Alt-country phenom Ryan Bingham's career has been meteoric. From ground-zero singing at livestock impresario Jim Bob Altizer's rodeo events for fun and a later side trip to Europe, where he worked in a Wild West show outside Paris, Bingham scored a record deal with Nashville super-indie Lost Highway.
Last year he released his third album on the label, Junky Star, and won both the Golden Globe and Best Original Song Academy Award for "The Weary Kind" from surprise hit Crazy Heart. For all his success, though, Bingham still comes across as the modest son of the oil fields of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico that he is.
Chatter: The last time we talked, you were living with your girlfriend in Los Angeles. Where are you living these days?
Ryan Bingham: We actually got married and are still living in her house in Los Angeles. Not much has changed.
C: Does she make enough money to support you in the style you're accustomed to?
RB [Laughs]: Barely. But she's tryin'.
C: You've spent quite a bit of time around Jeff Bridges. Do you get The Dude or Rooster Cogburn off-camera?
RB: Actually, you get a bit of both. But he's just a very solid guy, a lot of fun, very laid-back like he seems. But he's very old-school once work enters into it. And he's not caught up in all the Hollywood stuff.
C: What did winning the Oscar and Golden Globe do for you gig-wise?
RB: It's hard to figure. It definitely turned a lot of people on to us who hadn't heard of us before. But we're still out here just beating up the road, so it doesn't seem much different than before.
C: Did you write "The Weary Kind" specifically for the movie or was it something you'd already written that fit?
RB: My agent set me up to meet with the director, Scott Cooper. We went for lunch and he gave me a copy of the script. Then I went out on the road for a few weeks and during that time, I familiarized myself with it. From that, I got an idea and was working on it when we got back. Scott called me and when I told him I was working something, he had me do what I had over the phone.
He thought it had possibilities, so he told me to come over to T-Bone's house, where they were all hanging out working on music for the movie. I had a verse and a half, and I just played them what I had. They thought it would work, so I sat down with T-Bone and we finished it.
C: How did you land a speaking part in the movie?
RB: Just sitting around at T-Bone's working on stuff when they brought it up. I wasn't sure about it, you know, I didn't want to fuck the guy's movie up. But Bridges took me out in the backyard and coached me. It was fun.
C: How did you mesh with the whole Hollywood celeb thing at those awards shows?
RB: It is what it is. You just have to have as much fun as you can and just go with it. It was more down-to-earth than I expected, really.
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C: Did you get advice on what to wear, etc., or just grab something from the closet and roll with it?
RB: Hell, I couldn't afford that stuff, but the Fox Studios/Searchlight people hooked us up with the tuxedos and all that [laughs]. So they made us look like we fit in.
Music World Entertainment began its new "R&B Live" concert series at the House of Dereon Media Center on its Midtown campus last week. Scheduled for a ten-week run, the Wednesday-night events will showcase signed and unsigned Houston-area artists, as well as out-of-town performers such as Chicago crooner Carl Thomas ("I Wish"), who hosted the first two events. Although the first run is R&B only, Music World Studios and House of Dereon director Alicia Allen told the Houston Press the plan is to branch out into other genres in the future. In other Music World news, CEO Mathew Knowles unveiled a brand-new recording studio last week, and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Gospel Music Association last month.