Ryan Bingham: Doing things his way
by Jared Curtis
In 2009, the film “Crazy Heart” captured audiences with its rousing tale of Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), a former country star trying to reach the spotlight one last time. But beyond Bridges amazing performance, the music really drew people in. Featuring a soundtrack stacked with great tunes, one song stood out among the others, Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind,” which he co-wrote with T Bone Burnett and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Although Bingham had released two records prior, his involvement in creating the soundtrack for the film put his name on the map and opened his music up to millions of new fans. After such a huge success, some would think Bingham would feel the pressure to make an entire album of “The Weary Kind,” but think again.
“I really didn’t worry about it too much. That whole experience was so surreal that I really felt a bit removed from it most of the time. It was a great experience but at the same time I realized that I wanted to continue to make music the way I had before and not change everything because of this experience,” he said. “Believe it or not, I really don’t play ‘The Weary Kind’ that often. Even though I wrote it for the film, it’s still a fairly personal song and it’s a bit sad to play on a nightly basis.”
Although his involvement with “Crazy Heart” brought a lot more fans to his shows, Bingham shied away from the spotlight and continued to make his music his way, releasing Junky Star in 2010 to critical and commercial success. Bingham flipped the script in 2012, when he parted ways with his label and with the help of his loving wife, Anna Axster, the two started their own imprint, Axster Bingham Records.
“It’s been awesome. My wife deserves all the all the credit for running the label,” he said. “She does a fantastic job and I can’t imagine doing things any other way.”
Being his own boss has always been Bingham’s priority and with his own label, he has the freedom for his sound to grow and expand. But he also accredits his fans for staying true, no matter his sound. ingham’s first album on the imprint was the sad and bleak Tomorrowland, which dealt with the deaths of his parents. It was a heavy album, but one that could be released thanks to Bingham’s newfound label freedom.
“It really depends on the fans more than the label. I feel fortunate that people have given me some time to experiment and make some mistakes so I can learn how to write better and grow as a musician. And having our own label has allowed me to do so as well,” he said. “It can be discouraging if people demand the same record over and over again. The fans seem to like this new album and I have a lot of fun playing these news songs.”
His newest record, Fear & Saturday Night is full of rowdy honky-tonk tunes and thoughtfully crafted ballads. Bingham, who has always had a way with words, takes listeners on a journey through happiness and heartbreak.
“I had a lot of fun recording this album and I enjoy playing the tunes live. It’s been a wild ride from my first album to now and I still enjoy writing, recording and playing music, maybe more than ever,” he said. “I felt a bit more relaxed with this record. I spent a lot more time with the songs before we went in the studio so there weren’t too many surprises other than the ones you want to have.”
Prior to recording the album, Bingham’s writing process included being far removed in the Californian mountains.
“I always need peace and quiet whenever I sit down to write. I get distracted easily so it helps to have a good hideout,” he said. “My wife found this airstream trailer in the mountains in Southern California and it was the perfect place to get away and really focus on the songs and ideas that had been brewing.”
Bingham is excited to bring his new tunes back to the Pacific Northwest for fans to hear them live.
“Maybe they will hear a song that will make them laugh or cry, holler or howl, dance and jump around, clap a hand or stomp a foot… Whatever happens I can promise that we will be on our best behavior and raise as much hell as we can get away with!”
Live Show: See Ryan Bingham at the Wild Buffalo on Friday, Nov. 13. For more about him, visit www.binghammusic.com.
Published in the November 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine