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Getting down on the farm with Jason Ringenberg, er, Farmer Jason

By Dan MacIntosh, December 2003

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"I wanted the music to be very entertaining and catchy so that it would stick in their (the kids') minds - and in adults' minds, as well. I was successful, I think. But I also wanted to do some light education, as well. I didn't have any pretensions that this was going to be like Sesame Street where it was going to be serious education. But I did want to teach some lessons. The lessons that I overwhelmingly did want to get across was to respect your animals and take care of them and take on the responsibility of being good to them."

Ringenberg drew upon his real life farming experiences for much of this album's inspiration.

"We have a lot of our own food," he says. "And we have a pony, and we have some chickens. And we have pot belly pig, and we're thinking about getting some goats."

He also looked back to his own childhood roots to help him create this project.

"I was raised on an Illinois hog farm, so I come from generations of farmers. We were a family farm. It was very old fashioned, very traditional. All the relatives were in the area, all of them were farmers. I come from that environment, and I know it about as well as anyone in this country. It's sad what's happened to the family farm. It is now a thing of the past. Even so, my dad still hangs in there. He's 81 years old. He still has his 120-acre farm and his little old corn-picker and his International 400 tractor. He is definitely an anachronism."

One of the lessons he learned from being the son of a farmer was that families stick together and play together. So it's not surprising to hear his little girls' voices all over this album.

"They sang on some tracks, and some of their friends came by and sang on some choruses," recalls Ringenberg. "They helped me write 'The Doggie Dance' song. We were just sitting around, the three of us, and I was humming the track. So they were just kind of jumping in and singing along, singing rhymes and rhyming words and stuff. It was a fun thing to have them as the co-writer. Addie, especially, is very conscious that she helped co-write a song. She scares me at times because she can be very Music City about stuff. She's very very aware that her dad is a star in her mind. She really likes that. She thinks that's very cool."

Many in Ringenberg's family take a keen interest in his career. While his daughter attaches herself to his music business coattails, his mom continuously gives him timely suggestions.

"Not a day goes by that she doesn't give me ideas of what to do about these things," says Ringenberg of his mom. "She's like Reuben Kincaid (the Partridge Family show character) because she's always thinking of something to make me famous."

Ringenberg knew he had something worth getting excited about - even while he was making this album. Thus, he didn't really need any second or third opinions.

"I was confident that we were on to something good, so I was willing to take my chances. What I have seen is that kids really like this record. I mean a lot. I thought that maybe adults would like it more than kids - I really thought that. Now, I'm getting parents that are coming up to me and saying, 'I absolutely hate you! The kids just want to hear your stuff all the time, and it's driving us crazy!' So I reckon I've been a success."

Brad Talbott's album illustrations are all animated figures, from the tall guitar playing chicken for "A Guitar Pickin' Chicken" to the Elvis-outfitted pig of "He's A Hog Hog Hog" to friendly Farmer Jason himself.

Ringenberg is mum about what else might be done with this Farmer Jason character in the future. "I'll use the old Abraham Lincoln quote, that the chicken is the smartest creature in all God's earth because she doesn't cluck until after she lays the egg."" But it may happen. We'll see."

Ringenberg will always be best known for his scorching, yet heartfelt, music with and without The Scorchers.

Nevertheless, his label Yep Roc has been equally excited about this little musical side road of his. "They went over the top about it," he recalls. "I've never seen them more excited. And they've always been into what I do. They're going to plow this field for all it's worth. This is their first children's record, so they're learning as they go. But they'll get it. Yep Roc is a very strong and a very good record company."

Don't be surprised if Ringenberg, as Farmer Jason, comes put-putting to your town soon.

"In Alaska, I did a benefit for a sixth grade class that was that was going to tour the glaciers and needed money for that. I also played for Addie Rose's kindergarten class yesterday for her birthday. I've done some benefits in Washington, D.C. for a homeless shelter. I'm starting to do shows around as plain old Farmer Jason shows."

"Yesterday, I had the greatest experience," he marvels. "I actually wrote a song with the class. A song called, 'We Go To Stewart Burns' - that's the name of the school."

Farmer Jason has his John Deere all revved up now ready to hit the road. And who knows, he may even grow a new song for you, right before your very eyes.

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