In some small way, Jason Ringenberg is kids' music's Kings of Leon. Like his Tennessee compatriots, as Farmer Jason, Ringenberg has a definite United States fan base (and was big enough to play the Austin City Limits Festival a couple years ago) but may be even bigger in the UK and Europe. In this interview he talks about how his Farmer Jason career has slowly grown "across the pond" to the point of playing big festivals in Europe, challenges facing the artist creating a European fan base, and how to craft a show for a non-English-speaking audience. Zooglobble: What music did you listen to growing up? Jason Ringenberg: I grew up on a Midwestern hog farm. Most of the kids listened to corporate rock. However, I always loved American roots music, especially the classics like Dylan, Hank Williams Sr., Woody Guthrie, and Jerry Lee Lewis. On top of that, I had a fondness for the first wave punk rock, particularly the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones. How long have you been playing music in Europe now? I have been playing in Europe since 1984, when Jason and the Scorchers did our first tour there. Over the years, I have always performed in Europe with Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg, and now most interestingly as Farmer Jason. When you first started going to Europe, wasn't it pretty much lots of Jason and the Scorchers shows with an occasional Farmer Jason show mixed in? Has that mix changed at all over time?
I'm typically either way ahead or way behind of the curve 'round here. In this particular case, I'm behind the curve as I'm mentioning the Stagecoach Festival, the country festival put on by the Coachella folks the week after Coachella. The Festival which, uh, happened last weekend. But I wanted to mention it because it showed that country music is beginning to realize that maybe there's a market opportunity for them, too. Stagecoach had its own kids' music stage which featured, among others, Buck Howdy, Farmer Jason, The Hollow Trees, and The Bummkinn Band. (My personal favorite amongst these? The Hollow Trees, who do hootenannies up right.) I heard that Sharon, Lois & Bram were gonna reunite for the festival but got booed offstage by Rage Against the Machine fans who were still stuck in the parking lot leaving the Coachella show. Did I just make a Sharon, Lois & Bram joke? Goodness, I have issues. There are a whole bunch of YouTube videos from the festival, but they mostly involve guys like George Strait and Kenny Chesney and other men with large hats worn unironically. So I'll just leave you with this video of Farmer Jason (Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the Scorchers fame, for those of you new to this whole kids-music thing). He's got a hat, too, but he's playing in some guy's backyard. The Wiggles, this genre ain't.
Well, Day 1 of Zooglobble's KidVid Tournament 2007 is in the books and while there was no equivalent of the VCU upset over Duke, we already have a slight upset -- John Lithgow's #3 "Ya Gotta Have Pep" winning out over Laurie Berkner's "Farm Song". In the other matchup, #1 seed Steve Burns and Steven Drozd's "I Hog the Ground" handily beat a #4 seed, Farmer Jason's "Forest Rhymes." Today's contests are a pair of 2-vs-3 matchups: Frances England's "Tricycle" going up against Sir Jerry's "Bees, Butterflies and Bugs" and Gustafer Yellowgold's "I'm From the Sun" against AudraRox's "I Hope My Mama Says YES!". Go forth and vote there by Saturday noon-ish East Coast time. And if you haven't yet voted for the as-yet-unfilled 16th video slot, go here and do so. (And, yes, "Pieces of 8ight" is already in the other 15 videos.)
The first competition in KidVid Tournament 2007 pits the #1 seed in the Lead Belly Region, "I Hog The Ground (Groundhog Song)" from Steve Burns and Steven Drozd against the #4 seed, "Forest Rhymes" from Farmer Jason. Vote in the comments below. Rules: Video with most votes wins. One vote per e-mail address, please. Votes due by Friday noon-ish East Coast time. "I Hog The Ground (Groundhog Song)" - Steve Burns and Steven Drozd In spite of the Viacom-YouTube lawsuit, the video is still available there if you know where to look. When that inevitably gets removed (again), just go to Jack's Big Music Show player. Currently it's the video that plays whenever you go to the page, but if it's not the case later, just roll over the picture of a balding guy with the "I [Heart] Ground" shirt and click. "Forest Rhymes" - Farmer Jason Click here to view on Rhino's website or on the larger YouTube screen.
There are those who, upon hearing Rockin' In the Forest With Farmer Jason, the recently-released second album from Farmer Jason, might wonder: Could this be the very same Jason Ringenberg who fronted "Jason and the Scorchers"? It sounds so... so... different. Those of us who have heard A Day at the Farm..., his first kids' album, know that it's definitely him. The hard part for older listeners to get used to when listening to Rockin' In the Forest is the sheer exuberance of the whole thing -- shiny, gleaming horns on the poppy leadoff track "The Forest Oh!" or the modern country production of the slightly mournful melody of "Arrowhead." The wellspring of exuberance, however, is Farmer Jason himself, who is just so darn enthusiastic that it might drive some parents nuts. Except that he goes so far beyond the line that there's that glimmer of "yes, I know this is all a little too much, but your kids are eating this up, aren't they?, so just play along." I love the deadpan way he says he's going to "sing a song about a moose on the loose called... 'He's a Moose... on the Loose.'" Ringenberg knows his way around a bunch of musical styles, from the spaghetti western stylings of "Ode to a Toad" to the Django Reinhardt violin noodlings of "A Butterfly Speaks" to smallest, simplest (and perhaps best) song on the whole disk, the virtually a cappella "Mrs. Mouse." He wraps the melodic nuggets around lyrics that introduce young listeners to different animals in the forest (natch). While the cover and liner note art suggest very anthropomorphized approaches (ugh -- did I just use the phrase "anthropomorphized approaches"?) to the subject, the actual lyrics play it straight for the most part. Kids ages 3 through 8 are the ones most likely to appreciate Jason's enthusiastic approach and lyrical focus here. You can hear samples wherever fine kids' music is sold (on the Internet, anyway). If you liked A Day at the Farm..., you'll also like this new album, as it's very similar in tone, maybe a little broader musically. I'm giving this album a "Recommended," but it's with the warning that you're going to have to detach that little parental "I'm too cool for this" monitor in your head -- if you can do that (your kids don't -- or shouldn't -- have one yet), you'll enjoy this just fine. Recommended.