Hunter Payne: Creating Timeless Music That's Not Just Country
indie artist Hunter Payne's debut solo album, I had the pleasure of
delving deeper into his career as a singer/songwriter. Located in Los
Angeles, CA, Hunter is building up his resume not only by playing and
promoting his live performances, but also through the many resources
offered by the internet.
[Daina Kazmaier] Who inspired you to get
into the music business?
[Hunter Payne] I grew up in a musical family - my dad was a
jazz musician and both of my brothers were musicians. I was more into the
pop, the Beatles, and blues legends. I grew up in Boston where
there's many great clubs. Bands like Muddy Waters and Sunny
Terry came around to play. I was actually in a band who played
old-time jazz blues. We played tunes from Jelly Roll Morton. And
in the Cambridge area, folk music was big.
[DK] When did you start performing?
[HP] I was 14 when I started performing and about 16 when I was
paid to perform.
[DK] You mentioned that you were
originally from the East coast, but you relocated to L.A. Do you see any
major differences in the music scene?
[HP] It's been about 20 years since I've been on the East coast.
Boston has a lot of small clubs and the people there actually went to hear
the music. It was a real crowd and an actual scene. L.A. has a lousy
scene - most of the clubs work on a 'pay for play' basis. You'd have to
sell about five hundred tickets to play in a club here. I also play solo
when I perform, so it was better in the smaller clubs. The places out
here in L.A. are not very pretty, and they're not what you'd call a
destination for people to come out and hear someone play.
[DK] Do you believe that Internet
promotion has significantly improved your career?
[HP] Internet promo is absolutely critical to the indie artist
unless they have a lot of money to work with. It's easy to get plenty of
fans on the Internet. I love email. I recently reached number 1 on the
MP3.com charts, and I could instantly let my fans know by sending them an
e-mail. Promoting shows is also cheap over the net. I used to have to get
postcards printed up to send to my fans when I was playing somewhere. It
took forever, cost a lot, and was a real drag. I guess the only downside
to the Internet promo is the quality of music. It's hard to hear exactly
what a song sounds like on an album. But if you've got a good album, you
can easily climb the ladder. Kind of like being a big fish in a small
pond. Good quality, more fans.
[DK] What made you decide on country
[HP] That's actually a funny question for you to ask. I don't
consider myself to be country. I'm striving for a classic sound that
would've been popular within the last 25 years, and actually, it seems as
if country is the only place that has that sound. So the critics just
threw me into the country bag...and that's where I go. I tried to fight it
the first few times I heard it, but now I accept it. If people like the
music, then I'll go with it. My fans range from under ten years old to
over sixty. I try to write music that a lot of people will like. I
understand that someone who's into hard-core punk won't listen, but people
who are into folk, acoustic, country, pop, and stuff like that will like
it. My songs can be redone in different ways. "Private Hell" is a tune
that can take on a modern sound.
[DK] How often do you perform live? What
are your favorite songs to perform?
[HP] I try to play every week, but sometimes the gigs come in
spurts. I could have three great gigs in a row, and then have none for a
while. I don't really have a plan. I like to keep fresh and see new
people. My solo performance sounds very different from the record, and
it's got a different feeling. I received a letter from a fan who was
shocked at how different the two sound, but both the album and live
acoustic shows go over very well.
My favorite songs to play have to be
"Private Hell" and "One Last Chance." "Private Hell" is very close to me.
It's a good story and really connects with the audience. "One Last
Chance" is easy for the audience to get into. A very accessible song.
[DK] Are your lyrics written from personal
[HP] All of them are, but the stories aren't exact. "As the
Night Leaves Her Lonely" is written about a friend from Boston whom I don't
see very often. I don't know much about her, I only hear stories through
mutual friends. She was married to a man with AIDS but the couple wasn't
aware of it, and soon after the marriage, her husband passed away. She
ended up having a baby by another man. When I originally wrote the song,
the baby was in it, but it didn't work. Then I found out that the child
was from another man, so I took it out of the song. The song is basically
about a woman aching for her dead husband. Garth Brooks recently
listened to the album, and asked to hear this number twice. He could be
considering doing the song.
[DK] What about the songwriting process?
Do the songs come easy for you?
[HP] It takes quite a while to write the lyrics. I write the
music first, which takes a relatively short time, but the lyrics seem to
take forever to craft. I try to tell a story within each line, and each
line needs to fall into the next. Kind of like a jump-cut fashion in a
movie, where the scene changes but you know exactly what happened even
though you didn't see it. The songs are a lot of work. It takes about 2
months to write a song, but I do several at one time. This album that I
have out now comes from about six years of writing and several years of
production and re-production.
[DK] I read that one of your songs was
played on the hit TV show '7th Heaven.' What was that like?
[HP] The song was "Long Time Coming." The oldest son on the
show was on a date with a woman who was deaf, and he turned on the car
radio. My song was playing without anyone talking over it, so it was
[DK] Have you released any albums prior to
'One Last Chance?'
[HP] I put out two albums on a major label, but that's all you
need to know. I hated them! I had absolutely no say on the way they came
out, and I'm glad they didn't become popular. Being an indie artist is
great, because you can do it all your own way.
[DK] What can your fans look forward to in
the future? Are you working on another album?
[HP] Not yet. It takes about three years to put out an album.
My new release, 'One Last Chance,' is taking up all of my time, so I'm
not writing anything new at all now. You'll definitely hear more albums
from me in the future though. We're working on a radio play campaign now,
and I'm promoting my music on the Internet. It's getting a great response,
so I don't see why it wouldn't on the radio. I've been trying to get
major newspapers to write up reviews of my albums, but it's hard to break
in there. These are the people who do the major artists. I sent my music
to someone who just wrote up a review of No Doubt's new release.
I'm just this guy who plays around town now, but hopefully I'll have them
begging me for reviews soon.
Review of One Last
For more on this artist, check out www.hunterpayne.com,