PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


No bull: Ryan Bingham trades in rodeos for nightclubs

Glenn Gamboa
Newsday (MCT)

Ryan Bingham was a bull-rider on the rodeo circuit, not even 20 years old yet, when he wrote a world-weary song about death, being a West Texas desperado and praying for change.

"I was still rodeoing, living in this trailer house with a couple of roommates, sitting in the living room one afternoon and kind of just reflecting on my life a little bit and the song came out," said Bingham, now 26, calling from his home in Topanga, Calif., adding that he was just as surprised as anyone that "Southside of Heaven," one of the standout tracks from last year's underappreciated "Mescalito" (Lost Highway) album, turned out as well as it did.

He had always been a fan of music, but had only recently started learning how to play a few mariachi songs on the guitar when lines like "Losin' faith in my family is drivin' me out of my damn mind" came pouring out of him with the acoustic folk inspired by early Bob Dylan to accompany it.

"When I moved up near Fort Worth, there was kind of a local scene with all these bands playing in the local honky tonks and a lot of these guys were young guys, not too much older than I was, and I just kind of related to the lifestyle and the music and started kind of writing songs of my own," Bingham said.

Before he knew it, Bingham had written enough songs for an album, a lot of which revealed way more about his life than he ever planned. "Some of them are a little too personal," he said. "I didn't realize what I was doing, really putting my entire life out there on a platter, but it's kind of out of my control.

"It's hard for me to perform songs that I don't care about or feel," he added. "It's cool that I'm doing a few happier songs now because things are coming around in my life. I have kind of a different outlook now."

Bingham is working on the follow-up to "Mescalito," which he hopes to release early next year. He's sticking with Marc Ford, who produced "Mescalito," for the new album to maintain the rough-hewn unfinished sound and the occasionally imperfect note.

"I didn't want to make the album something it's not," he said. "Why put something on the record that you can't do live? I didn't want to put expectations way up there in concert only to have people say, `This doesn't sound anything like the record.' A lot of it was getting songs in one take. It really flowed."

Bingham laughs as he thinks about how similar his concert tours are to traveling on the rodeo circuit. "This is all something I kind of stumbled into," he said. "But touring is kind of like rodeoing - a little less dangerous, I think, but still a lot of time on the road."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.