Ryan Bingham: Interview – Huff Post

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Ryan Bingham might look, act and talk like a cowboy, and maybe that’s where his crazy heart ultimately lies. But there’s more to the singer-songwriter’s backstory than the scratchy voice he can raise to eardrum-splitting levels and the hardscrabble past that’s impossible to forget.

To learn about what Ryan had to say about his Summer 2013 Tour, going on tour with Bob Dylan and what future projects he’s working on,  read the entire interview below.

The 32-year-old musician with a sense of adventure has a Los Angeles zip code, along with Hollywood-handsome movie star looks and an Academy Award to go with it. Yet the unassuming artist seems just as comfortable talking about his love of the outdoors and playing “some pretty rough little shithole kind of bars.”

Those type of places were frequent stops on a road paved with gravel and grit as he graduated from steering a Suburban to stretching out on a custom tour bus with its own driver.

Before again heading out on tour, which includes a stop at the 2013 Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on May 17, Bingham took a few minutes to discuss upcoming projects, false perceptions and why a certain state gets under his skin.

He will experience his latest “how-did-I-get-here?” moment when he joins Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket on the AmericanaramA tour that rolls throughout the country this summer.

Invigorated yet incredulous about the prospect of sharing the bill with some of the genre’s most valuable players, Bingham didn’t have a go-to answer when asked how this bit of good fortune fell into his lap.

“You know, I’m not really sure,” he said on the phone from his L.A. home. “I know that in the past years, Dylan has been doing a tour in the summertime with (John) Mellencamp and Willie (Nelson) and those guys, and I guess they decided to change it up this year. I don’t know, somehow they invited us to be on the bill and I’m really excited about it. …

“We just kind of got a phone call one morning and said, ‘Like hell, yeah. Let’s do it.’ ”

Until then (his part on that tour begins July 18), Bingham and his band — Nashville guitarist Evan Weatherford and Los Angeles rhythm section Isaac Carpenter (drums) and Shawn Davis (bass) — have already started a steady stream of dates that will cover most of the country.

It’s nothing like right after he put down the rodeo gear to pick up an acoustic guitar and begin a music career that got a boost when “The Weary Kind” won an Oscar for best original song presented in 2010.

“Oh shit, a lot’s changed, definitely,” he said about starting out with only a drummer and “not knowing where we were gonna be from one day to the next. … It’s definitely a different ballgame now.”

On a luxurious tour bus that includes his bandmates and Anna Axster, his wife of almost three years who happens to be his manager, Bingham laughingly likens it to a traveling circus, saying, “Set it up and tear it down each night and move on to the next town.”

At the moment, the ringmaster sounds like he wouldn’t have it any other way. The professional-personal relationship with his writer-director-photographer wife from Germany is “really, really good,” Bingham said. His songwriting projects involve a feature film Axster is working on, along with a Janis Joplin biopic and The Bridge, an FX television series that premieres July 10.

“There’s nobody that I trust more than her and kinda vice versa,” he added. “We work well together and it’s nice getting to be together on the road and not being apart for so long.”

A couple for about six years, Bingham said their shared touring life has been almost as long. At the top of his American horror stories is a drive back from a festival near Yosemite when he smoked the brakes of his van with an overloaded trailer all the way down a steep straightaway, necessitating a side trip into a gravel pit.

He played so many dives, that it’s impossible to recall “which one would take the cake” as the worst, yet there remains an endearing appreciation for many of them.

“It’s funny, sometimes the littlest, rattiest bars can be the most fun,” Bingham said. “I really miss playing some of those little places and still would like to get back into them. Sometimes the big shows that are all fancy, those can be kinda the worst just as far as the vibe goes.”

Prefacing his disdain for a onetime next-door neighbor with “I don’t really like to kinda talk bad about any place,” the former Texan isn’t so OK with Oklahoma.

“It’s kind of a desolate place right smack dab in the middle of the country,” he said. “We’ve had some really good shows there, obviously, but I don’t know; maybe growing up and traveling through there, just kinda sometimes the vibe through the middle of the country gets a little bit different.”

To steer clear of any negativity, Bingham heads for the hills, where he hikes, fishes and goes camping. And although the California beaches lead to a few surfing safaris, that cowboy upside to a horseman who enjoys the ride still exists.

Just because he looks the part, though, don’t mistake him for something he isn’t. Bingham has no complaints about Crazy Heart and the award-winning song he cowrote with T Bone Burnett that put him on the map, but sometimes he feels like a weary kind of guy.

“It feels like it was a long time ago,” Bingham said of his date with a gold statue for a song that Jeff Bridges made famous in his role as Bad Blake. “All the stuff happened so fast. And it was such a surreal experience for me. It was just kinda like one big party that lasted a few months and then it was over and then it was back in the van and playing shows and writing songs and just back to everyday life.”

That’s where Bingham found curious looky-loos often confusing him with Bridges’ character.

“Yeah, you’ll have fans come out to shows and the only thing they know about you is that song. They think just because you wear a cowboy hat, you must be a country musician, so they get a little freaked out when they hear some of the other stuff. (laughs) Kind of a bit of a rude awakening for some folks.

“For the most part, it’s been really cool. It definitely got our music out to a lot of people that hadn’t heard us before and if that song kinda turned some people on to some of our other stuff and they like that as well, that’s all for the better. … I feel really lucky that I got to have that experience. Shit, just to be able to play music everyday and make a living from it, it’s not a bad job to have. I can’t complain at all.”

Axster Bingham Records was formed after various managers and labels attempted to market him as a country singer.

“It was a bit of a battle at the start just to kinda try and keep my distance and hold my ground and just stick to what I was doing,” Bingham said. “I’m really influenced by a lot of different kinds of music and I like a lot of different kinds of things. I just want to be kinda free to experiment and keep learning new stuff. I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn. … Playing electric guitar brings a whole other element to things.”

Crediting former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, who produced Bingham’s first two albums, for getting him to go electric, the 2010 Americana Music Association’s artist of the year took his twang into the future with 2012’s Tomorrowland.

“A lot of it was I just wanted to have a lot of fun playing the songs live,” he said, willing to work on the instrument to keep delivering kick-ass rockers such as “Beg for Broken Legs” and “Guess Who’s Knocking.”

“The last record I did, Junky Star, was really stripped down and acoustic,” Bingham offered. “A lot of the songs, they were just a bit of bummer to play live every night. You walk out, you get in a really good mood and I was having a lot of fun and then all of a sudden, you’ve got to play all these fucking sad songs and you’re like, ‘Damn, we got to cheer up a little bit.’ ”

Bingham punctuated the sentence with a joyful noise somewhere between cackle and wheeze emanating from a throat that sounded in dire need of a lozenge.

So listen up the next time he crosses your path. That scream you hear just might be Bingham thinking out loud.

Ryan Bingham Kicks Off European Tour!

Ryan in Rome.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” -Mark Twain

European “TOMORROWLAND” Tour:

Ryan is kicking off his European tour tomorrow! Be sure to check out all of his European tour dates below.

European Tour Dates:

NOV 8- Bristol, England: Thekla

NOV 9- Dublin, Ireland: Whelans

NOV 10- Belfast, Ireland: Limelight

NOV 11- Glasgow, Scotland: Oran Mor

NOV 13- Manchester, England: Academy 3

NOV 15- London, England: Scala

NOV 16- Amsterdam, Holland: Bitterzoet

NOV 17- Hasselt, Belgium: MOD

NOV 19- Cologne, Germany: Luxor

NOV 20- Hamburg, Germany: Knust

NOV 21- Berlin, Germany: Fraanz

NOV 22- Munich, Germany: Backstage Halle

NOV 24- Zurich, Switzerland: Viadukt

NOV 25- Geneva, Switzerland: Le MAD

NOV 26- Ravenna, Italy: Bronson

NOV 27- Milan, Italy: La Sallumeria della Musica

A Messgage From Ryan:

Thanks mucho to everyone who came out to our US shows this fall! We had a blast playing for you out on the road! Dates for a second US Tour are in the works for 2013 so stay tuned!!

Peace and Rock n’ Roll

Ryan

Ryan Bingham: On Record – American Songwriter

Singer and songwriter Ryan Bingham.

Interview
Ryan Bingham: On Record
August 30th, 2012

For his fourth studio album, Tomorrowland, Ryan Bingham made some changes. He put his band, The Dead Horses, out to pasture, ditched his record label, and decided to try his hand at co-producing the record. American Songwriter caught up with the Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter to talk about Tomorrowland, going indie, country music movies and more.

Where did the name Tomorrowland come from? Is it a Disney reference?

No, it’s not a Disneyland reference [laughs]. I don’t know; it’s just kind of the vibe of the record, moving on and moving ahead. It’s an optimistic outlook on the new record and the new songs. It just sums up the record as a whole.

What made you decide to make this record without your longtime band, The Dead Horses?

We’ve just been touring pretty hard for the past ten years or so. A couple of the guys had some other projects going on. Our drummer, Matt (Smith), he and his brother started a great bar in Fort Worth called the Magnolia Motor Lounge. Elijah Ford, the bass player, has a couple of solo records he’s working on. It was a good time to take a little breather. We’re going to get together next year and do some acoustic, smaller projects. We’re just taking a little break.

You co-produced this album and released it on your own newly created record label, Axster Bingham Records. What inspired you to get so hands on?

It was a lot of things, the way the record industry has changed so much over the past few years with the Internet, and really just because artists are in a position where they can do it now. It made sense. We were in a position to do it. Lost Highway has been really great over the past few years, and has really helped us move into this spot where we could do it on our own.

Can you tell us a little bit about Axster Bingham Records?

Yeah, basically me and my wife, Anna Axster, put it together. We’re just looking for ways to do stuff on our own, where we have the creative control to do what we want, and the freedom. A lot of it is just with the songs, and the writing, and the ideas: the creative side of it. So we’re not tied down as much to the corporate record world. I think the way we operate, and the way I write songs, is more on that level of do-it-yourself.

Sonically, how does Tomorrowland compare to your other albums?

On this record I had a lot more time to work on the songs and to work on the recording as well. I played all of the electric guitar on the record, which is a change. I’ve been playing a lot of electric over the past couple years. I’ve been trying to learn a lot about that. It’s definitely a lot louder, and a lot more electric guitar, and a lot more focused in that direction.

What’s your songwriting process?

Usually, it always has to start with the music for me first. I’ll have to get a tune or a melody on guitar or piano, and the words come after that. The music sets the tone for the song. If I’ve got an electric guitar turned up and I’m playing that, it takes the song in a different direction than if I were playing an acoustic and fingerpicking. The music brings out your emotions and what you have to say from there.

Did approaching the record from a producer’s perspective affect your songwriting at all?

A lot of times you record a demo at home, and months later you go in and record the song with a producer that wasn’t really there when you were writing the song, or doesn’t get the true emotion behind what you’re trying to say. I think that can definitely have an effect on what direction the song goes in, or how it sounds. Having the opportunity to produce it myself and be more of a part of that, I definitely get to keep it in that same vein as how I wrote it.

Have you done any more writing for the screen since Crazy Heart?

I have. Actually, my wife is a film director and she wrote a feature film. I’ve been working on some music for that, and we’re collaborating on putting together a project. The title is A Country Called Home. We hope to try to get it going by next year. There’s a lot of things that have to come together, but as far as the creative side goes, we’re definitely moving ahead. The sooner the better.

Have you seen Country Strong?

I haven’t seen that film. I’m not really much into that world.

Who are your songwriting heroes?

A lot of them are some of those guys from Texas, like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. There’s a guy named Terry Allen that I’ve looked up to for a long time. A

Ryan Bingham talks ‘Tomorrowland’ and writing a new soundtrack

Ryan Bingham and his wife Anna Axster at the inaugural Country Throwdown Tour.

Hitfix Oscar-winner and rock songwriter Ryan Bingham talks about life after ‘Crazy Heart’ and ‘Weary Kind’

“It’s me, motherf*cker, I’m knocking on the door.” These are words not entirely unexpected from the same guy who took home a Grammy and an Oscar for “The Weary Kind” nearly three years ago. But the lyrics are indicative of at least the confrontational sound coming from “Tomorrowland,” Ryan Bingham’s new record and the first for his own label Axster Bingham Records.

The country and rock songwriter said in our interview that he spun a lot of records from the late ‘70s – the Clash, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin – when making the set, out of a friend’s private, secluded home in Malibu. Punk rock records “opened the door, was a really big influence” on the final result, sussed out with co-producer Justin Stanley. He incorporated a lot more electric guitars, for one.

The bigger, more robust rock sonics could also be the reaction to Bingham’s own career legacy up until now. His co-writes with T Bone Burnett on the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack put him on the map, but for his more tender material.

“I write real personal stuff, and I played a lot of tours kinda stripped down and acoustic. After a while, it’s just hard to get through those songs every night. It’s hard to be that vulnerable,” he said. Over the couple of years that followed “Crazy Heart,” for one, both of his parents passed away.

“Now, playing shows with these [songs] are a lot of fun. I get to rock the f*ck out.”

And his touring and recorded successes are in tandem with his wife Anna Axster, half the namesake of the label. She helps to manage; she’s also at work creating a feature film “A Country Called Home,” and Bingham will be writing the music for the movie.

“It’s a film about tolerance,” he said. It follows a young girl from a small town to her move to a bigger city, but some “family issues” follow her as she heads back home. Bingham said the story was inspired by his travels across middle America, touring with his wife in “places you wouldn’t visit when you go on a trip. “

The film is getting cast right now, and Bingham hopes it starts shooting in the spring. It would be his first original soundtrack since “Crazy Heart.”

Bingham will begin touring in support of “Tomorrowland” starting next week on Sept. 25. The album is out today (Sept. 18).