Globe Hall Presents Waylon Payne on Wednesday, September 28th.
Magic happens when everything comes together like it’s supposed to — when the joys and the pain, the triumphs and the missteps all click into place to be seen for what they truly are. Waylon Payne’s Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me (releasing 9/11/20 via Carnival Recording Company / Empire) is such a moment, the culmination of an extraordinary journey set to music.
A son of country music royalty, a teenaged Baptist preacher turned addict and actor, Payne sings about fathers and sons, faith and addiction, recovery and renewal with devastating clarity. His character-rich collection harks back to a way of telling stories in song that revealed kept secrets and promised mystery. Over his years, Payne has felt the terrible power secrets can hold and learned the transformative value of releasing them. Finally, he’s in a place where he can harness that power to create transcendent work.
Payne recorded Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me primarily at Southern Ground Nashville, a converted century-old church building just off Music Row that once housed Monument Studios. Payne’s mother, country singer Sammi Smith, cut her iconic version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” at Monument. When Payne recorded his vocals, he says, “I stood in the same spot she stood and sang while she was pregnant with me.”
There’s tenderness to these songs, an empathy for lost souls who may or may not find their way home. Payne wrestles with the legacy of family dysfunctions in songs like “Sins of the Father” and “What A High Horse.” A pair of poignant vignettes, “Shiver” and “Old Blue Eyes,” team with tragedy and chilling beauty. “There are jewels buried deep in the record, and if you’re a junkie, you’ll catch them,” Payne says.
He views “Dangerous Criminal” as his point of reckoning. “It’s basically me admitting I have a problem,” he says. “I am a person who will get himself into trouble and in danger unless I keep myself in check.”
“After the Storm” and “Precious Thing” play like prayers, while “Santa Anna Winds” was written as a lullaby for the young boy whose voice is the first thing heard on the album, a child Payne views as almost a son and by whose first birthday he marks his sobriety. Payne also recorded his own version of “All the Trouble,” the GRAMMY- nominated song he wrote with Lee Ann Womack and Adam Wright and which Womack recorded for her 2017 album The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone. Payne’s talent as a songwriter has also been recognized by artists Ashely Monroe, Miranda Lambert and Wade Bowen, who have chosen to record his songs.
Payne may have recorded Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me in Nashville, but it started a decade ago in Texas, as he came through the worst of his addiction and got clean with the help of family and friends there. “For a while, I couldn’t even write,” he says. “I couldn’t put thoughts together, because I had really fried my brain. Once I got sober, everything came.”
For Payne, each song reflects a different situation in his life. Together, though, they tell of a prodigal son returning home — not to the family of his birth, but home to the true self he’d once nearly abandoned.
“The essential DNA elements of this record are my self-written confessions and pleas for forgiveness,” he says. “It all revolves around me getting right with myself and the universe. Maybe I still am a preacher in a way — I just channel into what’s supposed to be.”
– 16+, under 16 admitted with a ticketed parent or guardian