America may be facing some strange days, but that hasn’t kept one of our nation’s hardest working Americana songwriters from a summer tour of Europe all while churning out new material and starting a family. Did I mention that the 35-year-old Ryan Bingham is working on songs for a new film with director Scott Cooper, who he previously teamed up with for Crazy Heart ? Christian Bale will star in the new film, Hostiles, which follows an army captain escorting a defeated Cheyenne war chief home through the Wild West circa 1892.
I know that Bingham’s song, “The Weary Kind” and Jeff Bridges’ character, “Bad” Blake brought a sense of hope and redemption to me in a time when our nation’s future seemed uncertain in the wake of a financial crisis. T-Bone Burnett’s musical collaboration with Ryan Bingham in Scott Cooper’s 2009 film gave music lovers and moviegoers a sense of hope.
Between his songwriting for the movie and gearing up for a fall tour, during which Bingham will headline the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival in Greenville, Mississippi followed by a Sunday show at the Ryman Auditorium, he took time out of his busy schedule to tell me about projects, inspiration, Sturgill Simpson, Jeff Bridges and an upcoming album.
Warren Hines: I think Americans relate to your music because of the blend of major and minor chords with lyrics that often convey a happiness or perseverance rising out of adversity. How have events and experiences in your own life played out in your songwriting?
Ryan Bingham: It’s definitely been an important part of it. It’s always been hard for me to write about things that I haven’t lived through or experienced in one way or another.
WH: Do you have a good story about hanging out with Jeff Bridges?
RB: I’ve got one that involved an all-night recording session and a few costumes from the Big Lebowski film, but I’m not sure if I can really give any more details about that.
WH: Your song on Fear and Saturday Night, “My Diamond is Too Rough,” sounds autobiographical. Could you explain the inspiration for that song and the meaning of the lyrics?
RB: It’s really just a tune that was inspired by a few life experiences. I like for people to be able to interpret the songs in their own way. It’s part of my own story but I also think it relates to what a lot of people go through in this world every day.
WH: Will you have more than just a cameo appearance in Hostiles ? Can you talk about the songs you are writing for the film?
RB: I’ve got a small role in the film as well as a few songs that I’ve written. It’s still coming together so I don’t have too many details other than that it’s a period Western that takes place in New Mexico.
WH: You are playing in Nashville at the Ryman directly after the Mighty Mississippi date. Do you have any thoughts on Sturgill Simpson’s recent criticism of the Nashville establishment and the ACM’s Merle Haggard Spirit Award?
RB: To be honest, I hadn’t heard. I’ve just returned from the mountains in New Mexico and have been fairly cut off from civilization. Whatever he said though was probably on point, his music is the most honest thing I’ve heard come out of that town in a while.
WH: Have you ever visited the Mississippi Delta before or eaten a Delta Hot Tamale? What do you look forward to about headlining the Mighty Mississippi Music Fest?
RB: I have been to the Delta before but I haven’t had a Delta hot tamale. I’ll be putting that on the bucket list though, and I really look forward to getting down that way and playing some music.
WH: The National Parks are celebrating their centennial this summer. Do you have a favorite among America’s parks?
RB: I’m a big fan of the Southwest. Joshua Tree and Big Bend are probably my two favorites.
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