There aren't a lot of people who can list "rodeo bull rider" and "Academy Award winner" side-by-side on their resume. But Ryan Bingham's not an ordinary guy. He's a folk rock road warrior who's not road-weary. And he's an award-winning songwriter who penned "The Weary Kind" after reading the script for 2009 country music movie Crazy Heart and realizing the characters from the movie's plot didn't stray too far from the characters in his own life.
"Reading about "Bad" Blake, I thought that my father was very much like him," says Bingham during an early March phone call. "A lot of his friends were like that [too], so I kind of grew up with those characters in my life from a very early age. ... And I wrote the song not even really thinking about the film - - there wasn't much expectations for me yet, because it was so early on."
The songwriting was less a pressure-filled experience than a career oddity that had Bingham in disbelief all the way up to his climb to the Academy Awards podium in 2010.
"It was very surreal for somebody like me to get thrown into that world all of a sudden, to be a part of it," says Bingham. "I was just having fun with it while it lasted; I didn't feel all this sudden pressure of living up to anything. I've always thought that all I can be is myself.
After years on the road and three full albums, Bingham parted ways with his long-time band and long-time label for the release of Tomorrowland. Nothing acrimonious with the band, just time for them to go their separate ways.
"I'd been on the road with the band for almost ten years, and they dedicated a lot of time going on the road with me and playing these songs," says Bingham. "None of us had much of a home life or any kind of normal life other than being on the road constantly and playing shows. We were tired and wanted a break. (One member) was getting married; another one (was opening a music venue)."
The label was the same kind of story. Lost Highway Records was absorbed and broken down by Universal, and the employees Bingham had spent time with had been let go. It was time to go their separate ways.
"The [people laid off] were the ones that mentioned to us, 'You know, you guys could probably do this on your own." It was a natural thing to do instead of finding another label."
So Axster Bingham Records was born, and the first release was Tomorrowland, a collection of solo songs. Tomorrowland doesn't stray too far from his Southwestern grit roots, and neither does Bingham. Although Bingham spent some time soaking up the glitz and glamour that comes with being an Academy Award winner, he looks back most fondly on his time as a young musician striking out in Texas. Growing up in New Mexico and West Texas, Bingham listened to a lot of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. He moved near Austin in the early 2000s, and found it a welcoming place for a musician trying to find his voice.
"It's such a melting pot for music," says Bingham. "It's really diverse; you have all the blues and zydeco; jazz comes up from Louisiana and the South; you have the mariachi and tehano stuff from Mexico and the Western swing and folk, songwriter, Woody Guthrie stuff from Oklahoma."
And it's a town that supports burgeoning talent by taking care of their beloved local musicians -- transplants or not.
"There's tons of programs that help musicians get health care; there's all kinds of stuff," says Bingham. "I don't think I could have done it anywhere else. If I would have moved somewhere else at that age and tried to play music I don't think I would have found that kind of support structure."
In the meantime, there's more Oscar-winning music to listen to - - while discussing current musical tastes, Bingham tells me he's been regularly listening to another Academy Award-winning musical release.
"I've been listening to this Rodriguez record from the [2013 Oscar winning documentary] Searching for Sugarman," he says.
Bingham will join HoneyHoney for a show at the Vogue Friday to celebrate NUVO's Spring Guide launch. Join us for a Bulleit Bourbon tasting at 6 p.m. at the Alley Cat before we move to three more bars. The tasting includes drinks at each location, a custom flask and appetizers