By now, many of you might know Ryan Bingham as the singer/songwriter behind “The Weary Kind,” the Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning song for the movie “Crazy Heart.”
Until then, though, I only knew him as a raspy-voiced, gritty soul who seemed to know all about hard living when he sang about being lost on back roads, wanting sunshine to chase old crows away, and being like a “lost bound train running on cocaine and outta control” (lyrics not so different, in theme, from those in “The Weary Kind”). A good friend introduced me to his music back in December, and I immediately fell in love.
Bingham’s “Sunshine” became (and remains) my ringtone and I can’t remember the last drive I took without popping a Bingham mix in my CD player.
Not long after winning the Oscar, once he was backstage, Bingham mused on how happily married he is and whether, due to that, he’d be able to keep up the theme of hard times in his music:
Being married to her, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life […] Some of that stuff you had in your life is always there…[but] it’s tough to write a sad song when you’re around such a beautiful woman.
The next time I saw my friend, we had a brief Bingham-related conversation that went a little something like this…
ME: You know, I read Ryan Bingham said it’s tough writing sad music now that he’s blissfully married.
FRIEND: Ohhh, it’s over now.
FRIEND: The content artist is never as good.
ME: (after a pause) Nuh-uh!
(I know. I’m such the conversationalist.)
After I had time to think about it, though, I realized my friend wasn’t that off. Naturally, he wasn’t suggesting that Bingham should surround himself with sadness so he’d continue producing good work, nor did he literally mean a happy artist can’t write good music.
What his response really meant, whether or not he knew it at the time, was that it was a pretty good bet that such a change in an artist’s life would cause a change in an artist’s work (and, he was most likely suggesting that he himself preferred Bingham’s sadder, grittier stuff.) Not such a far-fetched idea, especially given Bingham’s own comments about songwriting and therapy during an interview last October:
Songwriting for me is my way of venting and getting things off my chest. It was always the therapy that got me through the tough times.
A happy marriage certainly doesn’t mean tough times are over – for anyone – but his current blissful state of mind could very well be reflected in future Bingham-penned tunes.
Does that mean he won’t be “good” anymore? Well, that’s up to each listener’s personal preference, but I don’t think so. To my way of thinking, talent is talent. A life-changing event doesn’t take it away; rather, it just presents it in a different light.
It’s more probable that we’ll just hear a different kind of “therapy” when Bingham’s newest album, Junky Star, hits shelves this September.