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A Chat with Ryan Bingham


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Ryan Bingham's music puts you in the south. His voice fills the room with the sounds of desert dust, and his music is a country-rock fusion sure to make even a city dweller feel southern roots.

In the three years since the 31-year-old Bingham, who grew up in Texas, appeared on the Crazy Heart soundtrack and subsequently won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Critics' Choice Award and Grammy, he's released two studio albums, Junky Star and Tomorrowland, and spent a lot of time on the road.

On Friday, he plays the Vogue and so we decided to give him a call. In a telephone interview, he talked about his career, his music and his tour.

  • Anna Axster

E: When did you first know that you weren't going to have a traditional office-type career?

R: Probably [at] an early age. I didn't really think I was wired for this kind of work. I don't know exactly when it was, but I know I was pretty young.

E: Now that you've made that choice, what do you think your future will be like 20 years from now?

R: You see, I don't know. The music business is a funny thing that you never know really where it's gonna turn. It's one of those things you have to take care of one day at a time. Hopefully I'll still be playing music, playing shows and traveling down the road. It's not a bad job.

E: What was the first piece you ever performed?

R: I think the first songs that I really started performing were the songs that I wrote on my own. There was a song called "Hopped Outta Heaven." That was one of the first songs that I wrote and so that's probably the first one that I started playing.

E: What was that like being on stage for the first time?

R: It was so long ago, I hardly even remember. It was kind of a slow process. I started playing out in little bitty small bars and house parties and things like that. I mean, it was a real gradual thing. So it wasn't a shock going from the backyard to the big stage or anything like that.

E: Can you take me through your songwriting process?

R: Some of those songs come really fast. I have a kind of really short attention span so I [try] to get more and more stuff and I'll set it down and walk away from it and come back to it later and I try to write a song, [try] to sing it really quick. Usually I'll just start with the computer, play a melody on the guitar in whatever key the song is in and write. Everything kinda works out.

  • Anna Axster

E: You've released all your albums on records, in addition to CD and music download. What prompted you to make that decision?

R: People still like to have something in their hand and will buy a record or an album or CD, so I try and make sure to do all of them.

E: Who or what keeps you going when you don't want to do anything and you just want to stay in?

R: It's the fans more than anything. They're the big reason why you get out and you get on the road and play in different towns, with the social media and stuff like that you can interact with your fans a little and they can hear the songs they want to hear. It's pretty good motivation to get out there and go play for people.

E: What is it like working on an album solo versus working with the band?

R: I guess when you're working with a band in the studio, it's more of a collaboration. Everybody tries to pretend to have some stuff and you have an idea for a song, but you don't really know what it's going to turn into and so everybody has their own artistic, creative, stance. And when you're by yourself working on a solo, it tends to be a lot more personal and private that way.

E: Do you like working with the rest of the band or do you prefer to be by yourself?

R: I think I like working on my own. A lot of really personal and stuff like that, so I like to be by myself and with my thought.

E: Have you ever Googled yourself before?

R: Yeah, I have a couple times. There's all kinds of stuff on there. A lot of it isn't really fair of people, I mean, it's their opinion, but that whole idea of who you are and what you're like [they] have an opinion of who you are, or where you're from, or what you like to eat, stuff like that. But they really don't have a clue of who I am.

E: What's that experience like, when people form opinions without even knowing who you are?

R: It's strange at first. You gotta get used to it and you can't take it personally. A lot of times when people are saying bad stuff you got to have some hope for them where they can kind of get through their own stuff and don't worry about what I'm doing.

E: What was it like working on the soundtrack for Crazy Heart?

R: It was great. I had a great time doing that. Such a treat to work with guys like T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton all those guys.

E: What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?

R: That was definitely one of them, getting to be a part of that song and that whole process. Personally, probably getting married. That was probably one of the happiest moments of my life.

E: You began bull riding in your late teens. What made you want to start that?

R: Originally, I'm from a little town in New Mexico and my family owned a ranch out there and my dad and uncles they all rode and got me into it when I was a kid. They took me to rodeos and it was what I did growing up.

E: Are there any projects recently that you've been working on? You just released Tomorrowland last year.

R: I haven't really started getting songs together yet, but I've been doing a lot of traveling and so I'm not really too worried about working on anything yet. But I sure hope there will be plenty of stuff to write about when I get to that point.

E: What's it like being on tour? Is it hard? Do you like it?

R: You got to roll with it, just like anything in life. I feel really lucky to be able to get out and play music for a living. It does certainly get hard out there. You're driving all night, not getting any sleep, you're waking up in a different city and you get tired and burned out. But at the same time you just got to think about the big picture of it all and realize it's a pretty cool thing to play music for a night for people.


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