Ryan Bingham: "I Could Sing Death Metal and I'll Still Be A Country Singer To Certain People"
Ryan Bingham isn't a country singer. While he's dabbled in the tones of roots and country, he's a rock star at this point in his career. Sure, many people know the Los Angeles-based former rodeo cowboy from his celebrity-making, Oscar-winning tune "The Weary Kind" from the movie Crazy Heart, in which Jeff Bridges also won an Oscar for portraying an old-school country singer looking for a new start. It's a mistake to confuse Bridges' Bad Blake for Bingham's artistic state.
Anna Axster Ryan Bingham
His recent self-released LP Tomorrowland is an earth-rattling record that keeps his cowboy-song past in the rear view mirror. Bingham brings his new set of tunes to the Palladium on Wednesday, October 3, so we grabbed a few minutes last week to speak with him about his early days in Dallas, dropping F-bombs on Leno and being married to an artist who just happens to be his manager.
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Is this the album that makes people quit calling you a country singer?
I think I could sing death metal and I'll still be a country singer to certain people [laughing]. As long as I occasionally wear a cowboy hat, I can sing reggae or metal and that's just how it'll be. I'm not really sure how it works that way, but that's how it is, I guess.
When you performed on the Tonight Show a couple of weeks ago, you played "Guess Who's Knockin'," which has several angry F-bombs in it. Why did you choose that song?
It's funny because the people at the show were the ones who requested that song specifically. We weren't going to pick that one, and we were really surprised when they asked us for it. We were like, "Alright, let's fucking do this." I can say it was definitely interesting.
You've played some of the smallest stages in Dallas, and now you're playing some of the biggest stages across the country. Do you have any memories of your first Dallas performances?
It's been a real trip. I remember when I was living in Stephenville, just outside of Fort Worth, and the first real gig I ever got was in Dallas, at this place on Greenville Avenue called the Boar's Nest, which was next to where Poor David's Pub used to be. I opened up for 1100 Springs and I was 19 or 20, and I didn't have a car, so I begged a friend of mine in Stephenville to please drive me to Dallas for this gig. He had to take me early in the day, and when he dropped me off, the bar wasn't even open. Because I was too young, the other bars wouldn't let me in, so I just waited with a bag of clothes and my guitar, and hung out on the street for a bit. I've got some great memories of Dallas, especially because of so many of my early gigs were there.
On that note, there are many people around here that claim to be the person who played your songs on radio first, or gave you a big break before anyone else. Who do you remember as being an early, instrumental supporter of yours in Dallas?
I've had great support there, thankfully, but I'd say [former 99.5 KPLX host, currently at 95.9 KFWR The Ranch in Fort Worth] Justin Frazell was one of the first, if not the first, to play my stuff. When all I had were demo recordings, he would play my stuff on his Sunday night Americana show [Live From The Front Porch], and then he would invite me to come play on the show. He was supportive from the very start.