Photo Credit: James Bianchi
Cities like Los Angeles can make a person do just about anything. We’ve all heard the horror stories on Behind the Music back in the day, but for a guy from Philly, it’s quite the opposite. Payson Lewis moved west for his education and in the midst of classes unearthed his artistic side. Acting and singing soon became his norm and now he’s talking to ZO about everything from Take Me Apart to what’s to come in the new year.
Kendra: Your love of music came early thanks to hours of listening to cassette tapes. Which one did you flip side to side on repeat until it would no longer play?
Payson Lewis: Oh, I definitely came of age listening to my older brothers’ cassette tapes. There wasn’t one that was on constant repeat though. I was actually much more of a mixtape guy; obsessed with making mixtapes. I would use my brother’s collections for a lot of the music that would go on to my mixes but I would also sit by the radio all day waiting for the chance to record something brand new straight off the Top 40 Radio rotation. It was an art form making mixtapes. It had to have the right feels and also you had to plan how long each song was because you wanted to line it up exactly to when the tape would run out. Oh man, those were the days.
Kendra: Did you ever cover any of those old-school favorites when you landed in the USC a cappella group?
Payson Lewis: Actually yeah, a lot of the music I grew up on made it into the repertoire of the SoCal VoCals when I was singing with them. In particular, “Somebody To Love,” which ended up being my big solo was a song that my stepdad had introduced me to. He used to always play Queen to help wake me up on my way to school. That definitely had a big influence on me and inspired me to arrange it for my group in college.
Kendra: Speaking of, what or who encouraged you to study music instead of just going all in and skipping the educational route?
Payson Lewis: When I went to school I didn’t know that I wanted to be an artist. I always loved it, and I had an affinity for it, but growing up in a very practically thinking suburb, it just wasn’t something I imagined actually going for. It was my time at USC being surrounded by other musicians, actors, and artists that inspired me to really honor the one in me. I’m immensely grateful for my time in college mainly for its role in teaching me who I really was and who I really wanted to be. I don’t know where I would be in life if it wasn’t for the influence and support of the people I met and sang with in college.
Kendra: When you did decide to study at USC, you had to leave Philly behind but can we hear any of your east coast heritage on Take Me Apart?
Payson Lewis: I decided to come to LA and to USC after one miserable year studying at Syracuse University. I hated it there. The weather, the people; it just wasn’t for me. So I fled west to sunnier skies and kinder smiles. And it was the best decision I ever made. However, I am definitely still an east coast boy at heart. My friends from back home, outside Philly, are my anchor. My music’s influenced by the music we all listened to together; Phoenix, Avicii, etc. And I think you can hear a little bit of that in some of my music.
Kendra: On the flip side, Los Angeles can be both a blessing and a curse – some would even say a “Bad Influence.” In your experience, what is the most out there bad influence LA has on a person?
Payson Lewis: Ah! I see what you did there. I love it. Man, Los Angeles is such an amazing and inspiring place. I love it here. There is an energy of creativity. The city is built on it, really. So it’s hard for me to talk ill of my adopted home. But I’ll say, at times LA can be a bit too much about the “image.” I’ve fallen prey to it myself. What I’ve found is if you really honor who you are and what your music or your art stands for, the “image” of it all will fall right into place. You don’t have to put it on. It happens naturally if you just let it.
Kendra: On top of music, you’re also into acting. Is there a recent TV show that you would have loved to not only act in but also have your music featured on as well?
Payson Lewis: Honestly, that is my number one dream. I am dying to play my own music on TV or even hear my music on a show. And to keep it 100, I’m not even particularly picky about it. I’d be honored to have my music on any show. To me, it just tells you that your music is conveying an emotional message. Because all music is placed into a show because of the feelings they hope it will inspire. So to have the trust put into my music to deliver an emotion would just be such an honor. If I got to play a part that sings the song…even better!
Kendra: What are your plans as 2018 comes to an end and 2019 begins?
Payson Lewis: First of all, it’s crazy that we’re already talking about 2018 ending. I feel like it just got started! But as amazing of a year, it has been, I’m already looking forward to everything 2019 is going to offer. I’ll be putting out a remix record for my song “Remember” followed by some acoustic releases as well as some videos. And then ultimately probably mid-year, my next record will start trickling out. We’ve already completed pre-production on it. I could not be more excited about the new music I am going to be releasing. It’s going to be amazing.