Ryan Bingham on His Haunting New Song 'Wolves' and Launching His Own Music Festival: Exclusive

Donnie Hedden
Ryan Bingham

Margo Price, Old 97s, and Jamestown Revival are among the acts slated for April's The Western festival.

In his evocative new song “Wolves,” singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham delves into both the personal and public demons that haunt him. 

“It is really about the constant effort of fighting the darkness,” Bingham tells Billboard. “Not only from what I’ve experienced personally growing up, but also witnessing what others are going through and fighting for everyday. There were a lot of 'Wolves' in my past from the schoolyard bully who was looking for a fight in the many different schools I went to while my parents kept moving, to the demons that were creeping up in my family with parents who were dealing with substance abuse. But the song was also inspired by the March for Our Lives students, in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, who were dealing with grown men and women questioning their integrity on social media…I was really taken aback by the kind of rhetoric people were using against these young people who were speaking out against gun violence. The courage of these kids was inspiring to me.”

The song, which premieres below, appears on Bingham’s forthcoming album, American Love Song, out Feb. 15. It’s his first since 2015’s Fear and Saturday Night. 

Bingham, who won an Academy Award in 2010 for best original song for “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart, started all the songs for American Love Song in a remote cabin in New Mexico. “I guess I always need some kind of solitude to get to that place where I am open enough and have zero distractions to start on the initial ideas for songs,” he says. “It's not always a fun place to go to but a necessary one.”

Like “Wolves,” he drew on his own life as well as looked outward. “These are stories about my own experiences and observations from growing up poor in America and getting to a point where I was able to take my life into my own hands,” he says. “But they are also stories about the struggle and the hustle so many people are facing and an effort to make sense of this current state of our country.”

The new year will be a busy one for Bingham. In addition to the new album release and a full band tour, he is curating his own music festival, The Western, outside of Austin, Texas in April. Confirmed artists include Margo Price, Old 97s, Jamestown Revival, The Americans and Jai Malano, with more to come. 

“When I started playing music it was around Austin and the Hill Country area in Texas and there were always campfires and picking circles and I loved being a part of that,” he says. “But the more you start touring and the bigger the shows get, the less you get to be around that kind of environment. So I wanted to create an event that has a little bit of that.  That's why we are doing a super small acoustic song swap and a dinner on the first night of The Western and then a full day of music the next day.  In festival terms it will still be an intimate setting and my wife and our team are making sure we create something that will really be a special experience for everyone.”

Bingham also has a recurring role on Paramount Network’s popular series, Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner. He plays Walker, an ex-con who is recruited straight out of prison to work as a cowboy on the Yellowstone Ranch. Season Two shooting is underway in Montana and Utah.  “I enjoy acting because it is very different to songwriting and it allows me to flex a different creative muscle,” Bingham says. “Songwriting can get pretty heavy and personal for me and I like being able to explore different emotions that are not necessarily my own.”