Lucy speaks to Joe Ringer of the Joe Ringer Band (JRB) about his career, musical influences and life in Norfolk.
iN: Set the scene for me: Where are you now?
Joe Ringer: I’m sat at Cromer seafront while it rains. I’ve just had a meeting at the pier about a show for next year.
I chose a terrible day. I was walking along the promenade and the waves were splashing 20ft in the air. It was a case of trying to dodge them to avoid getting drenched!
That’s quite a mental image! Can you give me a little background? Are you from Norfolk?
I’m originally from Norwich. I was brought up in Bowthorpe and I went to Costessey High School before going to Norwich City College.
So you’ve never been tempted to move away?
No. I really love Norwich and Norfolk. There are such great opportunities to do what I do. There are loads of really talented people to work with as well, so it’s great. I love it.
Do you play any instruments?
I don’t play any instruments. I write music and arrange it though. I taught myself to do that and I know a few chords on the piano, but I’ve always been a singer.
I started off in musical theatre. I joined the Norfolk Youth Music Theatre Company; I worked with them and performed at the Maddermarket Theatre. Then I moved on singing in a band.
Someone saw me in a show and said ‘Do you fancy coming along, we’ll give you a go?’. We did a gig at the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich and that was the first one!
I went from there to perform with someone else and then it sort of snowballed. I was gigging with what’s called a function band or a party band, doing weddings and corporate events and that sort of thing.
From there I thought I’d like to do it myself. I thought I could do it and do a good job of it. That’s when I started arranging music and started the band in 2012. We’ve been going seven years now.
What were the early days of the Joe Ringer Band like?
We started with pubs and bars and slowly moved into what you’d call the more professional scene, with functions, events and weddings.
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About four years ago I went full time. Before then I was working at Archant. I was a graphic designer. I used to do it alongside gigging but then I was lucky enough to become a singer full time.
That was when we started working the circuit. We started doing more events outside of Norfolk. We’re mainly based in East Anglia but we get work in London and up north.
Do you do other events now?
We’ve done a few cruises and we’ve got a cool one coming up at the end of the year. It’s like a floating musical theatre festival, which is really brill. It’s a one-week cruise with people like Alfie Boe, Sheridan Smith performing on there. We’re going to be the resident band.
We’ve started the theatre shows too and that’s all going well. We’ve just done one at Norwich Theatre Royal, where we got over 1100 people, which was cool. We do a Christmas show at Norwich Playhouse every year and there’s one coming up in December.
It’s a lot of work. For instance, I’ve just done six months’ work for one night, but I love it creatively. It was an amazing night. It’s about keeping pushing and exploring new avenues and trying to find other great things that we can do as a band.
Tell me more about the Joe Ringer Band.
The Joe Ringer Band normally goes out as a 6, 8 or a 12-piece. The six-piece is most popular because of people’s budgets. That’s our standard line-up; two vocalists and a four-piece rhythm section. The 12-piece adds another keyboard and 5 brass instruments to the lineup, so we’re really flexible.
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Most bands just learn their sets between them, rehearse and then turn up, whereas we’re a bit different because I write everything out for the guys. That gives us loads of scope. We’re all on the same page and we just turn up and play it.
For the last theatre show, we focused on the best of movie themes, so we did James Bond, Dirty Dancing, The Greatest Showman, Moulin Rouge. Before that, we did a swing night, with Sinatra and Bublé.
We do a little bit of everything, hopefully well!
Where would you love to perform? Your dream gig?
I don’t know… It’s a tough question! As an NCFC fan, there’s no place better than Norwich City Football Club!
Who do you admire?
Musically, I was brought up on the music of Sinatra, the old swing stuff, Simon & Garfunkel… some really great classic songwriters.
Now I’m more into the musical theatre side, but I listen to everything. I like – no love – a bit of cheesy 90s, and 80s. I like pop; I like rock… I really like any variety of music. I just like good songs.
Do you have a favourite song?
I do. It’s an old one and I get to sing it very occasionally when I do solo gigs, which I don’t do very much these days.
It’s an old song by Glen Campbell called Wichita Lineman from the 1960s. It’s a great tune. I remember being introduced to it by my grandfather on a tape and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a really beautiful song and really nicely crafted.
Lovely words, lovely tune, lovely arrangement.
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
It’s lovely being able to do what you love for a living.
So many people have a 9-5 and they tolerate it, but they’re living for the evenings and the weekends; I get to do what I love for a living. I never thought I’d be able to do this and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.