That Joe Payne to released debut solo album “By Name. By Nature” on August 7th 2020

That Joe Payne By Name. By Nature cover
Northampton singer-songwriter That Joe Payne (ex-The Enid) will independently release his debut solo album “By Name. By Nature” on August 7th, 2020.

That Joe Payne’s debut solo album is unlike anything you’ll hear this year. Showing every facet of his five-octave vocal range, and running a musical gamut ranging from prog to pop, it will dazzle the fans who knew him as an award-winning vocalist with The Enid while delighting an entirely new crop of admirers. With lyrics excavating a tough few years, in which he suffered a breakdown but came out the other side, it’s a record only this truly singular artist could have made. “I needed people to hear what I went through”, says the singer. “I had a lot of different album concepts, but this had to be the first one to help me let go of the stuff that was holding me back for so long”.

Written by Payne and co-produced with Max Read, the album took two and a half years to create. Having previously spent five years establishing himself with The Enid, Payne’s departure from the band triggered a period of soul-searching, and of learning how to write and arrange songs singlehandedly. “Because The Enid’s music was symphonic rock, having an orchestral nature with mad modulation and complexity behind it all, I felt like I had to really live up to that. Making sense of my ideas didn’t start until a couple of years ago. It was quite a nerve-wracking thing for me, I had to spend a long time learning to trust my instincts and believe in myself”.

Payne’s instincts led him to make an album which combines the deep introspection of the great singer-songwriters with blockbuster ambitions. It’s music packed with high drama, built to be performed in opera houses and arenas – and indeed Payne had worked out a full, elaborate stage show taking in magic, theatre and dance, until Covid-19 put his grand aspirations temporarily on hold. For now, we have “By Name. By Nature”, an album which marks the full flourishing of a remarkable new pop star with skyscraping countertenor to match. “The only people known for having a range like mine are Mariah Carey and Axl Rose”, Payne says of his operatic range. “So, I’m going to milk it”.

“By Name. By Nature” was recorded at The Lodge Recording Studio (Temples, The Enid, Alan Moore) and remotely from That Joe Payne’s home, both located in Northampton, UK, starting in September 2017 and finally mastered in April 2020. All music and lyrics are by That Joe Payne (except bonus tracks, which are re-workings of well-known classical pieces) and it is engineered, mixed, and mastered by Max Read. “By Name. By Nature” was produced by That Joe Payne and Max Read, and the cover art painted by local abstract and chemical composition artist Sarah Martin.

Pre-order “By Name. By Nature” here.

1. The Thing About Me Is
2. By Name. By Nature.
3. Nice Boy
4. In My Head
5. What is the World Coming To
6. Love (Not the Same) [feat. Ms Amy Birks]
7. I Need a Change
8. End of the Tunnel
9. Music for a While (CD bonus track)
10. Moonlit Love (CD bonus track)

The album weaves triumph from trauma. The title track “By Name. By Nature” turns Payne’s experiences – receiving hate mail from disgruntled Enid fans, being put down as a small boy by a mean teacher, and being gaslit as an adult – into an astonishing prog/pop mélange. “Nice Boy” explores the pressures of beingn put on a pedestal as the great new hope of an aging musical genre, with virtuosity and wit. Then there’s “I Need a Change”, conceived in an afternoon when Payne was “a shaking mess” at his lowest point, before “End of the Tunnel” concludes this epic song cycle. First conceived when Payne was a teenager and helping a boyfriend going through a mental health crisis, “End of the Tunnel” was written on the other side of his own experiences of anxiety and depression.

“The song’s coming from the other side, saying I’m not the one with the problem now but let me help you”, Payne says. “There’s hope”. Other songs, like “What is the World Coming To”, explore the joys and difficulties of growing up gay in a hetero society – in Payne’s case Tring, his hometown. “It was quite conservative, centre-right, people didn’t beat you up for being gay but they would make fun of you for it, so my whole childhood I was carrying that self-loathing and not wanting my sexuality to become my identity. It’s something I accept now, but I didn’t then because there was so much stigma attached to it”.

Then there’s the irresistible “Love (Not the Same)”, which features vocals by Progressive Music Award winner Ms Amy Birks and is about being in a relationship with someone with whom you have nothing in common. Though written about a man, “I figured it would be nice to duet with a female voice because it adds another element to the homophobia aspect, the need to play it straight and have a beard, but then that relationship being dysfunctional because it’s not honest, he’s a boy and she’s a girl, they’re not the same so it’s not going to work”.

Combining classical influences such as Beethoven and Mozart with millennial pop, Payne anchors eclectic song styles around his performance on a grand piano. However, the album is not a complete departure from Payne’s work with The Enid – several musicians from the band appear, including co-producer Max Read on backing vocals, Nicholas Willes (now with Editors) on drums and bass, and Duncan McLaughlan on guitar. Yet it is undeniably a stride towards bold new territory.

“Originally I didn’t want to alienate Enid fans, but I was also determined to bring in more of a pop element as well”, Payne explains. “By the end of the recording process I’m doing "By Name. By Nature" and "Nice Boy", and at that point I’m just producing the record I want to make. They have that symphonic rock element, but I was always interested in that classical crossover stuff – that’s why The Enid appealed to me in the first place. So that was always going to be a part of my sound. But by the end I was prepared to take any risk under the sun and see what I could get away with”.

Further influences from Payne’s creative past make an appearance. West End drummer and god sister Lisa Martin (Six the Musical/Zuzu) holds the groove on the title track, and “Love (Not the Same)”. Finally, Nikitas Kissonas (behind the Methexis project whose album “Suiciety” featured Payne in 2015) opens the album, playing stadium guitar on opening track “The Thing About Me Is”.

Either musically or in life, Payne is not a man afraid of risk. Originally training as an actor, he ended up joining The Enid as a backing vocalist, before becoming their first lead vocalist in 40 years of making music. Since becoming a professional musician in 2012, Payne has recorded 10 studio albums with The Enid, Zio, John Holden Music, and Methexis; supported Marillion at their 2019 convention in the Netherlands, and won Top Male Vocalist by the readers of Prog Magazine for two consecutive years.

Now his widescreen visions are destined to earn him an audience beyond that genre, with an album that was as therapeutic to make as it is stunning to listen to. “All that dark stuff, it’s all laid to rest now”, Payne says. “I’ve gone from caring too much about what other people think of me to not giving a shit anymore, and it’s a great freedom”. “By Name. By Nature” is the sound of a man finding his own magnificent voice.