Known for their engaging live shows,Whitewater has the best billing of excellent story tellers. Bingham, touring off his latest album, ‘Fear and Saturday Night’. Shakey winning the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ award at the 2015 Americana Music Awards and Shane Smith & The Saints mesmerizing and capturing new fans on their tour with ‘Geronimo’.
From ones pain comes ones art they say, and that is so evident with these songwriters. But if you are fans, you already know this.
Texans trying to find their way-in-life, seek truth through lyrics and what they find are musicians telling their stories under the stars for one night of magic.
An intimate concert where it was hard to tell who was having more fun — the bands or the audience. For a few hours, everyone left their worries behind and genuinely enjoyed the show.
Unclassifiably original. And frighteningly good. – NPR
What’s your fucking name man?
Elements of rock, Cajun folk, Irish music and Americana. Finishing a great live performance with fan favorite, ‘Geronimo’.
Shane Smith & The Saints
Texas troubadours Shane Smith & The Saints opened up the show to an eager crowd. Their unique sound comes from a mix of styles and influences (Band Of Horses, Mumford & Sons, Dropkick Murphys), and by combining elements of rock, Cajun folk, Irish music and Americana. Finishing a great live performance with fan favorite, ‘Geronimo.’
Gotta face the devil on your own
Quit looking in the rearview mirror and just start looking out the windshield
Ryan, the old man fiddler and the rest of the band brought an energy that is unforgettable. Playing a great mix of old and new songs including, ‘Bread and Water’.
My radio makes me wanna just lose my head
In an interview by Andy Langer for Texas Monthly, Ryan tells his story:
“I remember being not much more than a kid and having my grandma tell me she was surprised I wasn’t in prison,” says Bingham, who at twelve was already spending time in roadhouses with his father, shooting pool, drinking beer, and listening to Hank Williams and Bob Wills on the jukebox. “I hung with a tough crowd, but everybody I knew was tough. West Texas always felt a little hostile, like you had to learn to protect yourself early on. My parents were around, but I was really kind of on my own out there.”
The guitar was freedom
When Bingham was a child, rodeos served as a lifeline. He hailed from a cattle-ranching family, and an uncle introduced him to junior rodeo; he rode steers at eleven and junior bulls at thirteen. It was more than a little dangerous, but by the time he was seventeen, he would need rodeo purses to put food on his plate. When his parents split up, he dropped out of school and got on the professional rodeo circuit. Unfortunately, he didn’t win often enough to pay the bills, so there were always day-labor gigs—digging ditches, building fences—between appearances. And before falling asleep in his car, he’d write songs on an acoustic guitar his mother had given him. Which is how a guy who didn’t have much interest in music found himself with a notebook full of songs—enough to eventually take a swing at a small open-mike night in Stephenville, where he walked away with more in tips than he’d made earlier that day building fences.
“When I made that first fifty dollars, I thought, ‘If I could do this three or four nights a week, what else could I need?’ ” he says. “It almost helped that I felt like I didn’t have any options. I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have family or friends that could get me a job. I was a broke kid on my own without a clue of where to begin. The guitar was freedom.”
Initially, Bingham played in small roadhouses and sports bars. Eventually, a regular circuit of gigs in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin turned the Hill Country into the closest thing he had to home. Though that home, as it had for so long, sat on wheels. While he cut his teeth in Austin venues like the Continental Club and Momo’s, he lived in his truck behind fiddler Doug Moreland’s chain-saw-art gallery, in Manchaca. Both of his belongings fit in the truck: an acoustic guitar and a one-eyed blue heeler named Tasha, who could sit perfectly still on a bar stool while drunks balanced beer cans on her head. “She was a very talented dog,” Bingham says.
But even after “The Weary Kind” swept the 2010 awards season and the album he released soon after, Junky Star, did well, Bingham began to realize that night after night of singing songs filled with weathered characters barely holding on was dragging him down. He’d always been a write-what-you-know songwriter who made no bones about treating music as therapy. But now the music felt less like therapy and more like depression itself.
It was the music that was keeping me alive
“For a long time I was miserable, onstage and off,” says Bingham. “And you know what doesn’t pair well with depression? Not sleeping, eating poorly, and partying every night. I just stayed on the road tour after tour and wondered why I was always so sad.”
It seems obvious now, but it took years for Bingham to come around to the fact that at the core of his problems were the deaths of his parents. His mother passed in 2007, right around the time Mescalito was coming out. Then, not long after his big Oscar night, his father killed himself. Rather than deal with either of these losses, he just kept touring.
“My mother drank herself to death and my father shot himself,” says Bingham. “There are so many questions when your parents die like that. I never felt like my parents were bad people or didn’t love me, but it makes you wonder what it was they didn’t want to stick around for.”
Rather than just staying on the road and giving in to his despair, Bingham sought professional help a few years ago. He talked a lot about his parents and his strange childhood and the loneliness of life on the road, all of which was important. But the great realization was that his vocation was also his salvation. “It took taking off to realize it wasn’t the music that bummed me out,” he says. “It was the music that was keeping me alive.”
The smiles of authentic joy in everyones faces.
An inspiring night beyond description, these singer / songwriters demonstrate why music was invented; to do many magnificent songs, songs that inspire people.
Photos: Anne Herrera
Want to see more great concerts like this? Whitewater Music Amphitheater
For more of Ryan Bingham Story: Texas Monthly
Find Music: Ryan Bingham
Find Music: Shakey Graves
Find Music: Shane Smith and the Saints
See more photos of this concert at Muze Collective Facebook