Ryan Bingham: “Taking breaks always works for me”

If I could inspire anyone to do anything it would be to go out and try and fall in love. If you want to fall into anything you first have to be willing to go out and find it. As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

If I could inspire anyone to do anything it would be to go out and try and fall in love. If you want to fall into anything you first have to be willing to go out and find it.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ryan Bingham.

Ryan Bingham’s music defies classification with folk, blues, country and rock n roll all part of the recipe. It’s authentic and powerful and the songs are rooted in real life — in survival and sacrifice and, yes, sometimes just having a damn good time. Nobody making music today has a voice like Bingham’s, one that has the worn and weary character of an old fighter more than twice his age but the power of a young man. It’s an intoxicating mixture that reaches new levels on his latest album American Love Song.

Yes, Ryan Bingham grew up in the South. Texas, mostly. But there wasn’t much in the way of consistency to his upbringing, other than his family’s chronic existence on the wrong side of the tracks. He was born in the small city of Hobbs, New Mexico, hard up against the Texas Panhandle. He grew up in the west Texas oil fields, then spent time as a teenage rodeo cowboy in towns all across the state. Along the way, he absorbed the Cajun culture of western Louisiana, the hardcore hip-hop favored by his Houston friends, and the border songs of the Mexican immigrants. Until he moved to California in 2007, he never lived in any one place for more than two years. It’s this spirit of having done plenty of living early on, that has informed the singer- songwriters world-weary and jagged, weather-beaten vocals.

From the beginning of his recording career, with “Mescalito,” Bingham has defied easy classification. As a rising star, he ranged from Woody Guthrie-style folk songs and Spanish-language balladry to gritty hard rock. It’s all American music; fittingly, he was honored as the Americana Music Association’s 2010 Artist of the Year.

He’s enjoyed thrilling highs and suffered debilitating lows, sometimes all at once.

While his career was taking off — he won both an Oscar and a Grammy for “The Weary Kind,” the theme song he wrote for the film “Crazy Heart” — he was coping with the tragic deaths of parents.

The losses put Bingham in a dark tunnel, and it took a while to crawl his way out.

With the help of his wife, Anna Axster, and some inner soul-searching, Bingham has come back into the light. “American Love Song,” the third studio album from the Axster-Bingham indie label (after 2012’s “Tomorrowland” and 2015’s “Fear and Saturday Night”), takes all his influences — both musical and experiential — and unites them in

Ryan Bingham’s best, most fully realized record to date.

Bingham is a singer-songwriter, not a product, and his music movingly shows how the overarching theme of the personal and communal American existence can encompass triumph and tragedy from one moment to the next.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/21c6bf5589e3bbc6a5273ba32decbc13


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series, Ryan! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I’m originally from Hobbs, New Mexico but moved around a lot growing up. My family had a ranch 40 miles from town where they raised cattle and sheep. Shortly after I was born they sold the ranch and my father went to work in the oilfields. We moved to Bakersfield,Ca for a few years then eventually went to Texas. We lived in Midland, Odessa, Houston, Laredo and a few other places in between. I left Home around 17 and moved up around Fort Worth for a few years and then made my way to Austin when I started playing Music.

I grew around roughnecks and cowboys and started roping a riding steers in junior rodeos at a young age. Eventually started riding bulls professionally and that is how I got into playing music. I always packed around this guitar my mother gave me before I left home, I would write songs and play them for my buddies at the rodeos and local bars we would frequent. In my early 20s I got a job working in a Wild West Show in Paris, France. When I returned from Paris I started traveling around Texas just playing music.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before I went to Paris I had a job working for a rodeo company in Del Rio,Tx. My boss Mac Altizer found out that I could play the guitar and got me to perform for all the cowboys after the rodeo. From there I started getting gigs in bars and just never looked back.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The time I spent working in the wild west show in Paris had a pretty big impact on me. A friend of mine had hooked me up with the gig over there and I literally left Texas with a hundred dollar bill in my pocket and one way plane ticket to Paris. Shortly after I arrived in I learned that there was some confusion in the hiring process and they no longer had a job for me in the show.

Later that afternoon I found myself standing outside in the rain just trying to figure out what to do when this Native American man named Lucas Hogue walked up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was wearing bucksin clothing and had his face all painted up with feathers braided into his hair. He told me that he had heard what had happened and offered me a place to stay until I could sort things out. So I ended up living at his house with three Navajo guys, a trick roper from Mexico and another cowboy from Texas. During the day I would busk in the train stations and in the parks around Paris until eventually I got hired on as a cowboy in the wild West show.

When I returned to the States I met up with Lucas at his home in New Mexico. It was there that he introduced me to his grandfather who was 90 years old and was missing both of his legs. He was one of that last remaining code talkers from WWII and he stayed up till 2am telling us stories,playing his drum, and singing us songs. The next morning he sat me on the ground and placed cornmeal on my head and on my feet while saying a prayer for my travels.

A few days later I arrived in Los Angeles and got a gig playing in a club called the King King in Hollywood. There were only a couple people in the bar that night. Karla who ran the club, and the guitarist for the Black Crowes Marc Ford. After the set Marc came up to me and said he wanted to produce a record for me. A few months after that I got a record deal with Lost Highway Records out of Nashville and I’ve been on the Ol’ hot and dusty trail ever since.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s never fun to run out of gas while on a road trip, But the adventure of trying to find gas when your in the middle a nowhere usually ends up being a funny story a few years down the line. If you’re ever headed west out of Austin Texas. Its’ best to fill up the tank in Ozona. Its a long ways between there and El Paso.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m constantly writing new songs, sometimes down on paper but mostly in my head. Not sure what any of it is going to be about but hoping to start gaining ground soon. I’ve also been doing a bit of acting on a TV show called Yellowstone.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

There are so many wonderful stories out there that need to be told and I feel like you can bring a lot of people together by being inclusive. I think a good story can inspire in people a willingness to connect and can help alleviate certain levels of fear and anxiety that people may have towards someone or something. I feel that diversity and inclusion helps create compassion and love, and you can’t go wrong with any of that.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

One would be to stay in school.

I really wish I would have studied and took more time with the fundamentals of playing the guitar. It would have saved me a lot of hard work and headache later on in life.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Taking breaks always works for me. Sometimes I’ll go a couple of months without picking up the guitar. I’ll consciously just let it sit there until I can’t take it anymore.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire anyone to do anything it would be to go out and try and fall in love. If you want to fall into anything you first have to be willing to go out and find it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife Anna has been the most supportive person I have ever met. The road can be a dark and lonely place and she has definitely been a true light that has guided me along the way in more ways than I can count.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always liked Bukowski’s quote “ An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way”

Thank you so much for these wonderful insights!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

TY Falcoa: “Don’t try to be perfect”

by Karina Michel Feld
Community//

Ryan Weaver: “Surround yourself with good people”

by Edward Sylvan
Well-Being//

23 Lessons I Learned About Life, Doing Work That Matters, And Writing By Reading Ryan Holiday

by Michael Thompson
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.