Johnny Ridenour is a 42-year-old stay-at-home, homeschooling dad. He also is a guitar player who has performed with many other artists, touring the country and internationally as well. After taking some time off of music, he is making a solo record that Chicago musician Bobby Conn is helping to produce. His wife, Tracey Grimsley, is a nurse at Carle Hospital; they live in Urbana with their 7-year-old son Felix and 4-year-old daughter Poppy.
See why we think Johnny Ridenour is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: I don’t think I’ve met many home-schooling stay-at-home-dads. How did your family choose this path?
After my son was born, I was the primary wage-earner. My wife decided to get her nursing degree at Parkland, and when she finished and was hired at Carle, we decided I should quit my job and stay home. It has always been important to her to have one of us home with the kids while they are young, and I definitely agree with it. It would be nice to have two incomes, but it is impossible to homeschool and both be at work at the same time, and if we trade off going to work then we never see each other! The homeschooling thing was important to Tracey, and I wasn’t always so sure, but I’ve become convinced that it is the way to go for us … at least for now!
Q: How have your children influenced your music?
My children are really outspoken and loud in voicing their like or dislike of music. My son often says my music isn’t ‘rockin’ enough! Some of my music can be a bit pensive, moody, droney sometimes, and they like it sometimes — get sick of it sometimes! I’ve written instrumental pieces for them, and we’ve always sung made-up silly songs to and about the kids or the dogs. They do it, too (the kids, not the dogs)! that goes into my own music, I’m sure!
Q: What music do you and your children like to listen to?
We all have very eclectic tastes, I think. Tracey comes from a punk rock background (she sang or played guitar in punk bands in Milwaukee and Austin before we met) but has a deep love of country, bluegrass, and R&B. The kids have gotten that from her, too. They love Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Stanley, Johnny Cash. I like a lot of weird stuff like improvised noise, American primitive stuff like John Fahey, prog, music from Chicago like Tortoise and Califone … but I also love Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell, Glen Campbell, Bacharach, The Carpenters — seriously! The kids love that stuff, too. They like Wilco. I really like everything except what’s on the radio now. When it comes to pop music since the advent of autotune, I am a grumpy old man — I hate it! (I give Tracey grief for this, but she likes new country as well as classic!
Q: Congrats on raising the money to get your new album produced. Can people still contribute, and why should they?
Thanks! I hate asking for money! The kickstarter site was recommended to me by a musician friend in Austin, and it is a great way to do the fundraising thing. I’m glad it is over. People can still contribute up ’til June 7th, and the site will guide you through the easy process and also explain the rewards (signed copy of the CD when finished, thanks in the liner notes). After that, you can wait ’til it’s done and look for it at the record store! I hope to have it signed to a label — I haven’t been associated with a label for many years now — and things have changed in that world. Since I’m needed at home, I can’t exactly take off on tour for weeks at a time to promote the record. Nor would I want to — for long, anyway! So it’s kind of hard for someone in my position to sell themselves as a good investment to a record label, but we’ll see. If no one bites, I’ll put it out myself.
Q: Do you have any tips for local parents who are interested in homeschooling their children in this community?
Tips for prospective homeschoolers in C-U? Spend as much time at the parks as you can — including Homer Lake, Lake of the Woods, Kickapoo State Park, … Definitely Anita Purvis Nature Center, Spurlock Museum, Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, the libraries are great resources and are very helpful to homeschoolers. Join H.O.U.S.E.— other members have been a great wealth of information and inspiration! Have fun. Relax. Enjoy your family!
This month is June and that means one thing — Father’s Day. So we’re featuring dads all month! Do you know of a Chambana mom or dad we should interview? We love nominations. Please send them to email@example.com.