He’s a slender guy, not very tall, with a trim moustache/beard. To look at Ryan Bingham, you’d hardly expect vocals like his to come out of that slight build. He sounds like he has gravel in his throat that makes his voice unique and unforgettable. What kind of music? Some say country. But not like country out of Nashville. Add a little folk, a little rock, a little blues and you’ve nailed it.
He and his band The Dead Horses (Elijah Ford on bass, Corby Schaub on guitar and Matthew Smith on drums) were still selling self-produced albums (and tees) when they appeared at a local Nashville club a few years back, the singer/songwriter on stage with his guitar, his face buried in a big black hat. Fast forward to 2010, the release date of their third album titled Junky Star on Lost Highway Records, the label started by Luke Lewis of Mercury Records and now part of the Universal Music Group. That’s not counting the Crazy Heart soundtrack featuring The Weary Kind, the theme song that won Bingham and his co-writer T Bone Burnett a Grammy as well as an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Bingham also had a little on camera time in the movie that gave a well-deserved Oscar to star Jeff Bridges.
Would you believe he also spent his teenage years on the rodeo circuit as a bull rider? Born in 1981 in New Mexico, Bingham didn’t even start playing the guitar until he was around 17. Quoting him from a biography on GAC, “We lived in so many different towns (rural Texas) and even when we stayed in one town, we’d move to different houses. Something would happen, the bills wouldn’t get paid and we’d get evicted. After a while, I’d get to where I wouldn’t even unpack my stuff.”
He first played in public at the urging of friends. That led to a regular gig and ultimately to his “overnight” rise to fame. In addition to vocals, Bingham plays acoustic, electric and slide guitars along with harmonica. And he writes.
Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford (band bassist Elijah Ford is his son) produced the initial albums and T Bone Burnett took over on Junky Star that was reportedly recorded in three days.
With success came the first home of his own in California, but his road days are obviously far from over. On his Web site http://www.binghammusic.com, he and The Dead Horses are now promoting their European tour in November 2010 following sold-out shows in the U.S.
Funny aside. The name of George Clooney’s character in the movie Up in the Air also happened to be Ryan Bingham.