Voyage Houston Interview
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Voyage Houston Interview

- Payton Riley

Voyage Houston Interview

Read Payton's interview from Voyage Houston, check out the full article here!


Hi Payton, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?

As soon as I was able to talk, my parents said I was singing at the top of my lungs around the house. So when I was 7 years old, my Mom put me in voice lessons, and I would sing the national anthem around town and at my school. At 9 years old, I started learning how to write songs, and that has become my passion. I did a songwriting camp in 2018 at age 9 and was able to write a song and perform it on the Dosey Doe Big Barn Stage in The Woodlands. The following years, I continued to perform in Conroe, Montgomery, and Spring gaining more experience and confidence on stage.
Just this week, I returned from a songwriting retreat in Memphis put on by Grace Askew where I was fortunate enough to learn new writing techniques, co-write with some talented, seasoned artists, and even record the songs in the Sam Phillips Recording Services Studio. I was one of the youngest to ever attend the retreat, and I learned so much!

Now, at age 14, you can find me playing at local venues 2-4 times a month, participating in songwriter rounds, and writing music every chance I get. I released my first EP earlier this year which you can download on all streaming platforms.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?

I feel that I have been very blessed to have parents who support me and encourage me to do what I love — music. But even with that, there have been some struggles. My voice coach asked me one day what my goals were. I told her that I wanted to sing my songs on big stages for everyone to hear. She said if that was what I wanted, then I needed to learn how to play an instrument so I didn’t have to depend on anyone else. So, at age 9, I started learning how to play the guitar, and let me tell you — learning the guitar is tough! It is not something that comes naturally to me. I have to work really hard at, and I have wanted to give up numerous times, but I kept pushing through because I knew I would regret it if I gave up — I had worked too hard to get where I am at.
I was pretty nervous when I first got on stage. At age 10, I landed a major singing part in the play “Rockin’ Robinhood.” I was terrified, and every time I had to sing, my face turned bright red. But since then, I’ve sung the national anthem and God Bless America at the Texas Legacy Flag Fest in Conroe and sang the national anthem at the Montgomery County Fair & Rodeo — some pretty big venues. Each time I have to sing in front of an audience I feel more comfortable. This past summer, I started attending open mics, and that has really helped me feel more comfortable in front of an audience. I used to put a ton of pressure on myself to be perfect ALL the time, but people make mistakes on stage more often than not. Seeing and realizing that has helped me loosen up and really have fun on stage.

Because of my age, I feel like I have to work harder to prove myself, so I practice a lot. So sometimes when I am practicing or getting ready for a gig, I’ve missed birthday parties, sporting events and even family events. I do try to be active in school — I am in cross country, basketball and track — so I have to juggle training for sports, school and still keep my focus on music.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?

I am a singer-songwriter who specializes in creating songs from life experiences or from other people’s experiences. I am probably most known for my sassy songs. I like writing and singing songs that have a little bit of attitude in them that are also empowering to the audience.

I am most proud how I always stay true to myself in writing my songs and what I have accomplished at only 14 years old. I want to be an example to younger kids so they can see what I’m doing at this age and know that they, too, can do anything.

Outside of my age, I think my heart sets me apart from others. I am sassy, can stand up for myself, can hunt, fish, get dirty, but also dress up. I always wear some sort of cute boots when I gig so most people know me from that, too. With all of that, I still love to help and encourage others. I have a heart as big as Texas.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?

I believe that you have to take risks in life if you want to see results. You take a risk every time you write a song. Will people love this song? Will they hate this song? The songs I write about my life experiences give me the most stress over whether or not people will like them. You take a risk of rejection every time you get on stage. The music business in general is a huge risk! But it’s a risk that I will take every single day because I love it and it makes me happy. I want to share my music with others, and I pray that my songs make them as happy as they make me. I want other young musicians to know that it is super intimidating to put yourself out there and get venues to take you seriously. But you need to keep working, keep getting in front of them, and hand your business card out to anyone and everyone you meet. They need to know that most of all, be kind to EVERYONE and always lift up other musicians. I just want to make other people happy with my music, so being out there like I am is a risk I’m willing to take!

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