Leading the high-velocity country-punk band Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg blazed a distinctive trail across the ‘80s music scene. But the Scorchers, perhaps because they were too different from the commercial sounds of the era, never achieved mainstream popularity.
Although Jason and the Scorchers and the solo career Ringenberg launched in 1999 continue to this day, the singer-guitarist is busiest now with his third musical identity. He plays 200 shows a year as children’s entertainer Farmer Jason.
Ringenberg created Farmer Jason in 2002, specifically to entertain his two pre-school daughters.
“It seemed like it would be such a cool thing to have music of mine that they could listen to,” he explained.
The character of Farmer Jason came naturally to Ringenberg. He grew up on a family farm in Illinois, always loved the nature and outdoors and, even now, lives on a working, albeit non-commercial, farm west of Nashville.
“We grow most of our own food in the spring through the fall,” he said. “We have a big garden and a lot of trees and pastures and some animals. But they’re all pet animals, a pony and a goat and chickens.”
Farmer Jason is the most successful thing Ringenberg has ever done in music.
“He’s more commercial than the Scorchers even in the mid-’80s,” he said.
Ringenberg released his first Farmer Jason CD, A Day At The Farm With Farmer Jason, in 2003. His daughters loved it, but Ringenberg didn’t have great expectations for the record or his Farmer Jason character.
“It’s been wonderful to see it grow organically and become what it’s become,” he said.
Unlike the essentially off-the-cuff songs on the first Farmer Jason CD, later songs were written to educate as well as entertain.
Creating songs for children ages 2 to 7 can be challenging.
“It’s really a lot about the hook,” Ringenberg said. “You gotta get something that really sticks in their minds, something they can sing and listen to over and over again.”
Lyrics, Ringenberg added, “should be simple but not simple minded. It’s gotta be direct and straight to the point. You can put double-entendr?s in there for adults, too. I do that to make it interesting for adults, but at the end of the day you gotta keep a 5-year-old’s attention. And it’s gotta be something a 5-year-old can relate to. You’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for them.”