Exclusive Interview: Ryan Bingham Talks About His New Film Project, Kickstarter + Upcoming Tour
Ryan Bingham is certainly no stranger to writing music for films. The celebrated singer-songwriter won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and a Grammy for his song ‘The Weary Kind,’ which was featured in the hit film ‘Crazy Heart.’ But his newest film project is a unique labor of love.
Bingham is currently at work on the music for an upcoming film titled ‘A Country Called Home,’ a comedy-drama starring Imogen Poots as Ellie, a 27-year-old who is forced to re-evaluate her life after the death of her estranged father. Produced by Nicolas Gonda, the film marks the directorial and screenplay debut of writer-director Anna Axster — who also happens to be Bingham’s wife.
For the first time, Bingham has taken on the task of not only writing songs for the film, but also producing the entire soundtrack and score. In the true spirit of independent film, the filmmakers have also turned to crowd funding certain aspects of the project, so far raising $92,000 via a Kickstarter program that offers fans various levels of incentive, including exclusive merchandise, music and even tickets to the film’s NYC screening.
Bingham spoke exclusively to The Boot about his new project in the following interview.
How did your participation in this new project come about?
My wife started writing this script a few years back, and once she got it all put together, I kinda found it sitting on the coffee table one morning, and started reading it. And it was just one of those scripts that, once you started reading it, you couldn’t put it down, you just kept reading it from the beginning right to the end. And kinda without telling her, I started working on this song for it, before she asked me. [Laughs.] Like, ‘I’m gonna see if I can sneak one in on her real quick.’ [Laughs.]
I was just really inspired by the story. My wife and I have traveled down the road many miles together; she’s my manager, as well as we run our own record label together, so we’ve had quite a few adventures on the road, and seen a lot of this country, and it kind of brought back a lot of memories of us together and all kinds of adventures together. So that’s how I got started on writing and being involved with it.
The characters in the story, and what it was about . . . sometimes you relate to stuff, and sometimes you don’t. After I read it, I started writing the song, and it was one of those songs that comes out in the four or five minutes that you take to sit down and write it. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, and it all poured out.
How did that turn into a full-blown project? There’s an awful lot that goes into putting a film together.
My wife originally went to film school in London, and that’s what she moved out here to the West Coast to do, is to direct in feature films. So she started putting this together, and caught the interest of a guy named Nick Gonda, who started helping her out and was really inspired by the script as well, and bit by bit they started putting together a team of people to go forward with it. And I wrote a song, and we started to talk about what to do with it, and it started to get off the ground.
I think the stuff that we’ve done with the music, with touring and keeping all of the stuff in-house and doing things on our own, independently, was an approach that really appealed to some people in going about this film the same way.
You’ve done some very prominent writing for film, but this is the first time that you’re producing the soundtrack and score.
Yeah, I’ve written a theme song right now, and I’m probably going to write two or three more original songs for it. There’s a character in the story who’s a songwriter and musician, so probably two of those songs will be for that actor to perform, and then Anna and I will curate all of the other existing songs that will be included in the film and on the soundtrack. We have tons of ideas, and we’ll start looking into licensing once we get closer to production. But yeah, it’ll be my first attempt at producing something and doing the score.
I’m imagining a fairly acoustic score that underlines the journey of the characters. I think it should be, the songs should play more of an integral part in the film, and not just be background music. So it’s something where I really want to sit down and make sure that the songs really have a reason to be there.
I’m excited about it. I have a lot of good friends that I’d like to get to come in and help work on the project and play, so I think it’ll be a lot of fun putting this together. It’s been inspiring so far.
Can you give us any hints as to what other musicians might be involved, or is it too early?
Yeah, it’s a little too early for that. You know how musicians are when it comes to things like that. [Laughs.] Probably the hardest part will be finding when everybody has time to do it, and when they can come in. We’ll see when we get there.
What’s the song you’ve already written like?
It’s called ‘A Country Called Home,’ the title of the film. I always try to leave songs open for people to interpret in their own ways. I think this film is the same way — everybody has their own story, and they tell them in different ways, but somehow we can all share ideas and things that we all go through. We all connect to that stuff, and that’s kinda how the song is, as well. It’s not necessarily open-ended, but people will be able to relate to it in their own way, I hope. It’s definitely along the acoustic lines, with those instruments.
There’s going to be a tour around this as well?
Yeah, that’s something we’re really excited about. I think my wife and I both realized on the last tour that we were on — we played a lot of towns up in the middle of nowhere in the Northwest, like Laramie, Wyo. — some of these little towns that they don’t necessarily get a lot of bands coming through. There’s not a whole lot of people who go there and play, and we were thinking about this show we played in Laramie. We played in a basketball gym in this little town, and it was one of the best shows of the whole tour. So many people were just so excited to have a band come play in town, and everybody and their dog showed up with their kids and grandkids — all these families in the crowd, and everybody just had such a blast.
That’s kinda how we make our living, is on the road touring, playing music and putting on shows. And we thought how cool would that be, to take the film and the music on the road together, find some really cool venues — like some old drive-in theaters or just cool places where we could screen the film and then have a show afterward, or the next night, and try to go to a lot of these little towns where people don’t go, instead of just going to New York and LA and having a premiere, and that being it. This gives us an opportunity to take the film and the music to a lot of other places, and not just be at the mercy of what movie theaters will play.
That’s a very unique approach to opening a film.
Yeah, and I think a lot of these smaller communities is where the film is set, and kind of what the film is about. It’s a lot about family and forgiveness, so it makes sense to take it there, I think.
There’s a giant, unserviced market that’s probably the largest potential market in the country, which is rural areas that don’t get serviced with tours and products because people just focus on the major urban markets.
Yeah, and I think they forget that’s the reason why we play music and write songs; at the end of the day, you write songs about your experiences that you go through, but a lot of it is playing for the people. They’re the ones that, the only reason you’re getting to go out there and play is because people want to hear it, they want to come see the shows, and they’re inspired by the songs and the art, or whatever you’re doing. I think it’s easy to forget about that sometimes, when the business comes into play, but being the kind of mom-and-pop shop that we are, that’s how we operate, is going out playing for the people, and going to all these little towns.
This project marks the first time you’ve taken something right to the fans to finance it through Kickstarter, is that correct?
It is. It’s our first experience with this, and we’ve got about five more days to go. It’s really kind of exceeded our expectations, because we really didn’t know what to expect or how it was all gonna go down. But I think we’re already at about $92,000 we’ve had raised, and our goal was $75,000, so we’ve passed that up and we have five more days to go. We’re hoping to reach about $100,000 to go into the overall production costs, and then the rest will go into soundtrack, and paying for travel, and musicians, and licensing of songs and etc.
It’s really been a pretty cool deal, it’s been awesome to see the support from fans and people, and really kind of build that community around the project as well. We’ve got a lot of new fans and new interest from other people who are excited about the fact that we’re taking it in that direction. It’s been cool to watch and see it grow.
Is there anything else that you want to say about the film, the music, or anything else that’s involved with it?
One of the biggest things that we’re excited about is being able to take this thing on tour, and do these shows with it. It’s not really something I’ve seen done before, and I think it’s really going to make this project unique and special, and just the fact that we can take it on the road almost like a traveling circus — I’m excited to set the tents up and tear them down again [laughs], and then go on to the next town and see people enjoy it, and get out there on the road and bring it to people.