Ryan Bingham was a budding rodeo rider before turning to music.
He joined the junior rodeo circuit when he was about 11, and in his later teens would bring a guitar with him, playing and making up songs. Bingham recalled the other riders enjoyed giving him a hard time: "Maybe you should stick to the guitar."
Eventually, that was just what the New Mexico-born Bingham did. He self-released two records of dusty, sepia-toned and whiskey-stained Americana music, eventually signing with Lost Highway Records in 2007 for Mescalito in 2007 and Roadhouse Sun in 2009.
In 2009, he wrote songs for and performed in the film Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges as a down-and-out country singer. His song, The Weary Kind, co-written with T-Bone Burnett, received the 2009 Academy Award for Best Original Song.
"There was a lot of crazy stuff after that," Bingham told The Beat. "I just figured (being in a movie) would be a cool opportunity, and working with Jeff Bridges and T-Bone Burnett, that I'd hopefully have some pictures to someday show my kids."
The post-Oscar notoriety was "a surreal experience -- a whole other world," Bingham said.
He'd been on the road with his band almost constantly for the previous five years, and now headed back out to try and capitalize on his newfound fame. He released Junky Star in 2010, a record of subdued brilliance and tender sadness, and spent another two years on the road, during which time both of his parents died.
It was time for a break.
Bingham and his wife bought a home in southern California, and spent some time domesticating.
"My parents split up when I was real young, and I kind of tossed around from a young age, with the rodeo or later living in my car or on a friend's couch," he said.
"Having a house with your own name on the mailbox, that's something. Living a normal life, waking up early in the morning and having a cup of coffee, a family (he's been married for three years). This is a good thing. I'm much happier. It's a long time coming."
The time served to refresh Bingham. He first took full control of his career, self-releasing Tomorrowland last year.
"There were some changes in the business, and my wife and I had been taking a little more control over that side of things anyway," he said.
But even more so you can hear the change in his music.
"Junky Star was stripped down and sad. I didn't feel like going to that place any more. I had been getting out my electric (guitar) more and more, so I figured, why not play some rock and roll and turn the guitars up? I wanted the record to be fun to play live, on the road, too"
Tomorrowland is still an intensely personal record, but in a different way.
"Writing songs for me is a like a journal, with each record a different chapter in my life. (Tomorrowland) was moving on from the past, looking forward to the good days ahead."
Still, Bingham said, there are enough similarities between the rodeo and the music business to keep him tied to his past.
"There is definitely a lot of bull---- in both."