It’s been a while since HOWIE PAYNE was in the charts and in our minds. 2009, in fact. That’s when the former Stands frontman released his previous album, Bright Light Ballads, a gorgeously lilting collection of bruised, warm Americana tracks that dripped with Payne’s uncannily good ear for a melody. Produced by musician and super-producer Ethan Johns, Howard Elliott Payne’s debut album looked like it was destined to propel him to the kind of notoriety that those familiar with his songwriting prowess had known since back in the Bandwagon days. After The Stands had released two critically-acclaimed records and toured with Oasis, Payne’s solo outing seemed to offer him his long overdue break. But then, nothing…
In the intervening period, Payne took some time away from the limelight, but his restless mind couldn’t keep him idle for long. Having worked with Ren Harvieu and Benjamin Francis Leftwich in a songwriting capacity – and then taking on co-managing duties of Scottish dreamgazers Neon Waltz – Payne finally thought it was time for him to put his own music centre stage once more. Recorded at State Of The Ark studios in summer 2017, Payne’s second album Mountain is due for release on 27th October via Full Stack Records – and it’s got all the hallmarks of classic Americana that we’ve come to expect from Payne. That crisp and tender voice, oodles of melody, heartache cushioned by the mellowest of vibes, a whole lotta Dylan; it’s vintage Howie Payne, in all of the best ways.
Ahead of the record’s release, Payne picked out a selection of tracks that he was listening to while making Mountain – or artists that have been particular touchstones for him over the writing and recording process.
Whitney – No Woman
I first heard this when I was up in Scotland with Neon Waltz. We were recording or something, and they were very into the WHITNEY album and were playing it. I picked up on this tune. I liked it straight away but I really got into it in when I was out in LA, it was playing everywhere. I’m really into how punchy and warm the sound is, and the arrangement is beautifully put together. It really resonated with me and how I was approaching Mountain.
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’
I really like KURT VILE, just anyway – he does his own thing, and he does it really well. He mixes up lots of styles and makes them work. It’s pop music really, but you know, great pop music, and I really like that. I was very into the sound of it too and used it as a bit of a sonic beacon in the studio.
David Bowie – Young Americans
I was listening to this on a loop in the summer, over and over. The song is off the charts: the lyrics, the performance, the backing vocals, everything about it is phenomenal. I guess anything you listen to that intensely is going to influence you in some way. I’m not sure how, but I know I’m really into the heat in the recordings; you know, there’s a thickness to the rhythm section that’s really evocative of that time and I wanted to get that sound in to Mountain. So, we recorded onto tape, dampened the drums down and all that.
Tim Hardin – If I Were A Carpenter
I’m just knocked out by TIM HARDIN, and If I Were A Carpenter was on heavy rotation in the studio. There’s a real minimalist efficiency to the arrangements and sparse instrumentation: it gives the melody so much space to live in, and of course he has the voice for it. This track became a bit of a North Star for me during the making of Mountain, just to remind myself to not overcook it, to let the song breathe and let the silence in-between the music have some space.
Damien Jurado – Silver Timothy
Someone sent me this tune one morning in the summer, a mind-blowing way to start the day. The bassline is a happening all of its own, he’s got a great sound to his voice and I really dig his delivery and the use of reverbs, very cool. I love pretty much everything about this song.
The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning
I’m into the Velvets forever, and I’ve always had a thing for this tune. There are so many strange and wonderful things happening on this record: the vocal starting off dry then the reverb being added on the second verse; the plinky thing; the weird and washy sounds that come and go; Nico’s singing at the end… and all the while there’s this tiny drum groove playing under this funky bassline pinning the whole thing together. It shouldn’t work really, but it’s incredible. I wasn’t thinking about the song but I was definitely thinking about the logic of it when I was making Mountain.
Neil Young – Heart Of Gold
Heart Of Gold is so deceptively simple, but really the groove is phenomenal, and there’s so much space in there that even the smallest thing that happens is a big event. Like the hi-hat – I could talk about the hi-hat part in this song for an hour – and there’s the extra acoustic guitar harmonising everything, then the backing vocals just for the last bit. It’s a beautiful song, perfectly recorded and it influenced a lot of my thinking when I was putting the songs together for Mountain.
Mountain is out on 27th October via Full Stack Records.