Ryan Bingham will play the Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, on Friday night, with The Wild Feathers. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available for $25 at www.birchmere.com.
Before hitting the road with Bob Dylan and friends, Ryan Bingham takes his own show for a test drive.
At the end of the night, Ryan Bingham's looking for a shot of Jameson and a slide for his guitar.
Ten years into his career, the 32-year-old blues/Americana rocker is enjoying a busy spring, appearing recently on the Jimmy Kimmel show and playing at the star-maker South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
Bingham, who will play at the Birchmere in Alexandria on Friday night, has a distinctive rasp to his voice, earned from his early days playing in "dive bars and little clubs" while driving around in a "beat up old Suburban."
The audiences in those bars and clubs often weren't there for music, making him sing louder to try to be heard over the crowds, Bingham said.
He's been compared to Steve Earle and Tom Waits, men known for voices that sound like their vocal chords have been assaulted with gravel and who are old enough to be Bingham's father.
"I guess I blew my voice out every night," Bingham chuckled.
The raspy tone is easy to pick out on the series of "bootleg" videos he's posted on Youtube (youtube.com/user/ryanbingham), including a recent addition, a cover of David Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World."
Of course, even if he's not quite a household name yet, Bingham's got some heavy metal in his collection: an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe for his song, "The Weary Kind," from the 2010 movie "Crazy Heart." And that's in addition to four albums since 2007.
"I can't complain at all," Bingham said.
Right now, he's in the early stages of a solo tour in support of his most recent album, "Tomorrowland," a tour which will feature a show at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville the night after he comes to Alexandria, before joining up on the Americanarama Festival Music with Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Bob Dylan.
"I have no idea how that happened," Bingham laughed. "It's been in the works for a while. We just got the call one day and got invited to go."
That tour will be making a stop in this area as well, with a show on July 23 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md.
"I'm a big fan of Wilco and My Morning Jacket. I'm really looking forward to being on tour with them, not just playing, but standing on the side of the stage watching," he said.
And if any of the bands asked him to join in for a song or two?
"I'm always down to jam," he said.
The audience at a typical Ryan Bingham show is a cross-section of music fans, he said.
"There've been a few shows in my life where there's a group of cowboys, a group of hipster kids, some older folks, some families with kids," Bingham said. "I play songs for all kinds of people."
There's a little rock 'n roll, a little country, a little bluegrass, a little folk, and while Bingham doesn't have a favorite song to play, he does have a favorite way to end the evening.
He likes to pick up one of his guitars and grab a slide, typically a cylindrical piece of glass or metal that's pressed against and, well, slid down the strings of a guitar to create a distinct sound.
Slides have a lot of character, Bingham said.
"I like it because it's dirty," he laughed. "It's got a great dirty sound. Toward the end of the night, I like a shot of whiskey and turn the [darn] speakers up to 12 and grab a slide."