When you look at his career, Jimmy Herring has been involved with a slew of heavyweights in the jam band scene. Everyone from Colonel Bruce Hampton to the Allman Brothers Band and a prior version of The Dead have turned to the guitarist for some added musical exploration.
For the last few years, Herring has been enjoying the ride as lead guitarist for immensely popular jammers Widespread Panic, and he has kept busy with some side projects, including The Ringers, who will be performing at the River Street Jazz Cafe this Sunday.
Recently, The Weekender had the chance to e-mail Herring to chat about The Ringers’ upcoming tour, the relaxed feeling of being in an outfit where no one is considered a leader, and his respected adaptive style of playing.
THE WEEKENDER: How are things going for you as you prepare to bring The Ringers back out on the road? Anything special you do with your downtime?
JIMMY HERRING: Things are going great! There hasn’t been much in the way of downtime! It’s been a very busy beginning to 2014.
W: What brought about the idea to form The Ringers, as compared to some of your other projects, like the Jimmy Herring Band?
JH: This band was the brainchild of my friend and manager Souvik Dutta. It sounded like a good idea to me to do something that would be fun and low pressure. The band has no leader; we all just play together for the fun of playing. It’s more fun and less stress when you can just be one of the band members.
W: It seems as though you don’t really bring The Ringers out too often, as you are constantly busy with other projects, mainly Panic. Are sporadic tours what you hope to do with the band, or is there a desire for more dates, as schedules allow?
JH: Well, it should be made clear that The Ringers is not my band. I’m simply one of the members of the band. Everybody in this group is very busy – this is why we have only played in the months of January and February thus far, which is typically off-time for most of us from our other obligations. We hope to play more at other times of the year in the future.
W: When the band is on the road, where do the set lists draw from? Is it strictly originals or a mix of originals and covers?
JH: A mix of originals and covers. In a perfect world, we would have more and more original material. That ‘s what we’ll strive for in the future.
W: When you do cover material, what is the band’s approach to tackling it?
JH: Our basic approach is to learn the song, internalize the things about it that give it its identity. Then just play and keep your ears open.
W: I’ve seen you play with everyone from Panic and ARU to The Dead, and one of the things that attracted me to your playing was that you tend to play by feel rather than trying to replicate what the original composition presents.
JH: Typically when I learn music that I didn’t help to create – either covers or originals of the band I might be playing with – I listen for key phrases and melodies that give that song its melodic identity. I try to use those as a template to work from.
W: I’ve been reading that The Ringers are looking at this year to release an album. How has the recording process been going?
JH: As of right now, we are still talking about it. We know we want to do a live record when the time comes.
W: What’s next for you after this tour wraps up?
JH: A little downtime and prepping for Panic’s Wood Tour in March.
W: Finally, how would you describe what’s in store for the fans who come out to see you guys on this tour, and mainly, the River Street Jazz Cafe show on Feb. 9?
JH: They’ll see us having fun playing music together. We don’t think about music in categories, but for the sake of explanation, there will be elements of blues, jazz, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll mixed together, and the emphasis will be on improvisation.