Ryan Bingham Went to the Mountains to Write Songs and Find Himself

Ryan Bingham Went to the Mountains to Write Songs and Find Himself
Anna Axster

When Ryan Bingham got his start performing in rowdy Texas bars at the age of 18, he never imagined that his gritty, soulful vocals would take him all the way to the Oscars. In 2010, he picked up a Best Song statuette in 2010 for co-writing "The Weary Kind" for the film Crazy Heart. Amidst his success, the singer tragically lost his parents and entered a dark period, but according to the singer, he's found a sense of peace that shines through on Fear and Saturday Night. His new album is a thoughtful collection of cowboy country that's arguably his most well rounded effort to date.

Fear and Saturday Night is healthy mix of whiskey-fueled rompers like "Top Shelf Drug" and softer folksy tunes like "Snow Falling in June," all of which expose Bingham's effortless ability to communicate a story. The musician spent several weeks writing the album in an airstream trailer in the mountains off Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, and shares that the solitude and scenery were key to a more slow-paced songwriting process.

"It was nice to be in one spot and not be on the move. I was able to focus more and take my time on the songs. There were definitely less distractions," says the 33 year-old singer/songwriter. "I would drive down to the beach in the mornings and surf, and in the afternoons I'd hike around the mountains, and write songs at night. It's great to test yourself and see where you can take things, and not be afraid to venture out a little bit."

Fear and Saturday Night is a departure from his previous effort, Tomorowland, which Bingham says was rushed in comparison. He admits that Tomorrowland was a much more aggressive collection of songs that were recorded without much of a game plan. On Fear and Saturday Night Bingham allowed the songs to reveal themselves in their own time, even if it meant dancing with an idea for days.

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After he completed the writing process, he teamed up with producer Jim Scott whose former list of cohorts include Americana greats like Tom Petty, Grace Potter, and Wilco. Scott's experienced ear was a natural fit for Bingham's modernized alt-country, and Bingham notes that working with the producer was both fun and satisfying. The album was recorded with an all-new lineup of backing musicians that the singer intends to work with for quite awhile, but he admits that it was important for him to write songs that would work well solo, or with the band.

"Each one of these songs plays off a different mood. Whatever I'm feeling at the time, that's always kind of what translates into the songs. I definitely have moments when I have to let the coyote out and howl at the moon, but there's a lot of emotion there too," says Bingham. "I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I'm excited to get on the road to play and enjoy these songs."

There's no mistaking Bingham's gravely vocals, and Fear and Saturday Night intertwines lullaby ballads and lively alt-country that's relatable and moving. Bingham is admittedly in a good place personally, and considering he's expecting his first child in June, it's refreshing to hear him joke about building a crib "case" to put in the band's gear trailer. He credits his time in the mountains to helping him stay clear and focused for the new album, which he asserts is raw and emotionally real.

"It's not always easy to wear your heart on your sleeve and put things out there, but it's real," Bingham says. "When I'm out on the road singing these songs every night it's a lot easier if I believe in them myself. That's always been important to me, to write songs that I care about. You can't expect anyone else to believe you if you can't believe yourself."

For more information on Ryan Bingham visit www.binghammusic.com

See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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