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Jason Ringenberg

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As the frontman and best-dressed member of Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg helped define (if not flat-out defined) the term “country-punk.” The band blazed out of Nashville in the ’80s, winning the hearts of critics and a healthy chunk of the population. The seven-song Fervor solidified the band’s place in history insofar as it “rewrote the history of rock and roll in the South” (Jimmy Gutterman, Rolling Stone Guide to the 100 Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Records). Throughout that decade, Ringenberg and the Scorchers toured and released albums. They parted ways for a while in the ’90s, reuniting sporadically over the next ten years. The last few years have seen Ringenberg release two solo albums. The first, A Pocketful of Soul (2000), came out of nowhere to become one of the critics’ favorites for the year and reintroduce Jason Ringenberg to audiences worldwide. Last year’s All Over Creation turned the heat up a notch. The album is a series of duets with some of his many friends and co-writers, including Steve Earle, Tommy Womack, Kristi Rose, Todd Snider, and Lambchop.

Ringenberg was on a tour of Europe, but he visited a rural truck stop in England to answer five quick questions by e-mail. He warned us to be merciful on his spelling and punctuation, since he “doesn’t think this contraption has spell check!”

1. It sounds like you have such a peaceful, wonderful home life with your wife and little girls. Do you find that leads to better songwriting? Then where would something like “Honky Tonk Maniac From Mars” come from?
To be honest, with two girls under five, it is nonstop action (and fun)! Actually, I do most of my writing on the road while traveling.

2. “Erin’s Seed” (from All Over Creation) is a really interesting song, filled with a deep knowledge of the U.S. Civil War and the place of the immigrant Irish in it. How big of a history fan are you? Want to become a historian?
I wouldn’t mind being a historian, but they make even less money that musicians. I am content to be an amateur. I do stop at every historical marker/site I see, and read history all the time.

3. All Over Creation is, literally, all over creation. There are some awesome duets on the CD. In effect, you got to re-create the band on almost every track. Did this pose more of a problem when finalizing the album and achieving a true solo CD? Also, did all these different voices/musicians change the way you wrote the songs?
Early in the process, I decided that “cohesiveness” was not a term I was going to worry about on this one. This was definitely the hardest record to sequence in my 20-year career. I did a good dozen versions before this one jelled.

4. A Pocketful of Soul was certainly a more personal album that you described as just songs you wanted to play for your family and friends. What caused you to choose this other path and come out with All Over Creation? How were the processes of bringing together the CDs different?
The process couldn’t have been more different. APOS was a private, quiet experience that I really never expected the public to even hear. Funny how that little CD launched my solo career around the world.

AOC, on the other hand, was completely open and public, and I wanted it that way. I wanted to truly collaborate with my friends and colleagues. I wanted to fit into the modus operandi, not vice versa.

5. Does the suit make the man or the man make the suit?
I always perform better if I have cool duds on. My motto is if you can’t always sound good, at least look good.
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