In songwriting circles, the most you can learn about an artist and his trade is just to give him a guitar and ask him questions about how he does it. Most songwriters don’t necessarily hide the art of songwriting or the attachment of lyrics to their songs. In fact, the best writers often use their stories etc. as a way to define how you, as the listener, will react to their performance. Series like chautauquas or Bluebird Cafe style songwriters have become the best possible exposure to songwriters. Ravic “Doc” Ringlaben is a musician and collector of these stories. Following his natural curiosity, Doc created a series here in Hattiesburg where, for one night, you get the “Song Stories”.
His debut album provided a world of insight into Cary Hudson’s long career. Ringlaben, as the host / interviewer, was able to get some Cary inspired solo tracks, including a few that he has played for quite some time or never. This month’s “Stories of the Songs” brings Thomas Jackson on stage at T-Bone on Thursday night for another episode.
PIN BELT NEWS: How did you come up with the idea for this series and what do you hope to accomplish?
DOC: Before moving to Hattiesburg, I lived in western Georgia and performed regularly with Charlie Hudgins, a local singer-songwriter. Several years ago, he hosted several singer-songwriter events. I guess it stuck in the back of my head. I loved hearing the stories behind the songs. I have lived in Hattiesburg on and off since 2013 and mainly full time since 2019. I was interested in live music and was amazed by the quality and number of singer-songwriters in the area. As I got to know these artists, the idea started to evolve as well. Also, I had the opportunity to play T-Bones and really enjoyed the atmosphere. The ability to write quality songs has always amazed me. As a percussionist, I certainly don’t have this gift. As I played with Charlie and became a good friend, he regularly spoke about the songs he wrote and their origins. Many were based on observations or events. He shared that some of them were about relationships and I realized how intimate his songs really are. I have often thought that I would have liked to have had an audience for these conversations so that they could appreciate the breadth and depth of certain lyrics. As I became more familiar with the musicians in Pine Belt, I thought it would be interesting to have an event where they could talk about their craft.
PIN BELT NEWS: Your career in music requires asking questions of these artists. You make them tap into their experiences to respond and even disclose things that they might not normally say. Are any of your questions things you would ask yourself too?
DOC: A music friend once told me many years ago, you can just play a song or you can play and FEEL a song. A very good song produces feelings in us. Some come and correspond to our life. For example, I remember the first time I heard “More Than A Feeling” from Boston. I was driving west through Kansas City to start a new life in Colorado. It corresponded to the emotions of my life. I can still imagine and “feel” this moment over 40 years later. Maybe we all have songs like that in our lives. I develop the questions for the singers / songwriters based on my experiences of how the songs affected me.
PIN BELT NEWS: How did you get started in music, and what was your first musical experience?
DOC: I was probably born a percussionist. I always recorded the rhythms of songs growing up. I finally started playing the drums at the age of 11. It allowed me to be in the drums line in a band, play in a band and orchestra, and play in the pit for our high school musicals. Plus, I played in a successful local rock band for a decade and had the opportunity to record and hear our songs on the radio! Growing up I also spent time at our local radio station and enjoyed this side of music. As a result, I ended up being a part-time rock radio presenter for over 10 years. My percussion playing also extended to worship and worship music for the church.
PIN BELT NEWS: How did you come to Hattiesburg and what attracted you?
DOC: I came to Hattiesburg for a job at USM. Although I really enjoyed my experience there, the job really went as I hoped. I determined that I could retire comfortably and so I did. While at USM I experienced local music and talent and was very impressed with the large number of quality musicians in the area. I went back to western Georgia for a while and worked in a church and came back to Hattiesburg about once a month. During this time, I attended the church in Ekklesia where Toby Barker attends. He had spoken to me several times about working in his administration but I wanted something part time or less! I am now working as a legal assistant / clerk for public defenders at the Municipal Court and for 3 years. Since then I have lived here most of the time full time.
After I retired, I started looking for music and other activities here. I have always been impressed by the quality of the experiences and the kindness of the people involved. This also applies to the experience I had in cafes, restaurants. . .almost anywhere here. I have loved the arts during my lifetime and Hattiesburg has an exceptional arts community. As I got more and more involved, my circle of friends grew at the same time. I haven’t known a community of friends and acquaintances like this for a long time. I am in Hattiesburg because it suits me as few communities have done in my past.
PIN BELT NEWS: What do you think of the level of inclusion and involvement that exists between the musicians here?
DOC: Hattiesburg offers a number of opportunities for musicians to “burst” onto the stage with Open Mic events and the like. Live music is available every day / night of the week. Several places built outdoor stages which offered more opportunities for live music. Hattiesburg is definitely a music hub!
PIN BELT NEWS: Finally, Doc, what are your goals for “Stories of the Songs?”
DOC: I had a few goals for the series. Yes, to have a singer / songwriter to share on the job, but also to share more about himself as a person. How do they go about doing what they are doing? Did they choose this career or did she choose them? The joys and challenges of their profession. The artists and their songs are more than they seem.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.