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Ryan Bingham on his journey from "Crazy Heart" to "Tomorrowland"

After winning an Oscar (and a Grammy and Golden Globe award) for "The Weary Kind" in 2010, Ryan Bingham needed a little time off to relax.

The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter had been touring pretty heavily for the last 10 years, leading up to his work on the 2009 film "Crazy Heart," and even after the collaboration, when he released his 2010 "Junky Star" album.

During his time off from the road, Bingham not only found himself writing a lot, but also seriously experimenting with electric guitar for the first time. The result is "Tomorrowland," a new collection of songs, released in September.

"This new record has been a new adventure," Bingham told "It's always interesting when you write a bunch of songs; I wrote these songs over the course of the last year. You go in the studio and you record everything and you don't really know what's going to happen to it until you go on the road and start playing it for people...Every day is totally different, but it's been great. It keeps you on your toes."


"Crazy Heart" fans who know "The Weary Kind" from the award-winning Jeff Bridges film may be surprised to hear a more rock and electric sound on "Tomorrowland."

"The last record was very acoustic and stripped down and dark -- and really personal. And some of the songs were pretty sad," Bingham said. "Some of them were just a little bit tough to get through and play every night. I just wanted this record to be a lot of fun to play live. And that's where a lot of the electric guitar and experimenting came from."

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is Bingham's close connection to his songs.

"That's what writing has always been about for me," Bingham said. "When I started writing songs, it was so personal. It wasn't really about getting out and playing for people. It kind of became more of a therapeutic thing for me. It helped me get stuff off my chest and just processing the world around me and the things that I was going through and experiencing. As I started going out and actually playing songs and finding that people were actually relating to the songs and it meant something to them as well, it was like, 'Wow.' It makes you feel like you're not the only one  in the world who feels that way about certain things. And it just kind of keeps growing."

Music kind of found Bingham. A native of New Mexico, he originally started down a different career path.

"It's really interesting how I got into playing music," Bingham recalled. "I didn't play growing up, really. I never knew anybody in my family who played music. When I was 16 or 17, my family started falling apart and I went out on my own and later discovered that my mother's side of the family, they all played music. My family was a ranching family in New Mexico, and I grew up in that kind of environment. I started riding bulls and doing junior rodeos. That's how I got started playing. I got a guitar, and learned some chords. I would make up these songs going down the road with friends. A lot of times we'd get  off the road somewhere and we'd go to a bar or a party and my friends would say, 'Hey, man. Get your guitar and play that song you wrote singing in the back of the truck on your way here.'"

Now many years later, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter spends many of his days on the road, touring and passing through various towns and cities. After wrapping up his fall tour, Bingham will take a short break before picking things up again in February. "It's going to be a full year of touring," Bingham said.

His travels end up becoming the inspiration behind much of his music.

"The big thing is just traveling around so much," Bingham said. "We wake up in a different town every day, a different city, a different environment...That's what I write about -- the places that I go to and the people that I meet, hearing different points of views -- everything from social issues to economical issues."

"Tomorrowland" is a culmination of what Bingham has experienced and witnessed over the years.

"I'm not saying that it's all bad," Bingham said. "There's a lot of stuff out that's heartbreaking. So it's about the past and the present of what I'm going through and what I'm seeing, but also trying to be optimistic with the songs and have hope and at the same time, not ignoring the stark realities of life and the darker stories of society and the people living all over the world...These songs are about the present and hopefully looking forward -- that tomorrow will be better."