Interview with Jason Ringenberg

You may remember that back in May, I wrote fairly extensively about Halcyon Times, the new album from Jason & The Scorchers.  Well… The Scorchers are currently out touring behind the album, and they made their way through East Tennessee this past weekend.  I wasn’t able to attend the show in Johnson City, but I did get in touch with Jason Ringenberg through e-mail to ask him a few questions about the new record and The Scorchers’ place in alt-country history.

Here are my questions and Jason’s unedited responses.

FiftyCentLighter: Prior to the release of this album, it had been 14 years since the last Jason and the Scorchers record. I would assume that the genesis for this project was the reunion at the 2008 Americana Music Awards Show when the Scorchers were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. Congratulations by the way! What was it like having the band back together for the Conference? Did everything fall back into place once you were back together, or was there a period of readjustment?

Jason Ringenberg:  The band didn’t really reunite in any real sense. We only did 2 songs at the awards show. Getting the award was a huge honor, and it was nice to play with Jeff and Perry again.

FCL:  After the reunion, only two members of the original band signed on for the new album and the subsequent tour. What can you tell us about the new players and what they bring to the table?

JR: Al Collins came on first. He was a friend and colleague of Warners. He is a very subtle but essential part of our new sound. He so effectively holds the wildness together, much like Jeff did in the vintage years.

Pontus Snibb is a colleague of mine from Sweden whom I have played with before. He is so incredibly talented that we deal with having a Swedish drummer. Him and Warner together are much like Page/Bonham.

FCL: Speaking of the album itself, Halcyon Times as an album title, along with several of the songs on the record, evokes a real feeling of nostalgia. The narrator in “Golden Days,” for instance, fondly recalls earlier days and several rites of passage from those bygone days. It’s a song a younger artist couldn’t pull off credibly simply because of the life experiences needed to write it. Earlier this year, I spoke with Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets and Chip Robinson of The Backsliders about the different approaches they take to songwriting now that they’ve matured as artists and individuals. After three decades in the music business yourself, how has your approach changed from the early days? Is this a record the Scorchers could have made 30 years ago?

JR: Primarily, the older I get the less I write about myself. It’s mostly about characters now. I am certain we never could have made this record 30 years ago.

FCL: Speaking of 30 years ago… Many different artists share a part in the genesis of the alt-country/cowpunk/whatever you want to call it movement, but I like to trace a significant portion of it back to The Scorchers’ early days in Nashville. At the time, were you aware of what you were starting? Did you have any visions of still doing it 30 years later?

JR: Yes and yes. We knew we were doing something special and we did believe we were long term artists.

FCL: One more question about Halcyon Times… As a native of Eastern Kentucky, an area where coal mining is still very much a part of daily life for many communities, I was particularly struck by the song “Beat on the Mountain.” What was the inspiration for that track?

JR: Thank you. We love doing that song. It seems to resonate with lots of folks, even those who have no mining heritage. The whole coal miner thing, especially the deep shaft miners, really strikes a cord with me. Those people risk their lives daily for their families.

FCL:  What’s on tap next? Is there another Jason & The Scorchers album in the future?

JR: Having experienced that my predictions about Jason and the Scorchers future are usually wrong, I venture none. We take it day at a time and enjoy the ride.

Jason & The Scorchers: Beat on the Mountain (Buy Album)

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