The Sun Valley Pavilion has had another busy summer hosting a variety of acts, from the San Francisco Ballet and the Sun Valley Music Festival to Three Dog Night, Granger Smith and a tribute to classic Girl Groups, as well as Writers’ Conference lectures.
Before summer’s end, the pavilion will pack in one last major concert: Americana star Ryan Bingham.
The singer-songwriter has come to embody all the artistic and philosophical tenets of Americana music. With his naturally gravelly voice, insightful lyrics and haunting melodies, his songs capture the full spectrum of the American experience.
Bingham released his first album in 2007, but his career really took off in 2009 when he was enlisted to write the lead track for the country music film “Crazy Heart,” starring Jeff Bridges. His song, “The Weary Kind,” received widespread critical and popular acclaim, winning him a Grammy, Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe and an Oscar.
It was the first time he ever wrote a song for a motion picture.
Bingham is in the midst of a months-long domestic tour to promote his sixth studio album, “American Love Song,” which debuted in February. As part of this saga, the Sun Valley Resort and RJK Entertainment have booked Bingham for a night at the Sun Valley Pavilion on Sunday, Sept. 1.
“Touring is a part of the creative process,” Bingham said. “I try to write about things I’ve gone through and have experienced. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world and experience different cultures and ideas. When I come home at the end of a tour and sit down to write about those adventures, I’m overflowing with things to write about. Songs just start pouring out.”
He said the cycle is about ready to begin again anew, even with concert dates booked through to Thanksgiving.
“The sixth months we’ve been on the road so far have gone by so quickly. I’m ready to write a whole new album,” he said.
Over the years, Bingham has explored the full gamut of his genre. Each album represents a different marker on his artistic path—a path that seems to lead straight up to “American Love Song.”
“As I go through life, each album is part of the bigger story, the next chapter, so to speak,” he said.
The new chapter, perhaps more than its predecessors, establishes a firm musical context for its scribe, as Bingham explores both intensely personal and large-scale cultural subject matters. The songwriter balances himself with the world at large to produce a series of tracks that cohere into one engaging treatise with all the highs and lows, the sentiments and philosophies, the pains and joys and nuances of a proper American love song.
“The whole album ties together on different themes—social experiences, political issues, what I went through growing up, what my friends went through,” Bingham explained. “I take in the big picture and try to make sense of it, try to keep an open mind and not squeeze things through a narrow door.”
Some songs, like “Situation Station,” take a long, hard look at the state of the nation, cultivating hope for the future while condemning certain injustices of the present.
Others, like the haunting and soulful “Wolves,” offer some of the keenest glimpses Bingham has ever provided into his past and inner workings. Here, he delves deep into his troubled, turbulent youth.
“This album has probably been the most cohesive. It’s pretty much a concept album. Everything’s tied together,” he said.
While his objectives have always remained essentially the same throughout his career, Bingham said he feels as though he has recently reached a point of both greater perspective and greater freedom.
“When I started out, I was mostly playing for people who wanted to get drunk and fight at bars in Texas, but now I can slow down a bit,” he said. “I eventually got to the point where people liked to sit down and really listen, maybe sing along, ask me about the songs.”
Gaining this responsiveness from his audiences inspired Bingham to really take the time and dissect the world around him and his experiences of it. Now, he always looks to learn more, think more deeply and expand his horizons as far as they will go.
“I approach each album the same way, but as I’ve gotten older, the terrain has broadened,” he said.
His concert at the pavilion will showcase a large selection of songs from his new 15-track album, along with some old favorites.
Opening for Bingham on the night of Sept. 1 will be The Social Animals, an alternative rock band from Duluth, Minn. This concert will mark the first collaboration between the up-and-coming group and Bingham, something at which the singer-songwriter has expressed excitement.
“I’ve never played with these guys before, but I’ve listened to their music and think they have a pretty cool vibe. I’m looking forward to hearing them live,” he said.
Tickets are selling out quickly for the concert at summer’s end. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. ahead of a 6:30 p.m. start. VIP tickets have run out, and Tier 1 seating is filling quickly. Tickets remain from $35-$80 and can be purchased via sunvalley.ticketfly.com.