“Music is the joy in my life.”
Q&A WITH SUMMER PAYTON
Who is Summer Payton? Where are you from? Do you think your upbringing has contributed to your style as an artist? I’m an r&b singer, songwriter, producer and musician. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois and that has contributed to who I am as an artist a lot. That’s something I didn’t even really learn about myself until I left home and went to college at NYU. When you’re surrounded by so many people from the same place, everything is just normal. At college I met so many people from different backgrounds, that I noticed how a lot of my tendencies are because I’m from Chicago. Everything from the way I talk, and write, to the food I like and the music that moves me. I got my love of music from listening to my parents music playlist.
Describe the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as an artist? The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome as an artist is staying true to who I am in a sea of criticism telling me I should be different. I do true r&b and my sound is heavily influenced by the golden days of 90s r&b. Over the course of pursuing this career, “industry” types have tried to tell me to change my sound to be in-line with what’s popular. Back in like 2012 that advice was to not even sing for real, that I should sing-rap to ride the trap wave that was picking up speed. And these days it’s people telling me I should be alternative r&b because that’s what’s popular. It’s really hard and discouraging at times, but I always have to remind myself who I am and what I do best. The best piece of advice I ever got was “if you chase a trend you’re already behind the curve. You’re better off doing what you do, until that becomes the trend.” So that’s what I try to do.
Who are your biggest musical influences? My favorite artist of all time is Janet jackson. Watching her music videos and concerts taught me how to be a true artist with a vision and an entertainer. She’s the best in my book. I’m also heavily influenced musically by Brandy and Tweet as far as vocal production. The harmonies those two create are out of this world. Missy Elliott is someone who’s career I hope to model mine after. She’s an amazing artist herself but is also successful for writing and producing for other artists. I’m also influenced by Aaliyah, TLC, and Alicia Keys. I’d say my dad is also a musical influence for me. He used to be an organist/keyboardist for the church, so I grew up listening to him play and eventually asking him to teach me. I lot of what I play/produce naturally you can hear a gospel influenced undertone because of that.
Are you more of a singer or more of a song-writer? Singer and songwriter are pretty much intertwined for me. I’ve always been both. I decided I wanted to do music after writing my first song that described the insecurities I was dealing with at 13. After that I started vocal lessons and the rest is history. Sometimes I do have to work to make sure the songwriter part of me isn’t too dominant and is catering to my voice. It’s very easy to write things that are hard to actually sing and I do it to myself often.
When do your ideas come to you? My ideas mainly come to me after a defining experience. At least for song concepts. Once I live through something I always find the song concept in it. Also, sometimes when I have writers block on a particular song, the rest of the lyrics come to me in my dreams. I’ve woken up out of my sleep many times to write in my notes app or record groggy voice memos.
Which artist would you love to collaborate with and why? I’d love to collaborate with Chance the Rapper. The Chicago connection can’t be denied. I also admire his music selection. I can tell by the beats he chooses or helps produce that our gospel influences are similar. He’s one of the few artists I feel like hasn’t let musically fall by the wayside. I think our sounds would mesh well together.
Summer has a current single out right now called “More Than A Lie”.