Chuck Ragan, solo singer-songwriter and member of the Jacksonville, Fla., rock band, Hot Water Music, got the idea for the annual Revival Tour in 2005. He launched the first tour in 2008. Its sixth edition rolls into New Orleans Wednesday, March 20, for a stop at Tipitina’s.
“It’s a simple concept, a concept that’s been around for ages,” Ragan explained from his home in the old gold-prospecting country of northern California. “We’re just reviving it in our own way, and having a good time doing it.”
The Revival Tour is a traveling hootenanny, a mobile song circle, songs sung around a campfire, minus the fire.
“Each artist will showcase their own work, but we all start together and end together,” Ragan said. “Throughout the evening, everybody’s on and off. It’s a big showcase, a jamboree.”
More than 75 singer-songwriters spanning multiple genres have participated in the Revival Tour thus far.
“We rally, usually, anywhere from four to six songwriters from all over the place,” Ragan said.
The Revival Tour show in New Orleans features Ragan, Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), the Seattle-based Rocky Votolato and New Jersey singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs.
“Once we get a group together, we ask each artist to submit a couple of songs that we all can learn,” Ragan said. “So when we kick off on the first show, we already have an arsenal of songs that we can play together. It makes a special environment from the get go.
“When the tour starts rolling, we’re learning each other’s songs every day. People are on the bus or backstage or sitting in an alley or the kitchen, learning songs that they’re about to play on the stage in an hour. It’s exciting.”
When the show hits a stage, it runs nonstop for three or more hours.
“It stays fresh and interesting because there are always people coming on and off the stage,” Ragan said. “Sometimes we see a friend in the audience and we say, ‘Hey, you wanna jump up and play a song or two? Come on.’ ”
Ragan admits that the Revival Tour is not for everyone.
“Not every songwriter is willing to dump all of their songs in a pot and let somebody stir it up and then jump on a bus with 10 people they’ve never met and hit the road.”
Ragan and his wife, Jill, co-organizer of the tour, didn’t know if their rolling revue concept would work.
“We weren’t sure how the artists would take it,” he said. “We definitely weren’t sure how the people were going to take it.
“I gotta say, though, on the very first tour we did, with Ben Nichols (Lucero), Tim Barry and Austin Lucus, and the very first show, my wife and I just looked at each other in the first 20 minutes and were like, ‘This is beautiful. It feels good already.’ ”
Meanwhile, in 2012, Ragan’s reactivated rock band, Hot Water Music, released Exister, the band’s first new studio album since 2004’s The New What Next.
“It’s the best stuff we’ve ever done,” Ragan said. “We got in the studio and had a ton of material that had been built up. We got in there and hammered it out.”
Hot Water Music toured extensively, too.
“We’re all extremely close,” Ragan said. “We grew up loving each other like brothers and fighting like brothers.”