"It happened really fast--one of those once-in-a-lifetime things," is the unassuming manner Ryan Bingham chooses to explain his whirlwind year of 2010--a period in which the young singer-songwriter won a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and (shortly into 2011) a Grammy for the song he wrote with T Bone Burnett, "The Weary Kind."
The tune, penned for the soundtrack to the itself multi-award-winning film Crazy Heart, was responsible for introducing Bingham to music fans at large--and provided an astonishing slam-dunk in terms of critical acclaim, especially considering Bingham was not even 30 years old at the time. He lost out on one bit of key exposure--in an unfortunate turn of events, the Academy decided to eliminate the long-held practice of having Best Original Song nominees perform live on the Oscars telecast--but, unsurprisingly, says that didn't bother him as there was already so much on his plate.
Besides, awards or no awards, fans of both rock and country have known about the New Mexico native for some time. Bingham, who weathered a rocky childhood and initially found himself on a different path--the rodeo circuit, riding bulls--cultivated his unique, rough-edged, stylistically mixed sound from the small Texas towns he visited along the way. He says his rodeo days are behind him for good, but his musical palette takes much from the Southwest. Mariachi, honky-tonk, country, and rock all found their way into his bag of influences.
After self-releasing two albums, Bingham put out three records for the Lost Highway label (known for its impressive roster of alt-country releases, including albums from such genre luminaries as Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, and Lucinda Williams)--the first two produced by former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford.
Bingham's third release for Lost Highway, Junky Star, made an impressive--if schizophrenic--showing on both the Billboard Top Country Albums (No. 2) and Top Rock Albums (No. 8) charts. It's rare to find an artist whose music appeals to both Carrie Underwood and Papa Roach fans. Bingham smiles at this and simply notes that he doesn't care about strict classifications.
Bingham's now settled in Los Angeles--a town considerably different from his Southwestern roots, but where he says he continues to find new sources for his creativity. He decided to go the self-release route yet again for his latest album, Tomorrowland, which will be out September 18 on his own newly formed label."I had a lot of ideas and a lot of stuff that I'd recorded by myself that I really liked," he explains, adding that he doesn't plan to release material by any other artists and will stick to his own work for the time being.
Fans of Bingham's past work will be more than satisfied with his new music--somehow he's managed to put an even deeper emphasis on his astonishing, unique vocals, which were a standout from the beginning. How does an artist so young sound so old and wise? Bingham just laughs--he has no secret to reveal.