Jason Ringenberg: A Scorching Alt-country Legend and SIU Alum

Jason Ringenberg: A Scorching Alt-country Legend and SIU Alum

Jason Ringenberg: A Scorching Alt-country Legend and SIU Alum
Dakota Holden

After a three-year absence from performing in Southern Illinois, alternative-country star and Carbondale legend Jason Ringenberg will return Saturday, August 19 to the First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust parking lot for the Carbondale Eclipse Marketplace festival. The Scorchers’ frontman will play a solo acoustic set, performing along with Ivas John, the Swamp Tigers, and the Spiritual Travelers.

No doubt the SIU graduate will reel in old fans, new followers, and a young audience during his performance as Farmer Jason at the Eclipse Fun Zone earlier that day at the Town Square Pavilion.

Nightlife caught up with Ringenberg while he was traveling to his hometown of Sheffield, Illinois, to talk about the upcoming eclipse shows and his time in Carbondale.

Ringenberg moved to Carbondale in 1978 to attend SIU. Though he earned a University Studies degree, he spent most of his time on campus playing music, forming bands, and writing songs.

“I don’t think I would have a music career without the four years I spent in Carbondale,” Ringenberg said. “I learned so much about music, played with a lot of musicians, and started bands for the first time in my life. I learned what it means to be a musician there. I could never separate my career from my time in Southern Illinois. It was that important.”

Soon after graduating, he formed Jason and the Scorchers, a pioneering alternative/punk country band that blew up and put Ringenberg on the map. When Nightlife asked about him developing what at the time was an entirely new sound, he said for him it was natural.

“Honestly, it didn’t seem too unusual for me,” Ringenberg said. “I never saw a whole lot of disparity between what the original country people and what the first-wave punk rockers were doing. I didn’t see a whole lot of difference. It did seem odd to other people. People either loved us, hated us, or wanted to kill us.”

By 1990, the Scorchers broke up, and Ringenberg embarked on a solo career. (The group reformed from about 1993 to 1999, then Ringenberg and Scorchers’ guitarist Warner Hodges reunited in 2010 with a new rhythm section.) Then, in the early 2000s, Ringenberg developed a character called Farmer Jason. He originally played this farmer rock star to entertain his young children, but the act spiraled into a full record in 2003. Now Farmer Jason has released four albums for Universal Music and produced a public-television series.

When asked to compare his Farmer Jason writing style to his other work, Ringenberg said, “It uses a lot more repetition. The concepts and the production is very direct and get right to the point. It has to be very catchy. Catchiness is the most important thing. That’s the prime directive for children’s musicians.”

Ringenberg has been in the music business for more than thirty-five years and has witnessed first-hand how the industry has changed. His method of adapting: “Listening to new music. That’s what will inspire you to keep doing what you’re doing when you see other people.”

In the next year, Ringenberg plans on recording a new Jason and the Scorchers record or a new solo album.

Meanwhile, for his solo show in Carbondale, Ringenberg will perform acoustically, playing a wide variety of music from his past in Carbondale to where he is today. “I do Jason and the Scorchers, I do solo songs, and interesting covers,” Ringenberg said. “It’s a whole lot of fun. I touch bases with my whole career.”

Ringenberg truly loves Southern Illinois and the talent in the region. “The level of talent in that area is just astounding,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me. I love the people that come out of there.”

One particular local band has always amazed Ringenberg— he is a huge fan of the Woodbox Gang. “Hugh DeNeal is one of the finest singer/songwriters of our generation,” he declared. It is no secret that the alt-country pioneer hopes to see them, and other old friends, when he returns for his August 19 show.

Ringenberg is unsure whether his schedule will allow him to witness the eclipse, but he is looking forward to the Farmer Jason show at the Pavilion and his solo performance at the First Mid-Illinois Bank parking lot.

“I know a lot people in Southern Illinois and have a lot of friends there,” he said. “I try to make it on a regular basis, ‘cause I love the town.”


who: Ivas John Band / Jason Ringenberg / Swamp Tigers / Spiritual Travelers

what: Carbondale Eclipse Marketplace

where: First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust Parking Lot

when: Saturday, August 19