It’s a Monday night in Nashville, Tennessee, and David Bingaman is drinking a beer whilst singing a song about drinking on a Monday night. With his younger sister Jennie Hayes Kurtz (née Bingaman) to his right onstage, the two quip that this is the first time they’ve gotten the privilege of playing their song “Drinking on a Monday” on an actual Monday.
The duo (who go by The Bingamans), who could pass for twins with their matching long, blonde locks, are polite and pleasant onstage. As they play their way through their set of folky-rocky-bluesy-country tunes, they seem genuinely happy to be there, and genuinely humble that anyone other than their parents, who were indeed in the crowd, is listening. This says nothing about their talent, but everything about their character.
The Dallas-bred siblings found music in different ways, at different times in life. Jennie Hayes, younger than her brother by two years, grew up singing in the church choir. Possessing a natural instrument with her voice, she was given a guitar by her parents one Christmas—which David promptly stole and to begin learning how to play ZZ Top on. By the end of high school, Jennie Hayes “was upstairs singing choir, and [David] was downstairs playing blues, punk, and metal,” said David after their recent set at The Family Wash in East Nashville.
By the end of high school, David had mastered the guitar, like many American boys, in his garage, and went off to the University of Arkansas for college. Jennie Hayes would follow her brother to Fayetteville, and it was here that the two really became close for the first time in their adult lives. Tragedy, as it often does, served as the catalyst for their strengthening bond; a girlfriend dumped David, and Jennie Hayes would bring him Sonic to cheer him up. After all, nothing says, “I love you bro” like a Sonic slush and some tots.
Upon graduation, David trekked further east to Music City, where he began playing guitar in rock bands and continuing to write on his own. Bingo—as many close friends call him—further cemented his reputation as a versatile guitarist with musical interests ranging from classic rock to country and blues.
And as much as his move to Nashville was about musical immersion, David’s journey was also about self-exploration. An avid outdoorsman, he once spent 10 days alone in the wilderness, writing songs with nothing except a notebook, a harmonica, and his own company. He admits it was fun, but that he probably “wouldn’t do it again.”
Back in civilization, Jennie Hayes wound up moving to Nashville as well after her graduation, and it was here in Tennessee’s capital that “The Bingamans” were officially born. They began co-writing and jamming together, and they suddenly realized that it sounded damn good. Before long they were playing gigs around town and developing as a reputation as the friendliest looking brother-sister musical duo since The Carpenters.
Today, the duo does write together, although they admit that they have a bit of a Lennon & McCartney relationship. Some of their tunes are written solely by one person, while some are written together, or started separately and finished collaboratively. The result is pure fusion: it’s Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Steve Earle with a touch of Bob Wills. It’s a Texas-influenced burrito, stuffed with goodness as organic as the place where it comes from.
There are some obvious differences between sister and brother onstage. Jennie Hayes is quieter, with both a look and a voice that is more cultured and refined. David is snarkier, and he both plays and sings with more grit, literally and metaphorically speaking.
Offstage, however, these differences subside; the two are clearly—in every sense of the idiom—cut from the same cloth. This isn’t surprising or unique to see in siblings, considering the power of these crazy things called “genes,” yet there’s still something endearing about it. Some things, I suppose—musical talent, kindness, and great hair—just simply run in the family.