WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
READ WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
"Payne, known for his jazzed folk tunes and flair for good stories, is a 'must see' show full of entertainment that's just right for audiences across the board."
Rich Panessa - Southern Utah Songwriters Association (Jun 19, 2009)
Singer is a storyteller with guitar in hand: Payne's music honors the connections in his own life
Let's talk about storytelling: Sam Payne is a master at it. With a guitar in hand, Payne tells stories of life, of people, of history and heritage.
It's not exactly how he started out. "I was going to be a big pop act; that was my first band. Then I added jazz." But what he has come to realize, he says, is "that's what I am is an American folk singer. I connect to that part of the community." And as a folk singer, "I feel a responsibility to the community I belong to, to provide a picture frame for our cultural family. I have found that I can be a voice for the Western pioneer experience."
Let's talk about connections: Not only has Payne discovered "how family, faith and ancestors connect us to each other" and reinforces those connections through his music, he is also honoring the connections in his own life. "My dad, Marvin, was a folk singer who made a living walking door to door with a guitar on his back with albums to sell. He was the stereotypical 'artist as the servant of the kingdom.' Being a folk musician cost my dad a lot. But he had deep spiritual ideas that he was doing what he came here to do. To say there were times when we lived in abject poverty is too strong — but not too strong."
Let's talk about passion: Because Payne grew up watching how hard his dad worked to make a living, and because his dad knew how hard it would be, "he didn't encourage us to follow musical pursuits. I actually trained as a schoolteacher, and worked at that for 11 years."
It wasn't until "music kept knocking on the door and couldn't be ignored that I turned to it." Payne still writes books for elementary-school kids, has done some science and social studies texts as well as some historical fiction. But he's also let music into his life because he had to; the passion was there.
Storytelling, connections and passion all come together in Payne's latest CD, "Father to Son."
It features both the stories and the songs that have been popular in his live shows, he says. "It's the album that people have been coming up after the shows and asking for." The CD contains 24 tracks, "and when people first see it they think, 'Wow, that's a lot of music.' But 11 tracks are stories; 13 tracks are songs."
He's found that "my live show depends on the stories behind the songs," so he hopes the CD conveys the spirit and feel of the live show. "It was a great pleasure to make," he says.
As he has said, Payne came rather late to music. "I was living in St. George, when my youngest brother came through. He's an innovative jazz guitarist, and he handed me a guitar. 'Everyone else in the family knows how to play,' he said. 'We're tired of you not playing.' I had done some singing with groups before that, but I decided I'd better learn the guitar."
And once he did that, "I reconciled myself to the fact that I'm a folk singer. That's a dirty word to pop musicians," he jokes. But he was so drawn to "the stories of this place. They are what make us what we are. I have an opportunity to tell those stories. To be able to tell them effectively is the gift, and it is a gift," he says.
And now, yes, "one job is to put food on the table. But I've also learned that if the audience walked away, I would still have to make the music. I would still have to write, learn and perform songs."
And while he is grateful that audiences have stayed with him, he also hopes that he has given something to them.
His mother used to say that "folk singers are the medicine men of the community. They can heal, they can inspire more than just entertain. There's something spiritually enriching in what a folk singer does."
He doesn't write to teach exactly, he says, but songwriting is the way he "works out my life. It's the way I come to know God, family, community and our responsibilities as human beings. All that gets worked out in my mind through songs."
Plus, he says, he can't "discount the sheer fun of it. It's such a great pleasure to play with such great musicians as I do."
And he is conscious of his heritage. "My dad was billed as the 'Mormon Troubadour.' He was born of the pool of musicians that gave us the likes of the Kingston Trio and Bob Dylan."
His dad was a groundbreaker in many ways. "Back in those days, there was no LDS music industry. It overstates it to say he created the industry, but he and his contemporaries certainly had a hand in it."
Payne is one of five siblings "who all do this, in spite of our parents' best intentions. We will never stop being influenced by where we came from."
That is true for everyone, he says, and is exactly the message he hopes everyone can find in "Father to Son."
Carma Wadley - Deseret News (Aug 1, 2008)
If you've seen Payne perform -- a likely prospect as he played a large show at the Sandy Amphitheater on Sept. 5 and shares billing with Breinholt and Shupe for a Christmas concert Dec. 5 at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in St. George -- then you know that an integral part of his live act is the sometimes funny, sometimes ruminative introductions he delivers before most songs. Think of Bruce Springsteen, for example, talking on "Live/1975-85" about how he wrote "The River," and then imagine if the Boss were a clean-cut returned missionary. Payne's new, independently produced CD "Father to Son," a compilation of live recordings, is the perfect way to experience his sound, combining a spoken intro with 11 of the 13 songs. Most of the songs fans love best are included ("Spaceman" is a notable omission, as well as the very new "The Escape of Archibald Gardiner"), so it's a great introduction for newcomers to the Next Big Thing in LDS folk rock.
Cody Clark - The Daily Herald (Sep 30, 2008)
There are times as a musician when I have had transcendent experiences. Whether I am on stage or serving as an audience member, these experiences have rendered me completely and utterly enlightened as if some sort of laser of celestial knowledge had beamed down from the heavens and etched pure inspiration upon my mind.
One such moment took place in a boring and sterile
conference room of the Tahitian Noni Headquarters in Provo, UT. There was a local concert there that night. I don't remember why I went but I knew that it had been very important for me to be there when I left. Some fine artists had performed, but when Sam Payne took the stage no sooner did he begin to play some type of hand percussion doohickey, than I began the transcendental process. Then he began to sing a most mesmerizing "Autumn Leaves" with a display of scatting skills that would have made even Louis Armstrong green with envy. I was transfixed. I knew in that moment that whatever Sam had, whatever gave him that power to hold an audience in the palm of his hand - I had to have it. I determined I would stay until the after-show crowd died down to introduce myself and pick Sam's brain for how he did it. To my great disappointment, Sam had no formula, no rhyme or reason to what had just happened in there. He was extremely casual and rather humble about his talents, explaining that he loves to tell a good story and to just let go and have a fun time on stage. I walked away unsatisfied that night. Inspired mind you, but with a feeling of unrest in my soul.
Three years later after getting to know Sam a bit better . . .
It is Saturday, February 27th. I am carpooling home from a planning meeting for an upcoming tour. This is no ordinary tour as I will be journeying to Bulgaria with Sam Payne and Peter Breinholt to visit various orphanages to sing for kids (life-changing stuff). Sam is as easy-going and as happy-go-lucky as they come. We talk about his life; his upbringing with parents Marvin Payne (actor and folk singer) and mother Niki Payne (a violinist from San Francisco). No wonder Sam is such an exceptional storyteller! We speak of his wife Kristie (who was also his high school sweetheart) and their four boys.
Their youngest, Sam (aka "Sambo") is three years old. They had filed papers to adopt several years back, expecting to wait 18 months to three years for a child. Two months later they got word that a young mother with a seven week-old baby boy had selected the Paynes to be the parents of her son and they would need to pick him up the next day. The Paynes never expected that the boy's Grandmother and birth mother would move into their neighborhood one day. He talks about this situation with deep gratitude, feeling that these women were meant to remain a part of Sambo's life.
When I asked Sam about the most singular experience in his career as a singer-songwriter, he didn't mention the time he played at the Kennedy Center or when he shared the stage with Toto. He told of the time he had a concert with his jazz quintet in Springdale, UT. His sax player, Denis Zwang called in as the date was approaching to explain that his father had passed away and that the funeral would take place on the day of the concert. "Please don't worry about the concert," Sam urged. Denis responded by saying that he would actually really like to come and play this one. That night, Denis remained rather quiet and reserved as expected on such an occasion. During Gershwin's "Our Love is Here to Stay," he performed a brilliant and moving sax solo. Sam came in to take over as usual at the tail end of the solo when Denis elbowed Sam away and with eyes glued shut and tears streaming down his face, Denis continued his solo in a different realm where Sam claims, "Denis was with Pops."
"The most singular experiences have been the small ones. The coolest ones are never where you think they're going to be," Sam tells me. Yes. Even in boring, sterile corporate conference rooms at the Noni, I think to myself.
Such great stories! But of course, a great story has always been Sam's passion. As we drove home from our meeting, I realized that the energy Sam had transmitted from the stage that night at the Noni three years earlier came from his ability to be one hundred percent comfortable and confident with himself just the way he is. There was no extra effort expended that night on trying to prove himself to anyone or to put his talent on display. (Trust me, that sort of effort always backfires). Sam is Sam whether on stage or in the carpool lane.
Mindy Gledhill - Mindy Gledhill's Blog (Mar 3, 2009)
All Payne, all gain at Sandy show
Hence, as a public service to anyone who enjoys thoughtful, energertic, jazz-inflected folk -- and even to people who think "jazz-inflected folk" sounds iffy, but who enjoy a good guitar sound and strong vocals -- I am opening the bag, and letting out the cat: Sam Payne rocks.
Cody Clark - The Daily Herald (Sep 10, 2008)
Singer-songwriter Sam Payne Follows Family Musical Tradition
By MATT THACKER
It was the middle of the night when Josh Payne showed up on his brother Sam's St. George doorstep, guitar in hand.
"Sam," he said, "everyone in the family plays except you. It's time to learn."
Then, without even coming inside, he handed Sam the guitar and left.
Sam Payne picked up the guitar that night and hasn't put it down since.
Payne marks that night 11 years ago as a pivotal moment in his life and the beginning of a musical journey in which he still finds himself.
Following in his father Marvin Payne's footsteps, the singer-songwriter from Utah has emerged as a staple in contemporary and LDS music circles with an eclectic style reminiscent of artists from James Taylor and Bob Dylan to Brian Setzer and the big-band jazz of the fifties. His live shows, highly energetic at times and acoustically soothing at others, are just as much stages for Payne's stories as they are for his songs.
"He's one of the best in his field," said Earl Madsen, who works with Sounds of Zion, the company that distributes and promotes Payne's albums. "He's the consummate performer. The connection he makes with people onstage or in person is a rare thing that many artists don't have the ability to do."
Payne's most recent album "Father to Son" was released in June 2008 and features what many fans have been looking for - a live album that includes the stories Payne typically tells during his concerts.
"The stories that I tell in conjunction with my songs are kind of an integral part of my live show," Payne said. "And people for a long time have been coming up to our merchandise table at shows and asking, 'where's the album with the stories on it?'"
The album, which was recorded in front of a live studio audience, features some of Payne's favorite songs stripped down to their bare roots. The instrumentation is completely acoustic to set the stage for telling the true story behind each song.
With tunes ranging from the soulful "You May Still Remember Me" - a duet with LDS singer Cherie Call - to a cover of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," each song has a story that highlights the legacies and heritages of life.
"The songs on the album are all about the people that we come from," Payne said. "They're all about the heritage, the line that connects us with those who have come before us."
And although he didn't pick up a guitar and begin writing until he was a college graduate, music has long been a part of Payne's heritage.
When Payne was young, his father Marvin Payne was a folk singer who struggled to earn a living for his young family, consisting of his wife and two sons.
"My dad would go door-to-door at apartment complexes trying to sell record albums, and that's how we made our daily bread," Sam Payne said. But Payne rarely noticed the family's financial hardships, describing his childhood as "blissful and full of music."
Besides the talent of his father, his mother was an accomplished fiddler, and music always seemed to emanate from their little pioneer-era home where Payne shared an attic bedroom with his three younger brothers.
"Few were the nights that I went to sleep in silence," Payne said.
Payne's father said his son's energetic and enthusiastic personality started early.
"Sam never had a problem relating to people," his father said, adding that his son was always outgoing. "On Sam's first day of Kindergarten, his father told him to wink at the teacher. So what did he do? He winked at the teacher." Payne said after winking at the teacher he invited her over for a spaghetti dinner.
Payne made music a part of his life, participating in choirs and other activities, but he was wary of pursuing it as a full-time career after realizing the economic hardships that affected his family.
"I think one of the greatest things Sam learned from me was to get a job," his father said. "I never actually told him that, but I think he just figured it out after seeing how much we struggled."
After serving an LDS mission in Argentina and getting a degree in English from Weber State University, Payne got a job, teaching seminary in St. George where he taught for 11 years.
Mark Robison, a former student of Payne's, said that his teacher's influence on him continues to this day.
"He just knew how to connect with us," Robison said. "He was able to explain things in a way that was easy to understand and that was on our level." Robison said Payne taught him how to be serious about the gospel but also how to stay a kid at heart.
"I miss it every day," Payne said of his seminary teaching days. "Sometimes I still wake up in the morning and feel like I should be putting on a shirt and tie to go teach."
It was while he was in St. George that Sam's brother Josh stopped by his house that night in 1997 and dropped off the guitar.
Marvin said that as soon as Sam got that guitar, he "dove right in," learning how to play and write songs. His devotion to learning, as well as his genetics, began to pay off.
"He was a natural," Marvin said.
After performing the only song he had ever written at a church fireside in St. George, he was approached by a member of the ward named Korky Ollerton who had played drums for various California punk rock bands before moving to Utah.
"Hey," he told Payne, "we should start a band." Payne, still doubting his abilities, reluctantly agreed. The two recruited another member and began performing as the Sam Payne Trio. Payne, as frontman of the group, was the principal songwriter, a new role for the seminary teacher who still felt like a novice musician.
"Writing for the trio was fast and tough," he said. "But I truly, honestly loved every last minute of it."
He drew from a variety of influences for his songwriting, from Dylan and James Taylor to Thelonius Monk and Shirley Horn. He even mentioned more contemporary artists such as Dave Matthews, and local artists Peter Breinholt, Ryan Shupe, and Cherie Call. He still lists his friend Korky Ollerton as one of his biggest influences and mentors as he learned about what it took to be a songwriter.
As Payne honed his songwriting skills, he also expanded his horizons as a performer. He went on to front a jazz quintet before hitting it out on his own as a solo artist. He still tours extensively, both with a band and by himself, and this year alone has seen him play venues in Texas, Washington, D.C. and Edmonton, Alberta, besides the dozens of shows he plays in and around Utah.
Despite the sometimes rigorous touring schedule, Payne's eyes seem to brighten when he speaks about performing live.
"It is one of the great personal pleasures of my life," he said. He often uses his race car analogy saying that recording in the studio is like building a race car, but performing live is like driving the race car. There are enjoyable aspects to both, he said, but was quick to describe the rigorous attention to detail that the studio requires compared to the energetic feelings of liberation that come from playing live.
As much as he likes performing, Payne's emphasis remains on the stories he tells through his songs. Songwriting is an act Payne said he takes very seriously.
"If you presume to be a songwriter, you have to be able to work even when the fire is dead, when the iron is cold," he said. "You've got to be able to just go to work. Sometimes songwriters feel the inspiration and can just get a song out, other times you'll have to fight for every word."
Payne said that no matter whether he's "under the influence of the muse" or simply struggling to hammer one out, his songwriting is a personal spiritual act that is driven by much more than marketing, business, or writing a catchy melody.
"The reason I write songs is that it's through that process that I reconcile myself to God," he said. "In my songs I try to explore sacred ideas like relationships, history and family, and that comes to be an exercise to figure out my relationship with God."
Payne also feels an obligation to those who came before him.
"I'm a Latter-day Saint, the son a folk singer, the third great-grandson of the pioneers that settled Salt Lake," he said. "If I have a goal, it's to be the voice of my people."
Payne fan Paula Hale, a senior majoring in child development, said she appreciates the personality behind Payne's thoughtful songwriting and storytelling.
"His music is wildly imaginative without ever losing touch with reality," she said, noting that whether Payne's performing one of his humorous songs about random topics like outer space, or singing a deeply religious ballad, there's always a connection deeply rooted in the human experience.
As for himself, Payne is confident the path he is on is the right one for him and his family, which includes his wife Kristie and four boys: Skyler, Caleb, Seth and Sam. He is unsure about the status of celebrity, something he said he feels far from. Even as his popularity grows, he said the life of a music star at the height of fame really doesn't seem that appealing if it means conflicts with the relationship he has with his family.
He praises Kristie and his boys as the primary factors in keeping him grounded.
"They are the great balancing factor," he said. "Without the balancing influence of my wife, I think my music would just become ... not very useful."
He said he feels very much like a normal guy.
"It's something my wife constantly reminds me of," he joked, with a hint of gratitude towards his high school sweetheart. He and his family like to rappel - although he's admittedly afraid of heights - and he's a self-proclaimed movie junkie.
"I even like the dumb ones," he admitted about his film-watching habits.
He writes children's books and works at a publishing company for educational literature, and even raises chickens at his home in Lindon.
This "normal" lifestyle, however, is filled with the relationships Payne has constructed over the years with family, friends, students and fans. And although he is unsure of what the future holds, he sees music as a part of it.
Regardless, his family said they are proud of him and what he's chosen to do with his talents.
"What's always surprised me," said Payne's father Marvin, "is that no matter what I expect of him, he routinely exceeds it."
More details about Payne, his albums and his live shows can be found at www.sampayne.com.
Matt Thacker - BYU Daily Universe (Sep 3, 2008)
For those of you who have had the opportunity to hear Sam Payne, whether at a live show or recording, you understand what I’m talking about when I simply say "Wow!" We first introduced you to Payne when we interviewed him last summer. This time, Payne has simply out-done himself on his fourth full-length record; it keeps getting better and better. When I first listened to the record I felt like I was transported to his live concert, sitting with Sam and the other musicians, listening to the stories and songs. It's electric.
Payne does something on this album that he has not done before: he tells the story that accompanies each song. When I asked him why he did that, he simply stated, "Folks wanted to know why I wrote what I wrote. For a long time, audiences at the merch table have been asking for the album 'with the stories on it.' Recorded for an intimate studio audience, this is the album.”
This emotionally-charged album takes you on a journey of tears, laughter and thought. From the first cut, "These Are My People," to a song about a new born's struggle for survival “Baby Echo,” you will be drawn in by the simple folk melodies and timeless stories. In a world full of digitally-charged devices - meant to simplify our over-stimulated lives - this album is a breath of fresh air. All we have to say is: Wow!
A. McKell - My Crazy Music Blog--South Bay's Premier Music Blog(Jun 8, 2008)
" . . . But I'd rather talk about my own experience,
which began with a perfectly timed four-song opener by
local folk singer Sam Payne. Payne's songs have
thoughtful, elegant lyrics and lively melodies--his
tune "These are my People" is one I'd especially like
to hear again--and his spoken introductions were so
precise and interesting that I'd be disappointed if I
bought his CD and found that he only says that stuff
when he's in concert."
Cody Clark - Daily Herald (Sep 14, 2006)
Payne describes his music as "High Folk to Big Funk," which it is, but that description leaves out jazz, americana, blues, rock, and 1970's disco-night-life, all influences that are scattered around the album like pepper in a bowl of mixed pasta. The combination of influences makes for a tasty meal - a meal that is fun as well as filling. This is an amazing album. The songwriting is fun, sublime, and masterful. The lyrics are poetic and profound. There are life lessons hidden in his songs, and when found they are more powerful than just stating the truth. More true than truth. Highly, highly recommended. I'll be giving this to my closest friends as a special gift.
Tim Jones - Deseret Book.com
"Listening to the lyrics--that song about his grandfather; Holy Cow! Some of the best lyrics I've ever heard."
Glenn Beck - The Glenn Beck Program (Feb, 2003)
Sam is a poet and a balladeer, a rare and wonderful type of musician...long live another great ballad writer!
Stacy Griffin - CDbaby.com (Jul 30, 2007)
There are a surprising number of fine musicians and songwriters in southern Utah, I know most of them and I can¹t imagine any of them taking exception to a declaration that Sam Payne is the best. I¹ve followed Sam¹s progress as a writer and performer and have even had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with him on a handful of occasions. Describing Sam¹s rare gift as a tunesmith and lyricist is to exhaust most of the superlatives in the English language, and the glad tidings I¹m pleased to bring is that Sam has just completed his first full length professionally produced CD. The record, Railroad Blessing, is an absolute treasure that proves beyond any doubt that Mr. Payne has matured into a world-class talent. For those of you familiar with Sam¹s music, I know I¹m preaching to the choir, but for those of you who have yet to experience this man¹s way with a song and a story--this gem of a recording is all the evidence I need offer in support of my case. Do yourself a great big favor and get your hands on a copy. You¹re going to want to share it, and if you¹re having trouble trying to think up something to stuff in a stocking your search is over. The record is sensory gold-mine, thanks in large part to the impeccable arrangement, musicianship and production of Spiral Studios¹ whiz Steve Lemmon. Along with Ryan Tilby on Bass, guitar and mandolin, and long-time Sam Payne skinsman Korky Ollerton they set a table that allows Sam¹s soaring vocals to provide the centerpiece. I¹m going to leave it for Sam to elaborate on the many other terrific musicians who¹ve also made savory contributions to this sonic Banquet. Suffice it to say that this is a technical knock-out of an album that you¹ll have to hear to believe, and it will very likely bring Sam Payne to the attention of a much larger audience.
Kevin Jones - The Independent
It’s Christmas—time to forget the cares of the workaday world and celebrate unfettered, wintertime joy among friends and family. It’s a time filled with Christmas bounty, and the hush of reverence before the most blessed season of the year.
Along the snowcapped Wasatch front, wrapped in a glistening winter, it’s difficult to imagine anything that could quell the spirit of the Holiday Season. For some, though, the cheer brought on by cozy wintertime is lessened—by need. We’re no strangers to images of want at Christmastime: thoughts of a new child with no bed—slung in a manger instead; thoughts of poor shepherds gathered in a stable, call our attention away from the jingling of Christmas change and back toward a chance to be our best at Christmas—in simple service to those who need it.
Enter “The Gift,” a very special musical experience brought to the stage by your favorite performers. Let acclaimed musicians Ryan Shupe, Peter Breinholt, and Sam Payne take you down a wintry road, by turns fat with toe-tapping excitement and solemn Christmas hush. It’s a magical evening—the stuff of which Christmas traditions are made. Coming this season to five Wasatch front venues (one near you), “The Gift” tour waits to warm your heart with memories of hometown Christmases past and hope for the bright years to come.
How does it all happen? National star Ryan Shupe (after bringing the rousing “Dream Big” to audiences around the country), leads a charge of huge acoustic newgrass, firing off quirky treatments of Holiday favorites that will leave audiences grinning, from the tall to the small. Regional contemporary folk favorite Peter Breinholt (whose recent release “All the Color Green” has set the bar for contemporary acoustic recordings) brings his characteristic sincerity to heartfelt performances of Christmas classics both original and traditional. Winding through the music like a trail of winter flowers, award-winning songwriter and storyteller Sam Payne spins a web of the sorts of songs and stories that for years have been stranding people in their driveways, helpless before their radio dials. Behind it all is Shupe’s remarkable Rubberband—the elfish tailors of the Christmas cheer that runs rampant through the evening. That’s the lineup.
But much more than a concert, “The Gift” is an opportunity for you, too. In partnership with the Utah Food Bank and the Road Home, Pete, Ryan, Sam, and the gang encourage you to bring along non-perishable food items, and unwrapped gifts (much use could be made of blankets and warm clothing) to your evening at the concert hall. Donated items will be gathered carefully up by the band and delivered to their friends at the Utah Food Bank and the Road Home, just in time to provide some Christmas Bounty to those who could most use it, courtesy of you and your family.
Join us for “The Gift,” an evening that will capture the heart of a hometown holiday. After all, these are fathers, husbands, and former children on stage—having thrown thousands of snowballs, eaten dozens of fruitcakes, downed countless glasses of eggnog, and awakened wide-eyed and reverent before hundreds of shining Christmas mornings between them. The instruments are tuned. The guys are ready. Merry Christmas.
- ABC 4 NEWS (Dec 2, 2007)
Sam Payne and Tilby-Williams bringing music, stories, fun
By Carma Wadley
Deseret Morning News
Ask Sam Payne to describe the Tilby-Williams Band, and he'll tell you, "It's world-class acoustic-picking played over big, fat, playful funk grooves, with lyrics that sound at equal turns like nursery rhymes and confessional folk tunes. Call it acousti-groove alternative newgrass, if you want."
Ask Ryan Tilby about Sam Payne, and he'll say, "Draw a square that has Sting, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews and Garrison Keillor at the corners. Sam's in the middle of that somewhere. No one tells a story like Sam."
If you can't find something in all that to tickle your fancy, you just aren't trying very hard. But if you can, you'll be happy to know that Sam Payne and the Tilby-Williams Band are teaming up for their first combined concert.
They have all performed with each other numerous times, of course. "But we've always been asked to play at other people's concerts," says Payne. "One night over pizza. ..."
"All good ideas are hatched over pizza," chimes in Drew Williams.
"... we decided to produce a concert of our own at a place we love," said Payne
That concert will take place next Thursday at the American Fork Amphitheater. "I grew up in Alpine. This was the first stage I performed on," says Payne. "I was in 'The Sound of Music."'
"It was my first stage, too," says Williams. "Only I was clogging."
All three musicians are looking forward to performing for some of their friends and neighbors. They play a lot for strangers, and that's enjoyable, says Payne, "but this time we're coming home."
They promise an interactive evening full of music, stories and fun. "We bring our music and storytelling to the stage," he says, "but everyone has a part to play. It's kind of like a barbecue, where you assign out the salads and everyone brings their own meat."
Sam Payne, left, Drew Williams and Ryan Tilby (Sam Payne and the Tilby-Williams Band) will play at American Fork Amphitheater. (Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News)
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Sam Payne, left, Drew Williams and Ryan Tilby (Sam Payne and the Tilby-Williams Band) will play at American Fork Amphitheater.
"The audience will have a lot more fun if we serve it up, but they add to it," says Tilby.
They hope it will be an unforgettable evening. "If years from now," says Payne, "someone says to someone else, 'remember that concert we went to?' then that's mission accomplished for us."
That, they say, is what music is all about. And they can't imagine not doing it.
Williams grew up "in a family of cloggers and bluegrassers" who lived in Pleasant Grove until moving to Fremont, Calif. "I moved back for school at BYU, picked up bluegrass and haven't stopped since."
Tilby was also "a Utah boy. I decided to play the banjo to get girls. I was young; I didn't know any better," he jokes, adding, "I made up for that by studying guitar at USU."
Payne is the son of folk singers, Marvin Payne and Niki Payne, so music is in his blood. He ended up in St. George, teaching seminary for 10 years. "But now I'm back in Utah Valley. I love it. There are so many opportunities to make music just this way."
The three met through "the circles of musicians that bring everyone together eventually," says Payne. "When Ryan came home from his (LDS Church) mission, he dropped in on a jazz group I was playing with. A couple of weeks later, Ryan and I were playing together. Then Ryan tapped into Peter Breinholt's group, and Drew was in that band. They hit it off, and soon they began making their own music as the Tilby-Williams Band."
Tilby still plays bass in the Rubber Band for Ryan Shupe, and they all do session music for a lot of other groups.
What you find in those music circles is a lot of loyalty, says Payne. "It's hard to go to a local concert and not see one of these guys on stage."
They are all adept at making other people's music, but they also revel in the joy of making their own. It may be music without an easy classification, but they know exactly what it means to them.
"This is real music," says Williams. "It's not over-produced. There are no effects. It's traditional music they played way back when they played in our own funky way."
Tilby loves the upbeat feeling that comes from it. "You can't be in a bad mood and play the banjo and stay in a bad mood for long." Even more than that, he says, "music takes me to a deep place. I believe that everyone is here to do something. Music is just my thing, my job. I would feel irresponsible if I did something else with my life."
And for Payne, "music connects to your value system; to your soul. For my parents, folk music was not just what they did for a living, it was how their value system was built, how they interacted with the world."
He grew up that same way. And once you do, he says with a laugh, "there's no way out. You can try to put the guitar down, but it's too much of what you've been taught, too much of what it means to be a human being. You can't not do it."
Still, they say, let's not over-philosophize, here. "We still do it to get chicks," says Tilby, tongue-in-cheek. (Since they are all married, those chicks are now their wives. In fact, Williams' wife, Lacey, will perform with the guys and will be releasing her own self-titled EP at the concert.)
"There's still a workaday aspect to it," says Payne. Among them, they've cut a half-dozen albums of their own as well as performing on other albums. They've played live with everyone from Grammy-winner Jo Dee Messina to multi-platinum band Toto. They've played for audiences from Canada to Belgium to Poland to Tokyo.
But there is also pure, unadulterated love — of the music and of each other. "We'd be denying the universe if we didn't play together," says Payne.
Carma Wadley - Deseret News (May 10, 2007)
To change the pace when you need upbeat music, Sam Payne may be just the thing. My daughter heard his music and has decided that he is one of her all time favorite vocalists. She's only 11, but I was impressed, because in my heart and mind, I consider Sam Payne to be one of the most talented composers and musicians I've heard. His music has been called a mix of rock, country, and the performer Sting--if you can imagine such a thing. Yet that is the diversity of a musician of Sam's level.
He has played in the Kennedy Center and all across the country. Yet he's been a seminary teacher. How cool can that be? He understands life from a depth of gospel conversion, yet from the heart and soul of a musician who apparently feels things deeply. To be quite honest, I love all his CDs - I would be hard pressed to give up any of my three Sam Payne CDs. RAILROAD BLESSING, his first CD, could rival any CD out on the market. His newest CD, COMING JUST TO GO adds a jazzy feel to his already delightfully eclectic set of tunes. His Christmas CD, ANGEL IN THE SNOW: Christmas with the Sam Payne Project is one of the most touching Christmas albums I've heard. If you've never heard of Sam Payne, you are in for a tremendous treat. Click here for more information and to pick one of the best Christmas gifts you'll ever find.
C.S. Bezas - bellaonline.com (Dec 3, 2006)
If you like John Mayer, you'll love Sam Payne.
I'm not comparing Sam to John, it's just that when you hear the "freshness" of the CD you think about the first time you heard John Mayer and why you picked up his album after only hearing one song. The same with Sam. When listening to the CD though you think "Wow! This guy is so talented, each song has a different flavor, I wonder what's coming up next?" I can compare it to like when one is tired of the same old fast food and just wishes for something to awaken one's palet - it's the same thing only it's a treat for your ears and your senses. Thanks Sam for sharing this with us.
TS Wooley - CD Baby
When I grow up, I want to be Sam Payne! Well, not really. I’m happy being me. Really. But, I WOULD like to put out a CD as good as “Coming Just to Go”. And that will be no easy task. One that I will work on for a very long time. In order to accomplish that goal, I’ll have to do three things: One: I’ll have to learn to write songs better. This is difficult for me to admit in many ways, because I’m quite proud of my songwriting ability. But Sam is my hero. He’s capturing emotions and images and many multiple layers of meaning like nobody I’ve ever heard, and I’m including the big time. In the past, I had a hard time understanding what his songs were about, but everything was clear on this collection. Maybe it was the short one or two sentences of commentary above the lyrics of each song, but probably it was just that the songs were clearer. Some of my favorites are “Shazam”, which is about fantasies and realities, “Freight Train” about who’s really in charge of your life, or at least who should be, and “Holy” which actually brought this old man to tears. He’s got some cool tricks up his sleeve, too, like rhyming “pajamas” and “ram us”, or “mystery” and “kissed her”. He’s a master. Two: I’ll have to learn to sing a lot better. His voice is the centerpiece of this compilation. He can just do so many cool things with it. Without changing it too much, he’s got country and a bit of rock, and a bit of Sting-ish jazz in him. Three: I’ll have to hire some killer musicians to back me up. Where “Railroad Blessing” was listed as a solo CD, this one is credited under “The Sam Payne Project”. The guys in the band really bring a lot of pizzazz to the recording. Precise, yet free, tightly arranged, yet improvised. It’s all there. The songs are all Sam, but the group turns him up to 11. Now, in all the time I’ve been reviewing CD’s, I’ve never given any one 5 stars. I mean, that would make that CD out to be the best. The standard by which all others should be judged. I mean, what if a CD came along that was better? You gonna give it a "six"? But giving a CD a 4.5 or a 4 would imply that there was something wrong with it. That somewhere in the bits was a flaw. What if a CD came along, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it? Wouldn’t it deserve a 5 star rating? So, with that in mind, I’m giving this one a full 5 stars. Your mileage may vary, but I think you’ll have as difficult a time finding the flaws as I did. Better still, don’t bother. Enjoy “Coming Just to Go” on its own merits and let other people worry about mistakes! OH! One more thing I'll have to do— Four: I’ll have to learn to scat! Sam, can you help me out, here?
Mark Hansen - Invoice Records