Since his debut in 2007, singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham has displayed growth in both confidence and musical prowess, highlighted by the smash success of his song "The Weary Kind" from the movie Crazy Heart, which won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy back in 2010, and carrying through to his latest album, this year's Fear and Saturday Night. It's not surprising that confidence would exude from a man who, before his recording debut, spent his teens on the rodeo circuit as a bull rider.
We got in touch with Bingham and asked him to point us towards five songs that either would get him fired up before riding or that reminded him of those days, which you can listen to below. Also, he sent over a behind the scenes clip from the making of Fear and Saturday Night, in which he talks about the song he wrote for his wife, how quickly he cuts his tracks, and how his tragic family situation plays into his music.
Now, five songs hand-picked by Bingham that take him back to his bull riding days.
"Cowboy Song" by Thin Lizzy
"This song always got me fired up to ride," Bingham recalls. The track comes from Thin Lizzy's 1976 five-star classic Jailbreak, which saw the band locking into its defining twin-guitar sound. The guys in Metallica are big fans of it as well. Read the AllMusic review of the track.
"For All Our Cowboy Friends" by Red Steagall
Red Steagall's biggest career note might be that he was responsible for discovering Reba McEntire, but Bingham's fondest memory of the country songwriter and fellow amateur bull rider is how Bingham's uncle used to play this 1977 song when Bingham was going to junior rodeos. In 1991, Steagall was bestowed the honor of being named the Official Cowboy Poet of Texas.
"Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
Bingham finds "a lot of truth in this song," written by Ed and Patsy Bruce and made famous by the untouchable duo of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978. The song hit Number One and picked up a Grammy, and still serves as an oft-heard but only sometimes-heeded word of warning.
"Desperado" by the Eagles
Bingham says that the title track from the Eagles' second album is a "good one for late night nostalgia," which, based on his own output, Bingham knows a thing or two about. The Eagles never released it as a single, but later interpretations by Linda Ronstadt and Karen Carpenter added to the song's legacy, and further covers from country artists like Johnny Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers and Clint Black over subsequent decades cemented it as a hallmark track. Read an in-depth review of the song here.
"El Paso" by Marty Robbins
Marty Robbins' carefully-detailed, evocative song received an uptick recently, appearing in the finale of Breaking Bad and helping give the episode its name. Bingham cites the classic track as "one of my all time favorite gunfighter ballads," and with its exhilarating narrative and sense of impending doom, it's no surprise that the track has remained a classic for over 55 years. Check out Stephen Thomas Erlewine's detailed take on the song here.
Ryan Bingham is currently on the road in Europe, and returns to America in mid-February. Tour dates are available on his website. Fear and Saturday Night is out now and can be ordered via iTunes.
Photo by Anna Axster