Andrew Bingham L’10 dabbled in music for years until, midway through his first year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, something clicked. “It wasn’t until law school that I was driven to make music as a creative outlet,” he says. Music soon became Bingham’s antidote to the pressures of law school. After intense days of class and legal writing, Bingham “would go home with a craving to play guitar and write music.” He often felt most creative when the pressures of law school were most severe. “Several of the songs I’m most pleased with came during finals week,” he observes. “That was kind of scary.”
Now in his third year at Penn Law, Bingham has just released his debut album, A Hoarder Wants to Give
– produced by a Grammy-Award winner and featuring 13 original songs that range from rock to blues to alternative country. He held his CD release party at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia in September – with several Penn Law classmates in the audience – and is scheduled to play three other Philadelphia venues on Nov. 14, 18 and 19.
As a guitarist in high school and college, Bingham had played in a few jazz and rock bands, but says he didn’t take his music very seriously. He also wrote songs, but lacked an outlet for them because he didn’t think he had the right singing voice.
Eventually – with a little inspiration from Bob Dylan – Bingham decided to take a chance at singing the songs he wrote. “Dylan doesn’t have a conventionally good voice, but you want to listen to him,” Bingham explains. “It’s pretty amazing, really. I realized that if you have a good story and can intrigue people with your songs, people will listen to you.”
Sitting in a meeting during his 1L summer internship at New York Legal Assistance Group, listening to a colleague discuss resources available for indigent clients who need help beyond traditional legal assistance – such as those with hoarding disorder – a line entered Bingham’s head: “It’s so hard to keep this place clean with my stacks of magazines.” That lyric would inspire the song that would become the title track of Bingham’s debut album.
During his 2L year, Bingham completed the “Hoarder” song and wrote the 12 others on the album. He began recording the songs himself, but quickly realized that building a high-quality home studio would be cost-prohibitive. So Bingham researched recording studios in California’s Bay Area, where he planned to spend the summer.
Around this time, Bingham was shopping for an Afro-Peruvian drum, and mentioned his album aspirations to a drum dealer in Boston. As luck would have it, the dealer knew of a Grammy-Award winning producer in the Philadelphia area who he thought would match Bingham’s recording style. At the dealer’s suggestion, Bingham contacted the producer, Phil Nicolo. “It was serendipitous,” says Bingham, noting that Nicolo had recently recorded a song for Bingham’s unknowing mentor, Bob Dylan.
At the end of Bingham’s 2L year, Nicolo recorded a demo of Bingham singing and playing acoustic guitar. Nicolo liked Bingham’s sound and, having a soft side for the local Philadelphia music scene, agreed to produce Bingham for a fraction of his usual rate. Nicolo connected Bingham with a team of professional musicians to back his tracks and Bingham soon recorded his first album. He describes the experience as “the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Less than three weeks after recording the album, Bingham was in Palo Alto, Calif., working as a summer associate at Jones Day. While there, he received an assignment that would ease the transition from recording studio to law firm – helping a music producer develop a business plan related to her digital marketing efforts. “It was a great opportunity for me to see the crossroads of law and business and music,” he says. Currently a member of Penn Law’s Entrepreneurship Clinic
, Bingham has another opportunity to work at this interdisciplinary crossroads – this time guiding a sole-proprietor in the music business through contract issues.
Bingham hopes to build a career around his passion for music, perhaps in the “gray area” where music meets business and law. “Recording the album helped me realize that following my passion for music is more important than the security of going to a big firm and having my career path laid out,” he explains. Bingham says he is “100 percent realistic” about the challenges of pursuing a non-traditional legal career. Nevertheless, he finds it “liberating” to embrace a degree of uncertainty. “Coming from the law, we tend to be inherently risk-averse. It was eye-opening to realize that the people I worked with on the album were extremely successful, but only because they had been willing to take risks to pursue their passion.”