Barbara Payton: Michigan Talent Rides with the Silver Bullet Band

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 627   By: Robert E Martin

07th December, 2006     0

Barbara Payton is a musical force of nature, and hence possesses all the elements essential to go places in Rock 'n Roll.  A fiery, lean, lanky redhead with a powerful and nuanced laden voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin genetically spliced to Bette Midler, the first time I became aware of Payton was six years ago through her work with Stewart Francke.  Payton was performing as a back-up singer in Stewart's band, and opened his CD release party at The Magic Bag in Detroit with a set of her own hard-rocking brand of Roadhouse R&B.

Needless to say, I was blown away, as few artists command a stage with such an unabashed display of timing, energy, and release. Attired in jeans and a designer sheepskin coat, Payton wielded the microphone around like Rod Stewart back in his Faces days, yet could reach into soul stirring depths on quieter ballads in a cabaret style reminiscent of the poignant, breathless delivery of Midler, and even Liza Minnelli (if the Pet Shop Boys were at the helm).

A definitive force on the Detroit music scene for close to two decades, Payton has two original cd's already under her belt, Walk on Water and Enjoy the View, that fully showcase the tapestry and textures of her music - deeply honest, immensely heartfelt, and brimming with raw energy.

So it should not be surprising that when Bob Seger began making plans for his first major tour in well over a decade, he would tap upon Barb Payton to join the backing vocal line-up of Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy in the 2006 incarnation of Seger's Silver Bullet Band.

Recently I caught up with Payton for a brief interview, as she was caught in an ice storm in Chicago in-between gigs on Seger's current sold-out comeback tour.

Review: Please discuss your background in music, so readers have a sense of who you are.  When did you first get interested in music and what type of projects have you focused upon?

Payton: Music was always a pivotal part of my upbringing due to the fact that my parents are both retired music teachers. I started singing very early on in the church choir and then I began playing an instrument as well. As far as my becoming focused upon projects in the vein of music, that didn't happen until much later.

I simply enjoyed singing and only seemed to fantasize about taking my craft seriously, however once I let go of the fantasy and decided to form my own band (talk about bringing you down to reality) the rewards of doing so greatly outweighed living in a fantasy. All that being said, the next project I will focus on will be to release another cd.

Review: How did you manage to get the gig with the Silver Bullet Band?

Payton: I know several people that work for Bob and they encouraged his manager Punch Andrews to come out and hear me sing. We became friends and since then he has been instrumental in opening several doors for me to some of my most memorable musical experiences.

Review:  Had you been a big fan of Bob Seger prior to auditioning?

Payton: Absolutely!

Review:  What is it like embarking upon a tour of this magnitude and caliber? Is it daunting to perform in front of so many sold-out audiences and what does such an experience feel like?

Payton: I'm not sure that I can even describe it accurately. Surreal would be one word that comes to mind. I'd also say that it has been life changing in the most amazing way. To answer your question "is it daunting to perform to so many sold out audiences" hell yes!

Review:  Personally and professionally, what are the most challenging components about touring with Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band?

Payton: Professionally I'd have to say that it was learning all my parts and trying my best every time to nail them.  I have a newfound respect for anyone who has ever sang backups. Laura Creamer & Shaun Murphy are two of the most gifted singers that I have ever had the pleasure and honor of working with.

Personally I'd have to say that it's adjusting to the road and being away from my family and friends.

Review:  Do you notice, or have you been able to assess, any differences in working with Bob as opposed to other artists or musicians you have worked with in the past?  Ancillary question:  What are you learning from this?

Payton: I can't make a comparison because I've never worked with someone of this magnitude before. I will say that I am learning more than I ever could have imagined I would, personally and professionally.

Review:  What are your favorite Bob Seger songs?

Payton: How do you pick just a few from such a vast and amazing catalog? Okay, if I have to then it would be Ramblin Gamblin Man, Beautiful Loser, "We've Got Tonight" and Travelin Man.

Review: Are you involved much, as part of the band, with selection of songs for the set list and do the shows vary much?  Seger has such a huge catalog of great material that I'm curious as to how these decisions are derived?

Payton: No. He has all the artistic control over the song choices at every rehearsal, as he should.

Review:  Are there any experiences from the tour thus far that truly stand out in your mind?

Payton: YesŠand I can't share them with you. Okay, I can tell you that I will never forget the first time I stepped out onto that stage and heard the roar of the crowd!    When the lights came up and I saw how many people were there, I thought I might faint.

Review:   How long will you be touring and what are your plans after the tour?

Payton: It looks as though the tour may end sometime in March, but don't hold me to that.
After the tour I plan on going back to my music and writing some new songs with some of my band members for the next cd. Of course I'll play out live as well, because I just love singing, especially with the great groups of guys that I work with!

For more information on Barbara Payton, or to purchase her CD's, check out


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