We had the good fortune of connecting with Summer Payton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Summer, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Growing up I was a model student. I was the kid that got straight A’s pretty much elementary through high school. And if not, I beat myself up for falling short with the occasional B, (always in math) and one dreaded C (precalculus, yuck). Throughout all those years of being that dedicated student, it was always clear to me that nothing about my academic life felt FOR ME. I got straight A’s because it made my parents and grandparents happy and pleased my teachers. It was what I was supposed to do. None of those classes fulfilled me, none of those subjects interested me. I was just doing my time and excelling at it. Things that made me happy and felt FOR ME, were always artistic and creative endeavors. Listening to music, playing piano, or sitting next to my mom watching our favorite TV shows made me happy. It made me feel a lot of emotions actually. I always felt like I wanted my work to be in a medium that was able to move people in the way art moved me. My mom showed me Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope Tour on VHS and I said…I wanna do that. She took me to my first concert at 12 to see The Beyonce Experience Tour and again I said… I wanna do that. She introduced me to Grey’s Anatomy and as I sat there getting invested and crying over the deaths of fictional characters and immortalizing songs based on magical moments in the show I said…I wanna do that. I want my work to do that for people. From then on in my free time I set out to figure out how to make it happen. Honing my craft in my free time outside of school. When it was time to decide where I wanted to go to college it was the first time I was fully able to take the reigns over my life and make a decision based on what I wanted my career to be. I made sure I chose a school and program directly in line with that, which is what brought me to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Since that decision I have not looked back for one second. Every waking moment has been about how to make an artistic career tangible and financially stable. It’s all I want to do. So I have to make it work, regardless of how uncertain the path may be.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey with music started at 13 years old when I wrote my first song. I guess it actually started way before that, when I first was learning how to play piano sitting at my Dad’s side while he was teaching me. But once I wrote my first song, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I went about learning how to materialize it. How to produce and compose music around it, how to record my vocals. And from then on that became my creative process. A lot of times people see multiple slashes under what I do and they want me to pick one, and just be that. And they view not picking as a weakness. However for me personally and my artistry….my power lies in the combination of those slashes. I am each one and my best art is made when I utilize all of them at the same time. I take pride in being a multi-hypehate creative however challenging it might be, and it does have it’s challenges. Burn out is easy and when you’re used to controlling everything it can be hard to delegate. But the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve learned where and when best to do that.
Another factor I credit so much with getting me where I am today in my career is my education. I attended two different music institutions that equipped me with the ability to take my God-given gifts and arm them with the practical and technical knowledge it requires to bring music to life. Those were the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and the 1500 Sound Academy. It’s hard to put in words all I got from these two schools but both were instrumental in their own way in my journey.
I’m an r&b artist at my core and over the years it’s been challenging to be that as trends in the music industry have devalued how great and long lasting r&b music is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I needed to change and alter my sound to be more “current” based on what was hot at the time. What I am most proud of through all that is that I came out on the other side being 100% me, unashamed in what that means and sounds like. And what that resulted in was a full body of work, my debut album, GOLDEN HOUR.
“Golden Hour” is my proudest accomplishment to date. The origins of the album came about as I was reflecting on my life at the beginning of the pandemic and realizing I had been neglecting my artistry. At the time I was so focused on things that would put money in my pocket that I lost sight of my initial dream and goal. I got overwhelmed with the feeling that I was wasting time and letting life pass me by. So I did what I do best and I came up with a plan. I knew that at the end of the year I would be turning 25 and it would be my golden birthday. I thought what better way to celebrate than to release my debut album on that day? Thus the idea for “Golden Hour” was born. I went to work in my room in quarantine collecting all my best songs, fleshing out the production, finishing up writing verses, re-recording the demo vocals and creating a couple new songs to round out the tracklist. While this was happening I had started a campaign on social media called the #Roadto25 where I was essentially catching my audience up on all I felt like they had missed. I had held on to so much music over the years that I felt like I had robbed them of witnessing my growth along the way. So starting in May I released a single on the 25th of every month that was an older unheard song so I could catch them up to where I was in my artistry currently. Sonically I had changed over the years, my voice has grown, I didn’t want the album to be a shock and out of nowhere. And on December 25th, 2020 my Golden 25th birthday, I released my debut album, Golden Hour. A beautiful 12-song body of work that is beyond what I could’ve ever dreamed would be a representation of me. All I want is for as many people as possible to listen to it and experience it, especially those who love r&b music.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m going to answer this question in a dream world where Covid doesn’t exist, because the version of me now wouldn’t take her anywhere. Lol. When I think back to myself in 2019, I was just getting my feet wet in LA after relocating. But there are a couple things that would be on my to-do list.
Live music would be first and foremost with the first stop being at the Juice Joint on Monday Nights. I love it there.
The beach is also a must! Pick a beach any beach: Santa Monica, Venice, Hermosa, I love them all and go to different ones depending on the vibe of the day.
I’m a bit of a shopaholic so one of those days we’d have to hit the Grove and the Americana.
Some of my go-to food spots are Tacos Tu Madre and Bossa Nova. I think anyone visiting LA has to try Roscoe’s at least once.
And then night life would also be on the to-do list. If it’s one thing me and my friends love doing it’s going out and dancing. I think our favorite spot was nights at Treehouse out of all the places we’ve been. But you could also drop us off in West Hollywood and we’ll hop from club to club down the strip and have the best time ever. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents! They are the reasons I am able to do what I do so freely. My dad is the backbone that holds me up and my mom is the heart that keeps me pumping. Every step of my journey they have provided me with the resources and space I needed to learn, create, and be great. And they have supported me every step of the way. Not to mention all the natural talent I was born with and sourced from the mixing of their DNA! They gave me a lot to work with and they nurtured it. I never take for granted the freedom I’ve been given to pursue my career and figure it out with them there to catch me if I fall.