Joshua Payne

Biography


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Joshua Payne is one of the most abundantly gifted of a new breed of singer and songwriter, blessed with a big, classically-trained voice and a soul to match. Your Love, My Home, his debut CD on the Verve Forecast label, introduces not only an accomplished singer with experience in every musical genre from opera to rock, but also a lyricist and composer of uncommon sensitivity and power, whose work is informed by the depth of his life experience.

Both Payne’s parents are musical: his mother is a trained classical singer and his father is a pastor, minister of music, and a high school choir director.  His early years were spent in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area where his father was in seminary, and when he was eight his family moved back to his father’s childhood home on a mountaintop in rural Arkansas. Born almost completely deaf, Payne had an operation as a toddler that restored most of his hearing. To rehabilitate his hearing completely, his parents would sit him down in front of the stereo and play everything from James Taylor to Prokofiev. Early on, they also discovered that he had a beautiful boy soprano, and they encouraged him to sing at church and school functions. However, sports were his passion and he chafed at the amount of time that singing took away from soccer and football. 

Your Love My Home is a collaboration with legendary pianist-arranger-producer Michael Omartian, who has produced 25 #1 hit songs with artists including Christopher Cross, Peter Cetera, Amy Grant, Donna Summer, and Rod Stewart and has co-written countless other top songs for an astonishing array of today’s top recording artists. Omartian comments, “Being a pop-rock producer, you don’t get that many opportunities to do real lyrical, beautiful pieces. You don't find many talents as big as his out there, nor do you find a producer-artist relationship that's as simpatico as ours is."

Payne’s vocal prowess surprised Omartian in another notable way. Pop albums, almost without exception, are recorded one element at a time and the vocals are later pieced together from the best parts of various takes. But Payne’s experience performing live on opera stages made him something of a one-take wonder—he turned in such compelling vocals on the first takes that a couple of the tracks were orchestrated around his performances on the original demos and on several others he delivered impeccable vocals live in the studio with the band on the first take, a rare phenomenon in any recording process.

Work on Your Love, My Home began when the young singer-songwriter crossed paths with the multiple Grammy®-winning producer-songwriter in early 2003. Payne already had interest from a number of record labels, but when he and Omartian first met, everything just fell into place.  "I never realized it before I met Michael," says Payne, "but it turned out that he had produced a lot of my favorite music."

Payne recalls that he had expected to meet with Omartian and play maybe one or two of his songs. "Instead," he says, "he listened to me play a total of eight songs, before he calmly said, 'Let's do it!'" "When I heard him." Omartian explains, "I said all we have to do is just get this guy down on CD with some backing and it's all there. He’s immensely talented and it was just obvious. He didn’t have the typical artist’s temperament; he was just a real kind of back hills Arkansas dude with an incredible voice, this big booming baritone."

Payne and Omartian put together a demo and came to New York to meet with record labels. But while those meetings were taking place, a copy of the demo found its way into the hands of The Verve Music Group President and CEO Ron Goldstein, who immediately called Omartian and said, "Stop what you're doing—we want this!"

From the beginning, Payne and Omartian collaborated not just as artist and producer, but as songwriters and arrangers. They co-wrote four songs on the album, including the title track that begins the album. “Your Love, My Home” started life, Omartian explains, "as a melody that I had had for about two years and I hoped that someday someone would write a lyric to it.  When I played it for Joshua, he said 'I love it!' He called me later that day with most of the lyric. It's really cool working with a guy as creative as that."

Omartian adds, "What’s great about Joshua is that he’s always writing poetry.  And in his lyrics, he doesn’t take a conventional approach; he always finds an unexpected way of addressing a subject."

"He writes great melodies, too," says the producer, "On 'Remember Yesterday,' he brought me the whole verse and said 'I don’t know how to finish this.' I loved what he had written, but it needed another section to go with it. So we sat down and wrote the chorus to it in about five minutes. ”

Your Love, My Home includes two original songs with both words and music by Payne: “The Moon" and "My World”. New songs by two well-known Canadian songwriting teams, “The Art of the Heart” (Stephan Moccio and Amy Sky) and “You Made My Life Stand Still” (Brent Barkman and Marc Jordan), sound as though they were written with his voice and sensibility in mind.  Payne also performs three pop classics, Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now", "If" by David Gates of Bread, and "Let It Be Me" by the legendary French chanteur Gilbert Becaud. He vividly re-imagines these time-tested classics with his powerful baritone and, supported by Omartian’s sensitive production, makes these songs his own.

 When Payne graduated from high school in 1991, he went to Ouchita (pronounced "Wash-ita") College on a football scholarship, and was also on the school’s swim team. Unfortunately, after a year of football, he sustained serious injuries to his knee and shoulder, and had to rethink his dream of becoming a professional athlete. Music was a great consolation to him during this period, and he began to take singing and playing guitar and piano more seriously. 

He decided to study music formally at Ouchita, and found himself there on a music scholarship, working with a voice teacher who had studied with the legendary Nicolai Gedda, one of the great "heroic tenors" of the 20th century.  Within just a few months of starting his operatic training, which included classes in all the operatic languages (French, German, and Italian) Payne began winning opera competitions. He was an eight-time regional and state winner with the National Association of Teachers of Singing. 

Still, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do when he finished his undergraduate studies. On the urging of his voice teacher’s wife, he applied to the Master of Fine Arts program in vocal music at the University of Memphis one week before the start of the fall semester and was immediately accepted.  He was simultaneously accepted for an artist-in-residence position at Opera Memphis and toured and performed with this professional opera company while performing great baritone title roles like Don Giovanni and Sweeny Todd in his masters program. 

After finishing his graduate work, he moved to Nashville and continued to pursue his singing career and songwriting. He supported himself by waiting tables and doing carpentry and construction work and, eventually, he opened a fashionable vintage clothing store. It was not long before Payne was introduced to Nashville-based Michael Omartian and Your Love, My Home is the result of their musical affinity.

With a voice that could make the weariest cynic fall in love with love, Joshua Payne’s open-hearted singing on his debut CD is imbued with a passionate sincerity that promises to open many more hearts. Michael Omartian looks forward to continuing the collaboration. "It is wonderful to have someone of this caliber to work with—we already have another 10-12 songs started.”