Sometimes a recording artist needs the external for inspiration. The last time Jason Ringenberg recorded an album with his band The Scorchers was 2010, and his most recent solo album had been crafted in 2004.
Ringenberg, 61, had been a prolific artist, releasing 16 albums over 26 years. He has primarily recorded kids’ music for most of this century, as Farmer Jason — appropriate since he grew up on a hog farm southeast of the Quad Cities. He moved to Nashville in 1981 and will be bringing his sounds back to the Midwest when he plays an all-ages show Sunday night at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon in Iowa City.
Apparently the Americana recording artist just needed some inspiration for his latest release, the 2019 album “Stand Tall.” That came when he answered a call from the National Park Service to be an artist-in-residence at California’s Sequoia National Park for a month in 2018.
“When I was given the offer, I think I said yes before they even finished the question,” Ringenberg said by phone from his Nashville home. “I absolutely jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t have to write about the forest. I could write about anything. Spending an entire month in one of our most beautiful national parks completely changed my life. The experience gave me so much.”
Ringenberg wrote and recorded the new collection after he left the majestic destination.
“I was inspired to write every day that I was there,” he said. “I never experienced anything like it. It’s something that happened at the perfect time for me. I’m glad I jumped at the opportunity.”
History inspired some of the album’s amusing songs, such as “John Muir Stood Here” and “John the Baptist was a Real Humdinger.”
“When you look back at John the Baptist, it was evident that he was such a rebel,” Ringenberg said. “He wasn’t just a huge historical figure, he was also a fascinating guy.”
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The punk anthem “God Bless the Ramones” is an autobiographical gem, drawn from his own intersection between a pioneering band and a pioneering historical figure.
“I wrote the song while I was underneath this giant Sequoia tree named after Charles Young, who was the first African-American commandant of the National Park Service,” Ringenberg said. “I was instantly inspired to write, and I drew from my memory.”
Jason & The Scorchers opened for The Ramones in Texas. That gig should have included hazard pay, since objects were hurled as crowds chanted, “Hey, hey, let’s go,” invoking the title of the Ramones’ 1980 single, “Let’s Go.” “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go” would later become the title of the punk rockers’ 1999 compilation album.
“It’s so true that when you opened for the Ramones, it was a thankless job and you needed thick skin,” Ringenberg said. “Since it was before the internet, we had no idea that it was common to hit the opening act with awful stuff. That’s probably why no one accepted the job, but we were this really young band back then (in 1982) from the backwoods of Tennessee. It was rough.”
Ringenberg details how difficult it was as a support act for the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famers during “God Bless the Ramones” when he sings “Those college punks bombarded us with bottled beer and vile stuff.”
“We were under siege, but it was more than fine. We got to open up for the Ramones,” he said. “We have great memories being on the road with them, particularly with (bassist) Dee Dee Ramone. He gave (former Scorchers bassist) Jeff (Johnson) bass strings, and was just so cool.”
Nearly 40 years have passed since that tour.
“It really is incredible,” he said. “It’s been an amazing run when you look at what I accomplished with Jason & The Scorchers, as Farmer Jason and solo. What’s so cool is that I’ve been writing quite a few songs since ‘Stand Tall’ came out. Another chapter is being written.”
• What: Jason Ringenberg
• Where: Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, 4919 Walleye Dr. SE, Iowa City
• When: 7 p.m. Sunday (1/12)
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• Tickets: $15 general admission, $25 reserved table (does not include show ticket); wildwoodsaloon.com
• Artist’s website: jasonringenberg.com