RENAISSANCE MAN

If there’s one person who qualifies as punk rock’s Most Interesting Man in the World, it’s Chuck Ragan. For 23 years, he’s fronted Gainesville-born hardcore heroes Hot Water Music. In the mid-2000s, he pioneered the former-punker-gone-scruffy-folk-acoustic genre, dreaming up the round-robin, family-style Revival Tour along the way. After Hot Water Music went on hiatus in 2006, he started making his living as a carpenter; in 2012, he wrote a book of hell-raising tour stories called The Road Most Traveled. Can’t keep up? The anonymously administered but hilariously deadpan @ChuckRaganFacts Twitter account documents every move of this “manliest man in the world.”

Today, Ragan’s a licensed fly-fishing guide in his adopted home of Grass Valley, California, a budding hot sauce entrepreneur, and, as of earlier this year, a video game soundtrack writer, bandleader, and producer. Ragan and his band, The Camaraderie, handled every aspect of the music for The Flame in the Flood, a video game that requires frontier-like players to survive by “scrounging for resources, crafting tools, remedying afflictions, evading vicious wildlife, and staying ahead of coming rains.” As Chuck Ragan laughs over the phone with Folio Weekly Magazine, “To me, that sounded like life right there.”

But what fuels a 41-year-old who’s already accomplished so much to keep hustling and stay “busy as all hell,” as he puts it? “Just being independent,” he says. “That’s the road I’ve taken for the majority of my life. It’s tough to ever consider punching a clock, although sometimes it does sound great – being an independent contractor of any sort is not that easy. You have to build and maintain your own security. But when you’re making your own schedule and deciding your own path, to me that’s worth every bit of effort and struggle.”

Ragan says the fly-fishing business resulted from two desires: one, to spend time with his wife, Jill, and the baby boy she gave birth to in 2015; and two, to reconnect with the natural settings that have always inspired him. “Most days, I’m on the river rowing a boat or out on the lake chasing smallmouth bass and carp,” he says. “It’s an inspiring place for me, and I have a strong passion for fly-fishing. I love teaching all ages and all different walks of life, and I’ve always felt at home on the water. Having a baby boy last year really clarified where my priorities should go – and that’s staying as close to home as possible.”

Although he doesn’t consider himself a religious person, Ragan says nature supplies him with his own sense of spirituality. And he admits that, true to its back story, most of The Flame in the Flood soundtrack was begun or fished while camping or fishing. “It’s the place where I can let go and focus,” he says. “The more Scott Sinclair, who did the majority of Hot Water Music’s artwork, talked to me about it, the more it sounded right up my alley: These characters are cruising down the river, finding food, figuring out how to survive, and stay away from the wolves. It felt right and made sense from the get-go, and that allowed me to write while being inspired by Scott’s images. And I got to open the door and invite some friends like Jon Gaunt, Jon Snodgrass, Adam Faucett, Todd Beene, Ryan Williams, David Warsop, and Joey Kneiser to help out, which is always enjoyable.”

Aside from his five-date run through Florida this month and a two-week stint opening for Flogging Molly in August, most of Ragan’s summer tour dates are close to home on the West Coast. But he says he still harbors fond memories of his time in the Sunshine State and can’t wait to get back for the Backyard Oyster Roast at St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Sunday, May 22. “The Amphitheatre staff is super-hospitable, and it’s a great-sounding venue,” he says, reminiscing about opening for Old Crow Medicine Show in 2008. “I’m fired up to get back down there. We have a lot of friends in the area, I’m thinking about doing some fishing while we’re there – just hoping to have a great time all around.”

But that easygoing demeanor belies Ragan’s insatiable fire. When Folio Weekly Magazine connected with him for this interview, he was busy shepherding a tree trimmer around his property after spending the day with his son. This summer, his South Mouth hot sauce label will launch; he’s already writing new material for both Hot Water Music and his solo act; and he hopes to get the Revival Tour … well, revived … in 2017. “I’ve got a few irons in the fire, to say the least,” he laughs. “But I just keep trying, sometimes struggling, and sometimes racing through to find that balance and hang on to it until the next red light.”

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021

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