Singer-songwriter Harold Payne in Poway on Saturday
By Emily Sorensen
Singer-songwriter Harold Payne will be performing an acoustic concert 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14 at the Poway Library, the latest in the San Diego County Library’s free Acoustic Showcase concert series.
Payne, a multi-platinum musician who has written songs for such big artists as Rod Stewart and Patti LaBelle, will be performing a set of his own songs, with a good chance of his trademark custom songs making an appearance.
Raised in Gardena, Calif., Payne started playing music in college, performing in a folk band and a surf band, as well as a Motown group. “R&B is what stuck,” said Payne.
He went solo, developing as a singer-songwriter as he traveled. “I got the travel bug,” Payne said. “I really started writing when I got away from the day-to-day activities.”
Payne began trying to sell his songs in the mid-1970s. “I started knocking on doors, trying to get my stuff out there,” said Payne.
During this time, he met singer-songwriter and musician Bobby Womack, and they continue to collaborate to this day. In 1976, their song “Daylight” hit No. 5 on the U.S. R&B charts, and it was covered with some success by Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland in 2008.
“I’m always writing and doing things, but sometimes things I wrote a long time ago resurfaces,” said Payne.
Womack and Payne also recently collaborated on the upcoming Gorillaz album, “The Greatest Man in the Universe,” which is being released in June.
Perhaps what Payne is most well known for is his ability to make up custom songs in very little time, much to the delight of his audiences.
“It evolved out of improvisation,” said Payne. “It helps keep my flow going.”
Payne often talks to couples during breaks in his shows, then writes a song about them on the spot, surprising them with it later in the concert. Payne is so successful at this that he now does it for private events like corporate meetings, and he recently surprised television personality Regis Philbin with a custom birthday song.
“It took a long time to go from doing it for fun to it being a high-end thing,” said Payne.
More than anything, the theme in Payne’s music over the years has been positive, upbeat songs.
“My mission statement is ‘make people feel better than how they came in,’” said Payne.
In 2001, after attending a class at UCLA on concept-related marketing and how to make your own album, Payne launched his “Power of Positive Music” series, which has led him to regular performances at Unity churches.
“Wherever I can bring the positive message,” said Payne. Originally planned as a series of CDs and a positive-themed tour, the movement grew exponentially into Empower Music & Artists, a large group of positively themed musicians, writers, artists and more.
“I’m looking forward to the performance at the Poway library,” said Payne. “It’s my very favorite thing to do, playing for intimate audiences. It gives me a chance to connect with the audience.”
Any member of the audience could possibly be the lucky recipient of a custom song about them, depending on the vibe of the crowd, according to Payne.
The Poway library is located at 13137 Poway Road. For more information, call the library at 858-513-2900.
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