adults. What was the transition to kids music?
I had two young daughters ten years ago and I wanted to make a record for them. What started it was singing [to them] at night and [when I was] at home.
How do you balance being a Dad and being a performer?
It’s hard to be on the road when kids are growing up, but I love doing it and it keeps the mortgage paid, so you motivate yourself. I try to balance things the best I can. When they were younger [they traveled with me] but they’re in school now.
What’s the difference between writing songs for adults and writing songs for kids?
You have to be catchier with kids; have to drive that hook home. Can’t be too literary, has to be real direct.
What’s next for Farmer Jason?
We are going to start touring, getting in the trenches and showing the record to the people. We start off in Monroe, Michigan – [the tour] starts Tuesday 2/14.
Pam Casimiro Kirkbride
Farmer Jason is set release his latest kids record, Nature Jams on February 7th. It will be the debut release for the brand new record label and entertainment channel, MyKaZooTV.
Farmer Jason was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the new record and MyKaZooTV.
Dadnabbit: Talk about the partnership with MyKaZooTV came to be and why it’s makes business sense for kids musicians:
Farmer Jason: For starters the two guys running it, Rick Dobbis and Richard Ellis are really sharp, very experienced business men. They’ve run major record companies. Right off the bat you have these guys who don’t have false assumptions about what they can and can’t do. They are very committed to bringing quality music to families. The family music industry needs a good record label. There are some, but not enough. This should help without a doubt. It’s a strong idea with lots of potential.
Dadnabbit: Similarities and differences between releasing a Jason & the Scorchers record and a Farmer Jason record?
Farmer Jason: Certainly the Farmer Jason world, in terms as creating songs as catchy as possible is the substantial difference but the energy level is about the same. The exuberance with a Scorchers record is still there with a Farmer Jason record. Let’s have fun and break some barriers.
Dadnabbit: Does having a good cup of coffee in the morning help decide if you’re going to write a Scorchers or a Farmer Jason song?
Farmer Jason: Most of the time it is project driven. I know I have a project in front of me and that’s what I write. I don’t tend to write songs all the time, I tend to write for projects so it’s not as schizophrenic as you might think.
Dadnabbit: The first Farmer Jason record was an accidental success, that had no preconceived notion about it. How do you follow it up, knowing how high you’ve set the bar?
Farmer Jason: I think with Nature Jams, it’s the first Farmer Jason record where I have to meet previous expectations. Thankfully I have 30 years of history trying to do that w/ the Scorchers so doing it for Farmer Jason comes relatively easy. Anything I release will be compared to the first Farmer Jason record and I’m fine with it.
Dadnabbit: The guest list on Nature Jams looks like a hip-hop record with different guests on each track.
Farmer Jason: Some of the songs were written and then I tried to find an artist that would fit. But some were custom made. “Take a hike” for example I knew right away would be a perfect song for Mike Mills (R.E.M.) I have know him for years and his personality. But primarily, the songs are written first then the guests are added later on, with who I thought would fit the chemistry of the song.
Dadnabbit: How has your friendship with Todd Snider developed into him becoming a regular on Farmer Jason records?
Farmer Jason: His first show in Nashville was opening for my band in 1992. The Farmer Jason collaborative effort has really grown organically. Todd doesn’t have children. But there is something about his personality and tone of voice that connects with both parents and children listening to the records. Even little 3 year old kids get the message that is Todd Snider. It’s always a high point on the record. It’s just a spontaneous party when he’s in the studio.
Dadnabbit: How accepting were Scorchers fans to seeing you did kids music
Farmer Jason: We grew Farmer Jason initially via the Scorchers audience; some of them even have grandchildren. But lots of the Farmer Jason fans have little to no knowledge of Jason & The Scorchers. It has honestly help grow the Scorchers audience. We were a cult band.
Dadnabbit: Is there a freedom to writing kids music over a Jason & The Scorchers song?
Farmer Jason: One the great blessings of being Farmer Jason is walking into a room full of 4 year olds and having no idea what to expect. It truly is spontaneous. Being Farmer Jason allows for a much bigger artistic freedom.
Dadnabbit: How did Jason & The Scorchers end up as a guest on Nature Jams?
Farmer Jason: I knew making a guest record without the Scorchers would be a crime. I think it was a magic track. When our drummer is talking about glaciers in a Swedish accent, it is really a magic moment.
Dadnabbit: Few children’s artists’ have intros on their songs. Why have you chosen to have those on your records?
Farmer Jason: There is always a debate about doing intros. Some people really don’t want to hear introductions after the first time. I know some kids have memorized the introductions; it’s something kids don’t seem to mind. I have always felt there should be some type of education going on in the songs and on this album I think there are some strong educational moments in the intros.
Dadnabbit: It’s becoming harder and harder to make a living music as most money is made on live shows. Has making kids’ music been financially beneficial to you?
Farmer Jason: I make a living off of my music. Luckily we’ve been able to do enough live shows and make money doing it. I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living with what I love to do, playing music. Farmer Jason is the center of my career and I’ll be playing live shows for kids for as long as possible.
Dadnabbit: As you write songs for your kids, do you find yourself writing for older kids as your own kids get older?
Farmer Jason: I think the new record is primarily written for slightly older kids 6-12 years old which is my daughters age range. You can follow along on my three albums and see me writing for older kids each time, but for the next record I think I’ll go back to more a preschool aged focus.
Jason Ringenberg rocks generations
Jason Ringenberg is the fiercest, most frenetic rock ’n’ roll frontman in Nashville history.
He’s an Americana Music Awards lifetime achievement award winner for leading groundbreaking country-punk outfit Jason & The Scorchers, a band that Rolling Stone’s Jimmy Guterman said “rewrote the history of rock ’n’ roll in the South” and that laid the groundwork for the new century Music City rock scene that includes Jack White, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys and all the rest.
He’s the guy a London Times writer called “one of the most dynamic performers of his generation,” the dancing, wailing, rafter-climbing singer of “Self Sabotage” and “Broken Whiskey Glass.”
And Saturday in Dickson, he’ll wear overalls and sing “Dison the Bison,” “A Guitar Pickin’ Chicken” and “The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug” while pre-schoolers lose their minds.
“When they’re 2 or 3 years old, and they’re used to seeing you on TV or on CD pictures, when they meet you, it can be discombobulating for them,” says Ringenberg, who performs as Farmer Jason on albums, on Nashville Public Television (he’s won an Emmy), on a new children’s video destination (myKaZootv.com) and on international stages. “I like to think that I’m these kids’ favorite eccentric uncle. As I get older, I’ll be their eccentric grandpa.”
Ringenberg still tours with the Scorchers and at times as a non-overalls-wearing solo act. But over 10 years and three CDs (the latest is the just-released Nature Jams), Farmer Jason has become the family breadwinner, and Rolling Stone reviews have been replaced by raves from Parenting and Family Fun.
Farmer Jason has a major label record deal and enough commercial heft (and industry goodwill) to draw guest artists including Mike Mills of R.E.M., Brandi Carlile, Todd Snider, Victor Wooten, Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, banjo virtuoso Alison Brown and fellow Nashville rock great Webb Wilder. The Scorchers even make an appearance on Nature Jams.
“I’ve never felt disappointed in the fact that Farmer Jason does more business than Jason Ringenberg or even Jason & The Scorchers,” he says. “And doing a really fun family show will give you a lift and a high that’s comparable to any show in the rock world.”
Dad can do that, too
Ringenberg first developed Farmer Jason in 2002, as a means to entertain his two youngest daughters. He saw the impact kids’ television was having in his own home, as Tahra (of Tahra Time) and the Teletubbies replaced Jerry Lee Lewis and the Rolling Stones on the family list of favorite entertainers.
“It was fascinating to me to see how deep the influence was in our life,” he says. “I mean, it was like Tinky Winky was a member of our family.”
For the record, Tinky Winky is the purple Teletubby. And a Teletubby is a cheerful, round-bellied, humanoid being with an antenna atop its head.
And back in the days when I would travel hundreds of miles to witness Ringenberg singing “Pray for Me, Mama (I’m A Gypsy Now)” or jumping atop the bar to play harmonica solos, neither of us knew these things.
And as disconcerting as it is for a pre-schooler to see Farmer Jason live and in person, it’s way more disconcerting for an adult to find that his rock ’n’ roll hero’s chief influences are Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, The Ramones and Tinky Winky.
But I digress …
“The first Farmer Jason CD was just meant for fun, and for my own kids,” Ringenberg says. “I never expected for it to turn into what it’s turned into. But then folks were telling me that their kids were listening 20 times a day.”
It comes naturally
What those kids hear 20 times a day are songs about farms, animals and nature. Farmer Jason’s songs encourage kids to get out and explore, and to learn about a whole wide world that exists outside the Worldwide Web.
“It’s no work at all, writing for Farmer Jason,” Ringenberg says. “It’s a liberating, free experience. And even when I’m playing inner-city shows, I’ve never had the kids not relate to songs about nature. All children love animals, and they love being outside.”
And so on Saturday morning, Ringenberg will stand and deliver “Ode to a Toad,” “The Forest Oh!” and “Can You Canoe” in front of tiny people, and he’ll do so with the same energy, joy and focus that he’s mustered for Scorchers shows for the past 30 years.
Just because he’s among the most dynamic performers of his generation doesn’t mean he’s limited to performing for his generation.
It’s like my 2-year-old son was trying to explain to me yesterday, when he was pointing at a computer screen and repeating, “More Farmer Jason!”: One guy’s rock hero is another guy’s favorite eccentric uncle.
by Peter Cooper
Jason Ringenberg was recently interviewed for In Search of a Song a National Public Radio show that delves deep into a songwriter’s history and influences. “I think this could one of the best radio interviews I have ever done. It truly captures much of went on behind the scenes all those years.” Listen to part one here, part two will air next month.
The second part of Jason’s In Search of a Song interview focus’ on Farmer Jason and his solo albums.