A gorgeous brunette with soft, golden tendrils woven throughout her mane appears through a cloud of fog on a hoverboard. (An actual hoverboard, not that segway crap that’s trying to pass as a hoverboard.) Behind her is a giant screen with light pink visuals cascading over it. The fog and the pinkness surrounds her while butterflies flit around. Then, she breaks out into song. Not the big production music with accompanying instrumentals at high volumes like you would assume from a picture painted as such, she would choose to sing a cappella. Just to throw you off.
This is how the darling Joni Payne would prefer to introduce herself to the world. Daring, memorable, but done in a way that is coy and alluring. And we can’t say it doesn’t fit her personality.
The woman is an absolute force of energy. Which makes sense when you hear her voice. She is a singer-songwriter from Ohio who has a background in graphic arts and modeling. She has brought her midwest roots to both coasts, and blended her affinity for classic jazz and r&b to create an infusion of unique and memorable sound. With all of this expertise under her belt, her music is an actual experience. It’s alive, emotional, and visual.
Speaking of “visual”, this artist had a very interesting way to introduce the EP to her audience. She combined her passions into a short film/music video for two of the songs off of the More To Do, and we’ve got the live premiere of that right here.
But Joni Payne doesn’t stop just there. We caught up with her to learn more about her background and connection to her music. (If you stick around through the interview, we’ve also got the exclusive stream of More To Do. She’s cool like that.)
What was the first song you remember listening to as a child?
“MMMbop” – Hanson
When did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue?
I don’t think I ever considered not doing what I love as a real option, I’ve always been involved in the arts and am pursuing all of them. i.e. I design all my own album art, have started designing some live show video elements, and dance.
How would you describe your sound, specifically?
It’s very intimate. I usually tell stories of memories and dreams as though I’m looking at them and either painting the picture, reliving them, or writing out conversations I had or meant to have. My lyrics tend to focus on telling the story with emotion behind them rather than the emotion itself.
What influences your music as of late?
Pretty Please has been teaching me some Ableton/Logic tools, so I’ve been producing my own songs as well as writing to beats lately. I feel like the perspective of building all the elements on my own has helped me grow a lot as a writer and an artist. I’m always inspired by the beats he makes so they influence me a lot, but it’s also nice to have the creative freedom to make my own.
The video for “More To Do” is so phenomenal. Any anecdotes from production or stories about where the artful ideas came from?
Thank you! The making of both part 1 (“Waking Up”) and part 2 (“More To Do”) were pretty extreme for completely different reasons. The bulk of “Waking Up” was filmed on one night and I had a flight to catch the next morning, (laughing) and it was all-around very emotionally challenging to jump back into a time that was originally so difficult for me. But I think the fact that we had that pressure of a time limit on the filming made us (Tom MacVicar, Brendan Calder, and myself) really zone in and get what we needed. “More To Do”, on the other hand, was very physically challenging. The first half was filmed on a gorgeous day near Catalina Island, but with salt water in my nose, while holding my breath, trying to look ethereal, and wearing a skirt that got tangled very easily. And the second half was filmed in Malibu, with freezing waves dominating us. But I think the dynamic of something being so beautiful and so challenging is wonderful, and the experience of shooting it reflects the difficulties and rewards of what I’m singing about.
I was really lucky to work with Tom MacVicar and Brendan Calder on these videos because they both have really great visions for what they want to create and are so talented. The three of us pretty much did everything on our own (with all songs entirely produced by Pretty Please), which made it difficult sometimes, but in the end, really special.
Your EP is so ridiculously gorgeous. What inspired the song “Stars Aligned”?
Thanks, primarily the beat inspired me. Pretty Please sent it to me while I was coming home from a bartending shift and I ended up driving around for a while and writing it then. The way he dropped down in pitch/tempo at the end (classic Pretty Please) matched really well with the things I was going through at the time. I was trying to feel a certain way and kept getting pulled back into what I was actually feeling, so I used the song to drive my expression of that contrast.
If this EP were a slice of pizza, what kind would it be and why?
Uhh i don’t know, but my brother and I have been getting in the frozen pizza game lately which can be great.
Your voice is so soulful. Did you have any training?
Thank you, I actually have a musical theater and choir background from when I was really young, so I think that helped me learn how to sing technically. But my voice wasn’t much of a strong suit until I started singing along to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra non stop a few years ago.
How do you think your graphic arts and modeling backgrounds contribute to your endeavors as a musician?
I tend to think sonically and visually with everything. So a lot of the time when I’m writing lyrics I’m thinking about what it looks like through color and imagery. And a lot of time when I’m designing it’s almost melodic in my mind.
What is your best part about the midwest, east, and west coasts, respectively?
I think it’s really great to get a touch of living in all of those places so you can figure out what you actually like. So far the west coast has been my favorite, but it’s also probably my favorite part of my life so far, so while I love the weather and the opportunities, I’m also just enjoying having my own apartment and creating all the time.
What are your thoughts on the modern day music industry?
It’s kinda a mess. I think it’s about finding talented people that you trust and are good at what they do, and then creating a team for yourself to break through all the madness. For example, my manager is new to this side of the industry like I am, but she’s beyond talented at jumping on top of opportunities and creating our own path into everything. I’m really lucky to have her around, and our balance makes it possible to keep developing creatively while reaching more and more people.
Dogs or cats?
Cats, but like panthers and cheetahs. Otherwise dogs.
What’s up next?
(laughing) There’s just so much more to do.