Chuck Ragan grew up in Tennessee before moving to Louisiana and discovering punk rock, going on to start the emo-punk band Hot Water Music in the early '90s. In the early Aughts he launched a solo career as the band went on hiatus. In 2008, Ragan started The Revival Tour, bringing along a variety of singer-songwriters and bandleaders and sitting them in the round each night, taking turns playing each other's songs together. HWM later reunited, going on to release their first album in eight years with 2012's Exister. Somewhere in there Ragan also wrote a book of tour stories and anecdotes, The Road Less Traveled, which was released last year. On Sunday, The Revival Tour hits Mercy Lounge, where Ragan will be joined by Rocky Votolato, Dave Hause and Tim McIlrath. We caught up with the ever-busy Ragan in Pensacola, Fla.
You come from a conservative family in Chattanooga. Was punk that much more exciting or enticing because of that?
Absolutely. No question. I grew up in an old Southern Baptist household. My folks — it wasn't that they were totally straitlaced or anything, but I guess compared to the way I live my life they were rather conservative. But they were always a lot of fun. But yeah, I got into skateboarding, which got me into punk rock music and more aggressive music, and where I came from, in my family, a lot of the stuff we would hear on the speakers around the house was Cajun music, bluegrass or gospel hymns. Things of that nature. So when I found this group of people and these ramp parties where we would go to our friend's vert ramp and skate vert and all this crazy music was coming out of the stereo, we were just ruining our bodies, really hurting ourselves and loving every minute of it. Some kind of fire ignited at that point in my life. There was something to be said for doing something dangerous to the tune of dangerous music.
Why The Revival Tour?This tour is just the most special way of touring that I've ever been a part of in my life. There's something that takes over on this bus with all these artists, the crew, the communities that we visit, and it's this simple, infectious camaraderie that kind of just blankets all of us and really is unique. It's something that changes on a regular basis, and that's what makes it so special. There's never the same show. We have artists coming and going constantly. ... I'm witnessing people genuinely enjoying themselves and each other and having a great time doing it, even if they mess up here or there because they learned something backstage five minutes ago and walked onstage and played it. ... To me it really revives my faith in music and restores my energy out here. If it wasn't for this tour I don't know if I'd be on the road at all. It's just that special to me.
Let me clarify: It's not like this is some groundbreaking original idea; this way of sharing music has been around for hundreds of years. It's an age-old, simple concept. It's just a group of people who are coming together — a lot of them as strangers — and sharing music by stripping down all of the kind of useless breaks and kinds of strikes and everything. ... And do away with the egos and the hierarchy and who should be headlining or should be an opener, and sharing music in a completely stripped-down, grassroots fashion. People coming on as strangers and leaving as lifelong friends and collaborators.
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