In 2010 Ryan Bingham teamed up with T Bone Burnett to work on what would become an Oscar and Golden Globe winning song, ‘The Weary Kind’, which appeared in the film ‘Crazy Heart’. This had been preceded by two previous albums.
Now with a fourth album, ‘Tomorrowland’ and this time independently released, Bingham is on tour stopping off in Dublin on November 9. Proving he is getting very hands on with the publicity for the show, Bingham calls Vanessa Monaghan for a chat.
Seeing as you are independently releasing the album, are you looking forward to the challenge?
I am, you know, It’s really been kinda liberating, doing everything ourselves. I guess, artistically, our opportunity to do this ourselves has been great. We’re very excited about it.
There are always certain commitments that you have to keep with a big label. Do you find there’s less pressure now that you don’t have a big label behind you?
I don’t know if it’s less pressure or anything, Lost Highway (Ryan’s previous label) were really great, even though they were part of a big label, Universal, they were a smaller label within that. They were always really supportive. When I started playing and signed up with them, I was fairly young and still learning a lot, still really finding myself as a musician, they were really supportive, as in helping me grow every slowly and not rushing me into anything. I don’t think there’s that much more pressure. At the end of the day, there’s stuff that has to be done to try to get the music out there to people and all of that stuff. It’s definitely a more relaxed feeling but everything we do and work for, we know it’s coming back to us and not somebody else’s pockets.
This time round you’ve worked with Justin Stanley (Sheryl Crow/Eric Clapton), how do you know him and why did you choose to work with him on this album?
Actually he’s one of the first guys I met when I came to Los Angeles and I met him kinda about the same time I met Mark Ford that produced my first couple of records. I had recorded a few things with him and just remained really good friends with him over the past few years. Originally, I wanted to produce this record myself and I was looking for ways to do that and just running ideas. Justin’s a really great engineer as well as a producer. I had been looking to produce it myself and find a really great engineer to bring some of the stuff to life. After I sat down with him and told him some of the ideas, it just made sense to have him on as a co-producer as well, just for his experience and helping me take ideas I had and make them come to life and making them happen.
He’s a really great guy, he’s one of those guys, there’s no ego, there’s no agenda. He’s really laid back and a talented smart guy as well. A great talented producer and engineer and a musician so it’s really an all round thing. It was a very open collaboration, there was no ‘this is your job, this is my job and this is what we’re going to do’.
It’s great when you get a respectful working relationship going, even though the producer is there for a reason, he’s not your boss!
Yeah, exactly and it’s great to have another motivational voice in the room and even when we have other musicians come in, to help guide them in what direction were going and translate my ideas to them to keep everybody on the same page musically and not stray too far from the music that were planning on going with.
You said that your last album, ‘Junky Star’, was about telling stories and about capturing how America was at that time. How do you think Tomorrowland’ is different?
I think it’s on the same lines but in a way it’s a totally different record. ‘Junky Star’ was stripped down and acoustic and sad for me as well, I had a lot of stuff going on family wise, both my parents passed away within that time. It was just one of those times, I was going through with that record. With ‘Tomorrowland’, is a lot louder, it’s all electric and rock n roll, there’s a few acoustic songs in there but it’s a lot bigger record. I wanted to have a lot of fun with it, playing on the road, when you go out and you play these songs every night, I wanted it to be something that I enjoyed playing every night but it definitely still reflects on my life and experiences I’ve had, the world and how the world makes you feel and things like that. It seems to be a place, I always go to when I’m writing songs, it’s got to be stuff that I experience and got to go through.
You’re on the road for a while with ‘Tomorrowland’, do you like touring?
I do, it’s definitely a kind of a love hate relationship sometimes. The last record and all the stuff with the ‘Crazy Heart’ and all that, up til then I’ve pretty much been touring for ten years straight so I hadn’t much of a break. So, this past year, I took off and laid low and concentrated on the music and writing songs and I’m excited to get back out and play these songs on tour.
I saw on Facebook that you spent the day signing albums, a lot of people were quite impressed that you would take the time to do that.
I dunno, I see people that write us letters and things like that and it doesn’t take much time out of the day to sit for a couple of hours and sign some records. You know, if it weren’t for people that like the music, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go play. As long as people keep wanting to hear the songs, I’ll keep playing. Whenever people don’t want to hear them, I guess I’ll have to go find something else to do. (laughs)
You’re not going to go back to rodeoing at any stage though are you?
No! I think that part of my life is over for now (laughs)
The rodeo though had a big influence on your life and you getting into music though, didn’t it?
Yeah, it did, that’s really how I got into playing. Not so much the rodeo itself but my friends and that environment. There was a lot of times after the rodeos, there was always a party or a dance afterwards and there was always some kind of music involved. It happened a lot that people and friends would say ‘Hey, get your guitar and come play some songs’. A lot of the time, I would write songs when we were traveling down the road, just about where we’re going and about my friends so it was always kinda fun to get out and play them when we got to wherever we were going. That was really the only reason I got into playing, friends and people saying ‘Hey, get the guitar out!’ and playing around the camp fire or the back yard or whatever.
You’ve put little regular video updates on your YouTube channel, how are you finding the fan interaction with that?
Yeah, it’s cool. That’s another thing with being on our own label, we have opportunities to do stuff like that. Even when we were on Lost Highway, they were still part of the bigger, the corporate label, Universal, so we fell under a lot of the legal department with that and we weren’t able to put up videos and things on our own. A lot of times Lost Highway would want to do stuff too but we just couldn’t do it. It’s been cool, it seems a lot of the fans enjoy some of that stuff and also they get to see a bit more of the person who I am as well. I guess that’s good for me, the fans get to know who I am and where I’m coming from with songs and things like that, so it’s good.
The cover you did of ‘To live is to fly’, you put your phone down, pressed record and just did it, it was so relaxed, it seems like ‘yeah that’s how we are, we’re just chilling, playing a song.’
Yeah, I’m a pretty laid back person. I enjoy laying low and away from the scene. That’s kinda how I got into writing songs, sitting on the porch with friends and playing songs that you like and songs that you wrote and sharing it with people. That’s where it all kinda starts with me and where it’s come from. I think it’s cool for people to see that.
A lot of people, when they have a job, turn to music for enjoyment or a release but music is your job, what do you do to chill?
Music is my release as well, music is my job but I don’t like to look at it that way. I think living and sustaining and staying out of trouble is my job. I really enjoy being at home. I’ve travelled so much over the past ten years. The past few years, I’ve gotten married and have a place of my own and a dog and all that stuff.
I really enjoy being outdoors, I live in Los Angeles. Within the state of California, there’s lots of beautiful nature, state parks and national parks, Yosemite. I like to go camping a lot and being outdoors and still enjoy riding horses and working with horses a lot. I try to do that as much as I can.
Speaking of outdoors, I believe you had a rattlesnake in your garden, how did you get rid of it?
I did unfortunately I wanted to try and capture it and release it somewhere but it was trapped in my back yard and it was trying to get into the house so I had to end up disposing of the animal with a shovel.
Last time you were in Dublin was about two years ago, this time round you’re playing in Whelan’s where people can get up and dance from the start, what can we expect?
The show is going to be loud and rock n’roll and uptempo so it’s going to be great to be in a place where you can stand up for sure!
Ryan Bingham brings his show to Whelan’s on November 9th, tickets are €16.50 plus charges from Ticketmaster.ie. His album, ‘Tomorrowland’, is out now.