Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter and breakout Yellowstone star, Ryan Bingham, loves his Capri Camper and the freedom it represents. From his rodeo roots, to being on-set, to the remote wilderness of the American West, Ryan talks to Truck Camper Magazine about where his camper has taken him, and where he’s going next.
Born and raised in the southwest, Ryan Bingham grew up in rodeo country. By his mid-teens, he was riding junior bulls on the professional rodeo circuit. At 16, his mother gifted him a guitar and he started entertaining his rodeo friends at the events. A few years later his roommate in college bought a Capri truck camper. The camper, and the freedom it represented, enchanted Ryan.
Finding himself at a crossroads between bull riding and music, he set out in his own Capri Camper to play at bars, honky tonks, and clubs across the American West. His travels led him to Los Angeles where he signed with Lost Highway Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. With Lost Highway Records, Ryan released two critically-acclaimed studio albums and caught the attention of Grammy-winning producer, T-Bone Burnett.
In 2009, Ryan collaborated with T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack for Crazy Heart. That collaboration included co-writing and performing the Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Grammy-winning theme song, The Weary Kind. Ryan’s band, The Dead Horses, also played the backup band for Jeff Bridges’ character in the film.
Somewhere between writing music, releasing records, starting his own label, and founding a music festival, Ryan started acting. In 2014, he starred in A Country Called Home. He was later contacted by screenwriter and director, Taylor Sheridan, who was looking for music for his feature film, Wind River.
The music Ryan wrote wasn’t a fit for the project, but Ryan and Taylor became friends. During the lead up to Yellowstone, Taylor asked Ryan to write songs for the show and took particular notice of Ryan’s rodeo experience. That led to Taylor writing Ryan into his western drama as Walker, an ex-con and Rip-recruited itinerant ranch hand at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Four seasons and record-setting viewership later, Ryan’s Walker has become a fan favorite.
In a seemingly impossible twist, Taylor is also a fellow truck camper and Capri Camper owner. Taylor’s personal Capri Camper is prominently featured in Season 4 of Yellowstone.
What follows is the tale of three Capri Campers, how Ryan’s got his second, what it means to him, and how it’s used behind the scenes of Yellowstone. Saddle up for a wild American Dream that knows no bounds.
Above: Ryan Bingham with his first Capri Cowboy camper
The rumor is that you saw Taylor Sheridan’s Capri Camper on the set of Yellowstone and had to have one for yourself. What’s the real story behind why you own a Capri Camper?
The real story is that when I was younger, I used to rodeo. I think I was 13 or 14 when I was riding junior bulls. I had older friends with driver’s licenses. I was going with them to the rodeos on the weekends.
A buddy had a Toyota and camper shell. I thought it was one of the coolest things in the world. We were in a pick-up with my three buddies. The gear was in the camper and I’d sleep in the back of the pickup. It was the coolest thing for a young kid.
I got older and rode bulls for Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. My roommate got a Capri Camper and I thought we hit the big time. We had a real camper and we’d rodeo on the weekends. All the cowboys had Capris. It was a connection to the rodeo world.
Above: Ryan Bingham checks out a Capri Camper at the factory
Then I got a camper of my own and started to play music. Time went by and I was in a band, and then Yellowstone, and there was a Capri on the set. It was nostalgic. I saw the phone number on the side of the camper and I called it. Pete at Capri and I talked about it, and he said, “Let’s set it up for you”.
Also, I am an avid outdoorsman. I like to fly fish and hunt. My Capri is my means to get out there and stay. My camper on the back of my truck gives me a sense of freedom to get out on the road and go where I want to go.
How did a truck camper wind up as part of the Yellowstone story?
Part of the Yellowstone story has to do with barrel races and Laramie at the rodeo. Taylor Sheridan, the Director of Yellowstone, lives around the rodeo world in Weatherford, Texas. Bull riders might have a camper to sleep and eat out of. They are part of the lifestyle of rodeo cowboys. Taylor had the idea to have one on the show.
Yellowstone seems – quite literally – Taylor-made to complement your personal background and creative talents. What’s it been like to be part of the show?
It’s been a really amazing opportunity to be on Yellowstone. I get to play cowboy in the mountains and sing. It’s a dream job.
Taylor is amazing. We met a couple of years ago because I was writing songs for the movies he was working on. We stayed in touch, and he wanted me to write songs for Yellowstone. I was also involved with the rodeo and working on ranches, so he said, “We need to get you a part in the show. I’ll figure it out. If you do well, I’ll keep you on. If not, I’ll send you to the train station.”
Some will wonder, after your success in music and television, why you stay with a truck and camper. What is it about a truck and camper that resonates with you?
When I started playing music, I was rodeoing. It came to a point where I had to decide whether to play music or be a bull rider. I had fun, but I had to have a day job. I was at a point when I was young and on my own.
When I got my truck and camper, it set me free. I lived out of it. I didn’t have bills or rent. It was just my truck, my camper, my dog, and my guitar.
I’d play bars on the weekends and then hit the road. It made me get out of my comfort zone, but it brought me back to my roots, and a simple part of life. There was no big bus to take care of or find a place to park. With my truck camper, I have the freedom to move around and find little places to camp.
I like to go on the forest roads where big campers can’t go. I look for solitude and places where people aren’t going. It’s about the ease of getting around and parking easily and finding the sweet spots.
What do you do once you reach those sweet spots?
Sit there in awe. The joys and awes in life are a feeling that comes over you. It is an addiction and something I crave; feeling and experiencing things this country has to offer.
There’s quite a contrast between being on stage surrounded by thousands of people and being alone in the remote wilderness. Which one is more you?
The extreme in the middle of nowhere is more me. I feel lucky to play music and that people want to hear my songs, but I belong in the mountains and desert.
I spend a lot of time in major cities, downtowns surrounded by a lot of people, cars, and horns. Breaking away is like launching into outer space for me. I am much more an introvert than people think.
Has your camper become a creative space for you and your music?
It has. I don’t really know how to explain it. You are the first I’ve talked to about it. It’s like going home for me in a way. I don’t have material things with me. It’s all my important things in one spot. I have a sense of travel and being on the open road.
Seeing the world is an inspiration for me when I am writing songs. I meet different people and go to different places. I might spend a week down by the river, get my guitar out, and write songs. It is a true escape for me.
It’s like being on a sailboat going around the world. You can only take the most important things with you, like a favorite book and your guitar. When you simplify, you see what’s important in your life. That’s always appealed to me.
Do you use your personal Capri Camper on the set of Yellowstone?
Yes, I do. We are going back up for Yellowstone in May. On the days we are not shooting, I’ll be camping and getting into the wilderness. I might drive up to the mountains and go fly fishing. When I’m home, my three kids love to camp in the driveway and play in the camper.
Have you written songs in your Capri Camper?
I definitely wrote some old ones. When we were at the rodeos, all we would do was get out the guitar and make up songs. They were never recorded, but I would definitely say that ideas for songs started in my camper. When I get back from my adventures, I start writing things down.
Does the camper have good acoustics?
Acoustics are actually good in the camper. Capri Camper made me a custom-made table and bench. I can swing it around and there’s room for my guitar. It’s an awesome set-up.
It seems like you might be more at home in your truck and camper than your house. Does that sound about right?
Yes, it sure does. It feels like home for me. I can’t wait to get back out there.
It comes down to the freedom of the open road. I like to get out there and venture into the unknown. You meet interesting people. You never know where it’s going to take you. I love that about it all; not knowing what’s going to happen until you’re there and discovering spots you didn’t even know about until you get there.
A Little Background From Capri Campers
Pete D’Acosta, President of Capri Campers, connected us with Ryan Bingham for this interview. In the lead-up, he told us how this whole thing happened.
“Two summers ago, Tyson and I attended a private rodeo at the Steiner Ranch (next door to Taylor Sheridan’s ranch) near Weatherford, Texas. The rodeo was the beginning of what is now called, “The Riggin Rally” where, twice a year, the very best bareback riders in the world come together for fellowship and some really intense competition.
Before the rodeo began, Tyson noticed that there were some Yellowstone banners along the fence so we thought there was a good chance that Taylor Sheridan would be there. Sure enough, he was.
We introduced ourselves and, like everyone else he meets, we told him how much we loved Yellowstone. I mentioned to Taylor that if he really wanted Yellowstone to be authentic, there should be a Capri Camper on one of the Dutton Ranch trucks. In fact, at this very rodeo, there were eight or nine Capri’s in the parking lot.
Rodeo cowboys in particular love our truck campers. Today, over fifty world-class, world-ranked professional rodeo cowboys are in our campers, including most all of the current and past world champion bareback, saddle bronc, and bull riders.
Without even hesitating, Taylor smiled and said, “You build me a camper, and I’ll put it in the show.” So we did. And he did.
We built a beautiful, custom cabover camper (Retreat model). His ranch foreman picked it up and drove it straight to Montana. Taylor texted me several months later to tell me they had just shot scenes in the camper and he told me how much we were going to love it.
Taylor also told me that Ryan Bingham was “obsessed” with the camper and wanted one. The next day Ryan called me. He said our camper was perfect for his escape in the mountains where he goes to write and sing. So, we built him one too. He came all the way to our shop in Bluff Dale, Texas to pick up his new Capri this past February.
Ryan is an honest and down-to-earth guy. And he’s country. He is easy to relate to – a good, nice ordinary guy. That’s the way he is in real life.
Obviously, the popularity of the show has skyrocketed. Our timing couldn’t have been better. We met Taylor Sheridan and Ryan Bingham at a moment in time that presented us with the opportunity of a lifetime. They are two of the nicest, genuine gentlemen, who were approachable and kind enough to make a connection with our little company.
We will be forever grateful, and Capri Camper will always have a proud legacy by making an appearance in at least three episodes of Season 4 of the best show on television.”