Fans of the hit Paramount series Yellowstone recognize Ryan Bingham as Walker, the ex-con ranch hand who fills the bunkhouse at Dutton Ranch with music. But many music fans already knew the country and Americana singer-songwriter for his critically-acclaimed albums, such as 2007's Mescalito.
Casting the award-winning songwriter seems like a fitting move for a series known for its stellar soundtrack. But Bingham says he landed the role through a chance encounter with series creator Taylor Sheridan, who was impressed with his cowboy past.
"I met the writer, Taylor Sheridan, when he was working on the project. He initially contacted me about working on the project and maybe just writing some songs for the show. Once we met and started hanging out, he found out I grew up riding horses -- my family ranched out in New Mexico -- so I grew up doing a lot of that kind of cowboy stuff," Bingham told Wide Open Country in 2019. "So he said 'Well, I oughta just write you a part in the show.' He said 'I'll just write something small' [and said] 'If you do good, I'll keep you in there and if you suck we'll just kill you off. [Laughs] I'm still in there so far. We'll see how it goes."
Bingham, who's now based in Los Angeles, penned the song "The Weary Kind" for the 2009 film Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges.
"That song came about just through the film," Bingham told PopCulture in 2020. "I met the director, Scott Cooper, when all of that came together and he sent me the script. I just wrote that song from reading the script before they filmed it. I can't remember exactly where I was. I was in the middle of nowhere in the backseat of the van with my guitar, and I just kind of started that chord progression and wrote that song. [I] got back home, sent it to Scott, and that was it. The rest is history."
"The Weary Kind" won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell perform the song in the film.
Bingham's Yellowstone castmates say the singer and actor frequently plays music on set and is always willing to give tips to his co-stars on team roping and riding.
"He has no ego," Denim Richards, who plays bunkhouse member Colby, said of Bingham in a behind-the-scenes interview on the Paramount Network. "[Taylor Sheridan] has a really great eye for talent and putting all those pieces together. It's been a tremendous blessing to have [Bingham] be a part of the project."
The "Southside of Heaven" singer says he enjoys the wide open spaces of Montana, where the show is filmed.
"There's a lot of room up here to breathe, a lot of room for imagination," Bingham says.
Whether he's serenading the bunkhouse or helping Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) learn to ride horses, Walker is a fan favorite on the series.
[Warning: spoilers for season 2 and 3 of Yellowstone]
In season 2, Walker's life was spared by Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) after an order from patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner). He turned up in episode 8 of season 3, playing music in a roadhouse bar. We'll have to stay tuned for season 4 to see where Walker's story goes.
Bingham, who's married to writer and director Anna Axster, released his most recent album American Love Song in 2019.