By Brian Wise
Ryan Bingham might not be a familiar name to Australian audiences yet (though here has been here before as a support to Kasey Chambers) but his relative anonymity belies the fact that, at just 33 years old he has enjoyed more success than many of his peers, and his talent suggests a lengthy career.
Visiting Australia for the Out On The Weekend shows, Bingham is somewhat of a cult figure in America. Go to one of his shows, especially in his home state of Texas, and you will find that most members of the audience know every word to every song.
The esteem in which Bingham is held in the USA within the music fraternity is evident from the fact that in November he will be part of a star-studded line-up celebrating Mavis Staples’ 75th birthday in Chicago. The line-up also includes Patty Griffin, Glenn Hansard, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Michael McDonald and more. That is some fine company to be in.
Bingham has released four solo albums so far, the latest of which is Tomorrowland (2012) but his biggest claim to fame is probably his involvement, thanks to T Bone Burnett, in the film Crazy Heart. That film not only won Jeff Bridges an Oscar but scored Bingham a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the song ‘The Weary Kind.’ (You can also hear his music in the recent series The Bridge).
Actually, Bingham could have enjoyed considerably more success had he taken up some of the offers that he received after Crazy Heart’s remarkable success (it also garnered Bridges an Oscar).
“I’m really happy right now,” responds Bingham when I talk to him in Austin, Texas, just a few weeks prior to his Australian visit. “At that time when all of that was going down, I just didn’t really feel like that was why I played music. That wasn’t why I was in it.
“Sometimes it just takes a little time, too, and sometimes you need that time to kind of adjust and see what your next step is going to be. Right now, I couldn’t be happier with this new record that I’ve got and these guys that I’ve got in the band. It just takes time to put all that stuff together and find the right people to get in there with, and so, yeah, I’m pretty happy about it.”
Bingham has been recording a new album in California, where he is now based, with producer Jim Scott, who has worked with The Rolling Stones, Crowded House, Roger Daltry and The Red Hot Chili Peppers (amongst others).
“I’m really happy with the record, and I think that the songs are going to be a lot of fun to play live and, at the same time, still have kind of a lot of meaning to me, as well,” says Bingham, “so I’m excited to get out and start playing them.” He adds that he will probably be playing some of those songs on his Australian tour.
Before the Australian tour, however, Bingham is busy working on the film A Country Called Home directed by his wife Anna Axter and filmed near Austin, which is where he is working when we talk.
The film is a coming of age story dealing with the trials and trepidations that most people experience, with people from all walks of life; different generations, different places, and different socio-economic backdrops. The main character, Ellie’s, journey was inspired by Axster’s travels and observations throughout the United States Bingham.
“The whole project came about through my wife,” explains Bingham. “She went to film school in London to study to be a director, so that’s what she’s been striving to do from a young age. That’s why she moved to Los Angeles – to become a filmmaker – and that’s where we met. She’s been working on this for quite a while, so it kind of came about just through her. She started working on it and wrote the script, and I read it and really liked it. She got it all put together, and I started working on some music, and here we are now. We’re filming it in Smithville, Texas.”
“Anna wrote the script five or six years ago and has been kind of working on putting it together ever since,” explains Bingham. “I’ve written a couple of songs for it, and me and the guys are going to put the score together for her once it’s finished.”
Straight after his work on the film, Bingham will be heading for Australia and looking forward to his second visit. He is also looking forward to catching up with Liam Gerner, who has in his band The Dead Horses a couple of years back.
“I’m looking forward to coming over there and hanging out with him,” says Bingham. “That last time I came over with Kasey, I was just there for a week, and I didn’t really have much time to get out and see things. So this time I’m hoping to have a couple of days off where I can catch up with Liam and get him to show me around a little bit.”
These days Bingham’s band includes Nate Barnes and Daniel Sproul on drums and guitar. “They used to play for a band called Rose Hill Drive out of Boulder, Colorado,” explains Bingham.“ It was a heavy-rock metal band, and they’re just fantastic. They’re wonderful guys and great players. I’m really excited to be on the road with them and a bass player named Jimmy Stofer from out in Minneapolis, who also played with them back in the day. We’re just coming as a four-piece band, so that’ll be the line-up there. I’m really excited to be playing with these guys. They’re really, really great guys to be going on the road with.”
“It will be interesting,” reflects Bingham on his forthcoming visit. “We’ve been trying to come over there for a while, and it’s just been tough to be able to afford to come over there and have some promoters kind of get behind us and believe in us to bring us over there. So I’m excited I finally have the chance to come over.
“Hopefully, we can just keep coming back as much as possible and stay as long as possible and keep playing some music, because we’d really like to get over there and play it.”
RYAN BINGHAM AUSTRALIAN/NZ TOUR DATES:
October 11 – The Tuning Fork – Auckland, New Zealand
October 14 – Newtown Social Club – Sydney, Australia
October 15 – Lizottes – Kincumber NSW, Australia
October 17 – Black Bear Lodge – Brisbane, Australia
October 18 – Seaworks – Melbourne, Australia
October 19 – Mojos Fremantle – Perth, Australia
October 21 – Northcote Social Club – Northcote, Australia
November 11 – Holy Mountain – Austin, TX
November 12 – Turf Club – St Paul, MN
November 14 – City Winery Chicago – Chicago, IL
November 15 – The HI-FI – Indianapolis, IN
November 16 – City Winery Nashville – Nashville, TN
November 18 – The Ark – Ann Arbor, MI
November 19 – I’ll Take You There: Celebrating 75 Years of Mavis Staples – Chicago, IL
November 21 – Cafe 939 – Boston, MA
November 22 – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY
November 24 – The Hamilton – Washington, DC
November 25 – World Cafe Live – Philadelphia, PA
November 26 – City Winery New York – New York, NY
November 28 – STAR THEATER – Portland, OR
November 29 – Columbia City Theater – Seattle, WA
December 1 – The Chapel – San Francisco, CA
December 3 – Sweetwater Music Hall – Mill Valley, CA
December 4 – Masonic Lodge @ Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA