As the frontman for Nashville’s country-punk pioneers Jason & the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg became known for explosive live performances and helping ignite a rock insurgence in Music City. The band’s albums fused a sincere love of classic country with the edgy sounds of punk, plus one blistering cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie.”
These days, Ringenberg is focused on entertaining a younger crowd, one that is more Sesame Street than Sex Pistols.
Ringenberg’s children’s entertainer alter ego Farmer Jason recently released his third album Nature Jams on the myKaZoo label, in conjunction with Universal Music Enterprises. The collection is full of amped up rock, twangy country, folk and more, with some pretty adorable songs like “Dison the Bison” and “Well Oh Whale.” An all-star lineup of guest performers makes contributions, including R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, Alison Brown, Webb Wilder, Todd Snider, and even the Scorchers.
Initially conceived as a project for Ringenberg’s daughters 10 years ago, Farmer Jason has since turned into a full-time business. That wasn’t really part of his plan in the beginning–he just wanted to make some music he could play for his kids.
“I had no real ambitions for it,” he says. “I did that first record, A Day at the Farm With Farmer Jason, and the thing just sort of blossomed. It took on this organic momentum and I started looking at it differently as it developed.”
The character is an extension of his real life experiences. Before he arrived in Nashville, Ringenberg was raised on a farm in Illinois. Now with a family of his own, he lives on a hobby farm that raises animals and crops. It’s a lifestyle he’s happy to share with listeners, and the essence of Farmer Jason.
“That is the primary center of Farmer Jason’s mission, to motivate kids to get outdoors and enjoy nature,” says Ringenberg. “That’s the fundamental reason for why I’m doing this, other than the pure fun of it.”
Ringenberg still performs as a solo artist and with the Scorchers, but Farmer Jason is his career focus. Coming off years of playing late night rock shows, it was a shock to the system to update his schedule.
“There’s times I get ready at the venue at seven in the morning, for schools and things,” he explains. “It took some real getting used to in the beginning. I do schools, libraries, and performance halls. Sometimes little music clubs will do daytime matinee Farmer Jason shows for fun.”
Many of the early Farmer Jason supporters were fans of his work with the Scorchers, though increasingly his new fans may not have any knowledge of his old band. He never has trouble separating the two personae onstage, but sometimes he stays in character at Farmer Jason meet and greets without realizing it.
“Someone will bring a Jason & the Scorchers LP up and I’ll sign it like, ‘To Bob, Friends always. Love, Farmer Jason,’” he says with a laugh. “It’s just an old habit I have trouble breaking.”
Ringenberg will be meeting and greeting plenty of people this Spring and Summer, with a slew of upcoming U.S. dates in May and a European tour in June and July. He’s playing the Loveless Barn’s Music City Roots as Jason Ringenberg on 4/18, and West End Methodist Preschool as Farmer Jason on 4/20. Kids video channel MyKaZoo.tv is currently showing a series of new Farmer Jason videos in heavy rotation.