© Grand Ole Opry, photo by Chris Hollo
NASHVILLE, TN (February 24, 2020) – At just 20 years old, guitar wunderkind PAYTON SMITH performs with the verve of a seasoned pro. On Saturday night, that wide-eyed abandonment received a warm welcome from the genre’s most dedicated audience as he stepped inside the iconic wooden circle at Grand Ole Opry.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was 5 years old is stand in this circle and play at the Grand Ole Opry. Seeing my family here – I’m overwhelmed and blessed,” said Payton. With 68 loved ones watching from the crowd, a visibly grateful Payton began with the autobiographical “Daddy’s Boots,” a song he wrote with Derrick Sutherland about his dad’s sacrifices and work ethic. As he strummed the last chord, the entire room was on their feet. Payton ended his performance with “Like I Knew You Would,” a love-and-electric charged single impacting Country radio March 9, and his second standing ovation of the night.
Leading up to the milestone occasion, Opry member and multi-platinum entertainer CHRIS YOUNG called Payton on behalf of the Grand Ole Opry to invite him for his debut performance at the esteemed venue – watch here. “Somebody I am so proud to know, he’s on my tour this year so you know I like him. I’m really pumped to introduce him for his Opry debut,” Young offered before bringing the newcomer to the stage. The camaraderie will continue in April as Payton opens for Young’s TOWN AIN’T BIG ENOUGH WORLD TOUR.
The Houma, Louisiana, native layers vivid imagery over propelling tones. Payton is every bit as much a fan of Pearl Jam and John Mayer as he is Clint Black, George Strait – certain that his peers have equally varied musical tastes. He co-wrote a collection of four songs now available via his debut self-titled EP (Big Machine Records) that highlights his gifts as a vocalist, songwriter and nimble self-taught guitarist. He plays every part on each track just like his favorite slingers across the musical landscape. Payton worked with producer James Stroud and bonded with a fellow Louisiana native over their love of diving beats.
Honoring the genre’s traditions while moving the sound forward, the CMT 2020 Listen Up artist recently began covering some of his other heroes, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. The latter serendipitously scored him a record deal. When Payton landed a slot on one of the smaller stages at CMA Fest in 2018, he decided to play as if he were headlining an arena, tearing through original songs all while delivering supercharged guitar solos. Big Machine Label Group President/CEO Scott Borchetta happened to be walking by that afternoon and shortly thereafter offered him a deal on the Big Machine Records imprint. Payton had every reason to celebrate: since he first saw Keith Urban perform on the CMA Awards 14 years ago he has dreamt of playing his own brand of Country music, one influenced by 90’s Country and Guitar Rock.
His gift for melody, coupled with sharp but approachable lyricism and fluid guitar playing, sets up Payton to be the hottest young voice to change Nashville. Represented by Nashville-based management company the AMG, he will join major festival bills this summer, including Stagecoach. For additional touring and updates, visit paytonsmithmusic.com/.