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The winning kind

Ryan Bingham takes his awards and slips off the grid


Bingham: 'I was burned out and was ready for a change.'
  • Bingham: 'I was burned out and was ready for a change.'

There aren't a ton of artists who can boast about winning an Oscar and a Grammy in the same year. One who pulled it off is singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, who won both in 2010 for "The Weary Kind," a song he co-wrote with T Bone Burnett for the 2009 Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart.

Recorded with his then-band, The Dead Horses, the song and awards came at a time when Bingham was one of Lost Highway Records' stable of rising young artists that included Ryan Adams, Hayes Carll and Mary Gauthier. Fast forward five years, and the Dead Horses are no more, Lost Highway has been absorbed into the Universal Music Group monolith, and Bingham is riding high on Fear and Saturday Night, the second album he's released on Axster Bingham Records, an imprint he founded with wife/manager Anna Axster.

And while the Crazy Heart success was nice, the New Mexico native looks at it as yet another chapter in a life that started out with his being a rodeo competitor who had nary a thought about pursing a music career.

"It was a very surreal moment, and it all happened really fast," he says of the unexpected awards. "It was something that came out of left field, and it felt like it kind of changed a lot of people around me more than it changed me."

While 2012's Tomorrowland was Bingham's first album following his departure from Lost Highway, Fear and Saturday Night is a project he feels is more fully realized. Back during the time when Tomorrowland was being recorded, his band was self-imploding, his father had committed suicide, and he was attempting to forge ahead with his own label.

"I was burned out and was ready for a change," Bingham says. "I'm proud of 'Tomorrowland' and feel like it was a record that I needed to make. But at the same time I really wasn't that prepared and kind of whipped it out because I had to make one contractually. I wish I would have had an opportunity to take some more time with it."

With some more downtime going into the recording of Fear and Saturday Night, Bingham went off the grid and retired to an old Airstream trailer located north of where he and his wife live in Topanga, near the Santa Monica Mountains. Once situated up a dirt road on a remote spread accessible only by four-wheel drive, the 30-something found a creative ground zero that allowed him to write a dozen songs with little more than a kitchen, bathroom, and an ice chest full of food. A stack of books and a guitar served as his creative creature comforts.

The resulting lyrics drew upon personal experiences ranging from his father's suicide and mother's death from alcoholism, to starting a new life with his wife. The dozen richly descriptive songs are perfectly matched to his well-worn vocal style.

"With that stuff always lingering in the background, it was not the most fun part of my life," say Bingham. "But the recent couple of years has been really great. I've got a great relationship with my wife, and we're starting a family, and we've got our own place out in California. It kind of feels like, in some ways, things are beginning for me."

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