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INTERVIEW W/ May Payne: "I started enjoying it when I stopped thinking about how you are supposed to perform"!

One of the most beautiful vocalists and emotive songwriters operating in the North-West right now is May Payne. Her 2023 EP is delicate in delivery, rich in sound and powerful in its emotional impact, taking innately intimate and vulnerable lyricism and infusing it with a swirling cinematic grandeur. May is equally comfortable performing insular, melancholic songs such as 'Sane' as she is performing expressive, heartfelt ballads such as 'Between The Lines'. We're in for a treat as she is heading over to Liverpool for a special performance at Round The Corner on January 26th for a show hosted by our friend Zara Smile that is aid of the DPDR charity. Tickets for the show available here.

Ahead of her show, we spoke with May about playing live, growing confidence as a performer and becoming comfortable with vulnerability...

Q. Before we started talking you mentioned the stresses of balancing your time between music, uni and a social life - how do you find managing this balance?

“Honestly, I do struggle with it a lot. I have like five different planners and I use my Google calendar and then I make spreadsheets so I do make a lot of attempts to stay on top of things but it’s hard. I always find a way to get things done but sometimes that does mean having a few days where I'm like ‘okay, I'm taking my ADHD medication and I'm just going to get everything done. What's hard is you have to wear a lot of hats. I feel like there’s a general philosophy of thinking artists have their heads in the clouds and they're just creating and dreaming but you really have to balance your creativity and being down to earth”.

Q. What do you enjoy most about playing live?

“I think, weirdly, I don't have as much experience playing live as people think. My first live gig was like March 2022 so I haven't really been gigging that long. When I started doing gigs I looked at everybody else performing and I was like ‘Oh my God, what are the rules? Like, how am I supposed to act? How am I supposed to talk? How do I look when I sing?’ but I think I started enjoying it when I stopped thinking about how you are supposed to perform. Now I love it because you can really let all the weirdness out”.

Q. Did it take you a while to become comfortable with yourself when performing?

“Yeah, definitely. I still struggle with it sometimes. I've never been very good at carrying myself, I always used to think I was dyspraxic so I think when I first started playing live I was overthinking about how to arrange myself. But then I realized that one of the pros of being an artist is you can be as weird as you want and that kind of elevates your performance”.

Q. Do you remember your first ever experience of playing live?

“Yes, I totally do. I got a really cool opportunity to support Rosie Fraser Taylor at Blue's Kitchen here in Manchester, which is a really cool venue. I think especially the music I was making at that point in time suited that format a lot. A bunch of people came that I knew, which was really cool. Honestly, I got the gig and then thought ‘I don't even think me and my band have half an hour of songs’. It was so much fun. I was definitely really nervous, it felt like the biggest deal in the whole world and I was so scared of doing the wrong thing but afterwards it was great, and I felt like I was Adele and had just played the O2”.

Q. What advice would you give to any new artists who are scared about performing?

“It sounds really cheesy but just really try and connect with who you are because there is no right way to do something and people don’t just connect with music that is good, they connect with music or with artists that are unique. Don't worry about being good, just make sure you are being yourself”.

Q. A lot of your music is very sentimental with personal lyrics - do you feel nervous about performing such vulnerable songs to an audience?

“Yeah, definitely. I didn't even realize how vulnerable a lot of my songs were until people started telling me they were to be honest. I think I inherently make vulnerable songs because when I write songs it’s just me pouring thoughts onto a page, kind of like journaling, and it's not filtered at all. One of my songs, ‘I Hate The Way You Touch Me’, is very vulnerable and when I played that first gig and I wasn’t going to play it until my drummer told me I should but then the reaction from people after that show was that it was the best song. I realized there is something really nice about being your most unfiltered, saying all the things that you really wouldn't say to anybody else and people connecting with that”.


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