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Music Box: Bingham transduces gritty upbringing
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Frequently, I get asked what “Americana” music is. The term has become as broad as rock. Well, Ryan Bingham is a quintessential Americana artist; folk, country, blues and rock are the ingredients, nursed via his own muse and songcraft that pours outward from both acoustic and electric influences. The ebb and flow can be soft and subtle, or it can be in your face and ballsy.
“I didn’t start playing electric guitar until the first album that we did, Mescalito,” Bingham says. “Mark Ford – guitar player from The Black Crowes that produced that record – was the first guy that put an electric guitar in my hand. We were touring so much that it was more or less something I had to learn on the road.
“I really enjoy playing both acoustic and electric, and I think when you are playing different venues with different audiences, it’s nice to be able to change it up to keep the set interesting. You can’t just blast it out the whole time … well, I guess you can (laughs).”
If you think that you’ve never heard Bingham’s music before, reconsider his Oscar and Grammy-winning collaboration song with T-Bone Burnett, “The Weary Kind,” which appeared on the soundtrack for the acclaimed 2009 film, “Crazy Heart.” This was the beginning of a monumental year for Bingham, who went on to win the Americana Music Association’s “Artist of the Year” award and released his most successful album to date, 2010’s Junky Star.
Bingham’s success story is born from early trials and tribulations. He began living alone in his mid-teens, dabbling in ranch work and sleeping in his truck after rodeo competitions, a lifestyle that became the foundation of his authenticity.
“Back in the day, the band spent more time broke down than anything else,” he said. “We had this shitty Suburban. We didn’t have a booking agent or anything, so we would just hit the road and show up in these towns and ask around for gigs when we got there (laughs).”
After being offered a residency at a bar in Stephenville, Texas, his material was brought to the attention of Lost Highway Records in Nashville, which would go on to release three of his full-length records before he started his own label (Axster Bingham Records) with Tomorrowland (2012). Once Bingham’s career gained momentum, he began writing a wider breadth of material.
“I agree that [I’ve become more proficient since ‘Southside of Heaven’],” Bingham said. “When I started writing songs, ya know, I grew up in north Texas and New Mexico area, and that’s the only world I really knew about. Anything else was stuff that I would romanticize and wonder about.
“Over the past few years, I’ve had a chance to travel across the country and go over to Europe and Australia and experience different cultures and meet different people and get different outlooks on life and on the world. I guess the more you experience, the more you have to write about and writing songs has always been a personal thing for me. I’ve never worried whether or not it’s going to ruffle any feathers.”
Bingham’s touring band is a quintet featuring bass, drums, two guitars and fiddle.
Jackson’s stop is a first for Bingham. “I have [played in Wyoming before] but not really at a venue or anything. I’ve got a good friend from Kaycee, Wyoming, and I went up there with him one time, and we played at his family’s ranch,” he said.
Ryan Bingham, 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Pink Garter Theatre. $25 at The Rose, Pinky G’s and PinkGarterTheatre.com.