Country and rock songwriter talks about life after 'Crazy Heart' and 'Weary Kind'
Credit: Anna Axster
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“It’s me, motherf*cker, I’m knocking on the door.” These are words not entirely unexpected from the same guy who took home a Grammy and an Oscar for “The Weary Kind” nearly three years ago. But the lyrics are indicative of at least the confrontational sound coming from “Tomorrowland,” Ryan Bingham’s new record and the first for his own label Axster Bingham Records. (The quoted track’s called “Guess Who’s Knocking.” Should have started with a spoiler alert.)
The country and rock songwriter said in our interview that he spun a lot of records from the late ‘70s – the Clash, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin – when making the set, out of a friend’s private, secluded home in Malibu. Punk rock records “opened the door, was a really big influence” on the final result, sussed out with co-producer Justin Stanley. He incorporated a lot more electric guitars, for one.
The bigger, more robust rock sonics could also be the reaction to Bingham’s own career legacy up until now. His co-writes with T Bone Burnett on the “Crazy Heart
” soundtrack put him on the map, but for his more tender material.
“I write real personal stuff, and I played a lot of tours kinda stripped down and acoustic. After a while, it’s just hard to get through those songs every night. It’s hard to be that vulnerable,” he said. Over the couple of years that followed “Crazy Heart,” for one, both of his parents passed away.
“Now, playing shows with these [songs] are a lot of fun. I get to rock the f*ck out.”
And his touring and recorded successes are in tandem with his wife Anna Axster, half the namesake of the label. She helps to manage; she’s also at work creating a feature film “A Country Called Home,” and Bingham will be writing the music for the movie.
“It’s a film about tolerance,” he said. It follows a young girl from a small town to her move to a bigger city, but some “family issues” follow her as she heads back home. Bingham said the story was inspired by his travels across middle America, touring with his wife in “places you wouldn’t visit when you go on a trip. “
The film is getting cast right now, and Bingham hopes it starts shooting in the spring. It would be his first original soundtrack since “Crazy Heart.”
Bingham will begin touring in support of “Tomorrowland” starting next week on Sept. 25. The album is out today (Sept. 18).