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Ryan Bingham: “I Thought Music Was Bumming Me Out. Winds Up, Music Was Keeping Me Alive.”

In 2018, when they set out to work together, producer and guitarist Charlie Sexton asked Ryan Bingham what kind of album he intended to make for his sixth studio album. “I’ve always wanted to make a country blues album,” Bingham told him, laying out the blueprint for would become American Love Song, the 37-year-old’s first new album in four years (released February 15). The record lays out Bingham’s hardscrabble backstory: an itinerant youth spent in New Mexico, Texas, and California; time riding on the rodeo circuit; and the untimely deaths of his mother, an alcoholic, and his father, who took his own life.

“The kind of subject matter I write about—my story—aligns with the blues,” says Bingham, who won a Grammy in 2011 and an Oscar in 2010 for “The Weary Kind,” the lead song from the soundtrack to the acclaimed film Crazy Heart. “It really seems to define who I am more than anything, especially now, when I’m coming into my own and realizing big parts of my identity. I’ve identified with the blues for a long time and a lot more now than ever.”

American Love Song also directly addresses the fractious state of the union.  On one song, he sings about a president “ridin’ on the back of the poor man, selling them lies.” On another, he concludes, “People judging colors of skin, people taking children from their kind. . . this world is hardly beautiful or kind.” Bingham says he’d feel complicit if he didn’t write about what he sees as rampant racism, misogyny, and jingoism. He credits much of his progressive views to the rodeo circuit, where he says he was surrounded by as many hippies as cowboys and regularly traveled to Mexico to compete.

“I had a lot of experiences at a young age where

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