Michael Paynter, Melbourne singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist and the man I have seen silence a room on many occasions with the mere sound of his voice and a performance conveyed with an emotion and honesty rarely seen these days, at least here in Australia anyway! With his latest single How Sweet It Is all over radio, that album release that has eluded him for the best part of 4 years is coming soon, very soon. With multiple radio hits, stadium tours with acts as diverse as The Script, John Farnham and Miley Cyrus, songs featured in major TV shows and so much more, you would think it would have come sooner, but proving the determination and integrity of the person that he is, Paynter views this as a journey that has but made him stronger.
If you live in Melbourne, then you will have the opportunity to catch Paynter this coming Friday 12 August at the Pier Live in Frankston, supported by many bands, including the awesome Spitfire Rain, or the following night, Saturday August 13th at the Village Green, Mulgrave.
Read on to find out more about what it is that makes Michael Paynter the unique performer that he is….
Coming off the Miley Cyrus stadium tour, I suspect you will be looking forward to the couple of more intimate shows coming up this weekend in Melbourne!
Yes, I am actually extremely looking forward to that. I get to go back a little to I guess where I started playing. In this job I get to do so many different things. As your shows change from 20,000 people to 300, I’m just looking forward to stripping the set back and having a lot more crowd interaction. I think when people come to those shows they come away feeling like they know you a bit better, which you don’t get in the stadiums.
What can we expect from the setlist, are you intending to throw in a few more new songs?
There’s a whole bunch of stuff I want to do with the set. There’s a few surprises here and there, a couple of favourites that people have been asking me to play for a while, so I an very much looking forward to it.
Going back to what you said earlier. I have seen you about 5 or 6 times now, never met you, yet feel like I know you. Is that interaction with the crowd and the honesty and openess that you convey during your shows one of the key things you hope someone attending your show walks away thinking, feeling?
Yes I think that’s the single most important thing when I am playing live. I think that people don’t really care so much if your band is great, or if your voice is 100%, I think people are really concerned about knowing who you are as an artist and seeing and hearing a continuity between what I am saying in my songs and representing myself as a person. I think when people are in the room with you, they can really pick out fakeness very easily. It’s a good chance for me to be really true and hopefully people enjoy it as much as I do.
Your latest single is How Sweet It Is and I very rarely listen to the radio, yet whenever I do, it seems it has always been on, even in my local fruit shop the last 4 weeks!
Well I am popular with the oranges haha!
Are you planning on releasing a video for that song as well?
We have a whole bunch of that stuff that is just taking a little while for the cogs to get in motion. But it is definitely happening very soon!
I am sure you have been asked this question a thousand times over the last few years, but I suspect we are now nearing closer to a concrete answer. What of the Michael Paynther album, what is the status of that, when are we likely to see this come out?
It’s done and finished and it’s completely finished and mastered. There’s a couple of singles to get away first, but that’s all just around the corner. I’m very much looking forward to that moment as well, it’s going to be awesome.
A few years back you recorded an albums worth of material that was never officially released, what of those songs, are they going to be basically left on the EP releases etc and the new album is to be made up of new songs?
You never know mate what we are going to do with some of that old stuff. There’s definitely going to be a bunch of new stuff on the album, but then there’s a whole bunch of stuff that I have recorded over the last 8 years that we are going to put together into a good package. So there’s definitely going to be a lot of songs people haven’t heard before.
Throughout this journey over the last 3 or 4 years, what have been some of your key learning experiences…obviously exercising patience is well and truly one of them!
I think you hit a nail on the head with patience. One of the things this business teaches you is that it never goes the way you expect it to, whether that be a good thing or a bad thing. It takes a lot longer and a lot more money than you may think, unless you are going to go on a TV show! I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is when I feel something in my gut and I know, that I know, that I know it, that is always the way that you go. Whether it be writing a song or choosing a video treatment, any of that kind of stuff, it’s that feeling in your gut, that’s the thing that you need to follow. As soon as you start listening to a whole bunch of people that want to tell you something different, that’s when stuff starts to go wrong. So I think it’s been a lesson in confidence and definitely patience!
So I guess for you personally, the album coming out now is not then necessarily such a bad thing, I guess it would definitely represent who Michael Paynter is as a songwriter and performer in 2011.
Yeah yeah and I got to make my debut album twice haha! I’m very glad that the album that’s going to come out, I know that I am very, very much ready now. I’m not so sure I would have been ready when the first one would have been released in 2008, so I am grateful for the opportunity to get things right before it happened.
Did you largely self produce the forthcoming album?
Well some work was done with Gary Clark in L.A, but basically everything else was done and produced in my studio here, so it’s all mixed here as well and mastered here in Melbourne. I’ve been trying to take all the stuff I have learnt touring the world working with people and doing it here in Melbourne, which not many people are doing.
The beauty of a lyric is people have the liberty of their own interpretation and meaning, for me personally I take away a positive message from your songs. Is this one of the intended messages you try and convey as a songwriter, or do you not try and convey a message as such?
You know, I very rarely go into a songwriting session and creating a topic and then writing to it, unless I am writing for someone else for their stuff which is a large part of my career as well. When I am writing for Michael Paynter, it always comes from a very real place. So I am either feeling a certain emotion, or really strongly about an issue that I want to put into the music. Sometimes I will be in the studio and pull up some beats and start producing up a little track and write to that. But even doing that, I try and listen to what the music is telling me. Every time I go into writing a song, even without melody or lyrics, the music will always tell you what it wants to say. I think the worst songs are when you try and force a topic into a song which is not saying that. Like if you tried to put Sunday Bloody Sunday over TickTok, it’s not going to feel as true. So I guess that’s what I try to do and I guess for the most part it tends to be pretty organic.
When you commence to write a song, do you have a general process that you follow, eg. does it always start from a musical idea you have, or does it start from a lyrical or lyrical theme idea you might have?
Yes for me it almost always starts with a melody, sometimes it might be a certain lyric or very rarely I might get a topic, but usually for me it’s the music which tells me what it wants to say.
You have written with an amazing array of songwriters from around the world over the last few years, in what ways do you think you have evolved as a songwriter during this time?
Well I think I have taken a lot on about what makes a good song. The people I have written with are professionals and the best in the world at what they do. So it’s one thing to feel a strong emotion and have that spill over into your music, but it’s another thing to create that without having to feel the strong emotion first. So that work ethic about writing songs, which when you get that right, they kind of work in tandem with each other and they’re not mutually exclusive. Coming from a dude that sat in his room and wrote a song when he felt like it, to kind of write a song for an album and find a connection point in myself, that’s been a growth point. I just think over time I’ve tried to listen harder when I’m writing a song.
You mentioned earlier that you write a lot for other artists, how do you find that experience, especially if you are forced to write about a specific lyrical theme, which is not necessarily what you would do for your own material?
I love it, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I think it took me a while to make sure that I wasn’t putting Michael Paynter onto the artists I was working with. Obviously they are coming to me because I have a certain set of skills that they want on their tunes, but they don’t want a Michael Paynter tune, they want a them tune. So it definitely took a while for me to take a step back and make sure I was listening to what the artists want and what they want from this song and how I get it out of them. So yes, it’s lots of fun!
Now this music may be a bit difficult for you to answer, but we will see how we go. Do you think you have a good handle on the type of person that listens to your music?
Well, I think it’s frustratingly broad I think. If I had a boxed in demographic it would be much easier to milk them for all they are worth publicity wise. Obviously I just did the Miley Cyrus tour so it’s appealing to 10 year olds and then I did the John Farnham tour which is 50 to 60 year olds. In my heart of hearts I kind of think good music transcends demographics and style and fads. One thing I always cling to as an artist that I heard Bono say once was that U2 were never the coolest band, but they were always the best. So you know, I am not always interested in trying to write songs that are cool, whilst although that’s a good thing, it’s not my main focus. My main focus is to write the best songs I can and be the best artist I can. If that goes hand in hand with writing cool songs, then that’s a good thing.
Now to just explain my reason for that question, I grew up on a diet of 80’s rock and generally listen to the heavier side of rock and there’s certainly others I know that come from a similar musical background who really dig your stuff. I know you are well aware of who Butch Walker is, so that’s I guess the angle where I come in.
Yes definitely well aware of Butch Walker and one of my favourite singers is Lou Gramm, so there you go, 80’s rock 101.
Well there you go, there’s another question answered, concerning who your favourite singers are!
I have witnessed for myself your abilities on guitar and keyboard and obviously singer, but there is also a drummer in you as well isn’t there. What instrument came first?
I started playing piano when I was 4, my mum made me do it! Then when I got to Grade 6 and realised that wasn’t cool anymore, I picked up the guitar and started playing Nirvana tunes. Then I didn’t really look back, I’ve always had piano as a second instrument but I am probably most proficient in the guitar. I am not a virtuoso of any instrument, drums included, I think I know enough about my instruments to say what I want to say with my songs and I know enough to communicate an emotion. I’m not going to be able to do a solo guitar or piano instrumental album, but for me as an artist, there’s nothing I hear in my head that I can’t, with some time, get out on my instrument. I think I just got to a point with my instruments where I wasn’t limited by that and then flew by the seat of my pants for the rest of it. As for drums, I like to play the drums and I’ll never call myself a drummer, I consider myself a musician who plays the drums.
Who are some of your biggest influences from a guitar playing point of view?
The guitarists I listen to the most would be Irwin Thomas (Jack Jones), he’s probably been the biggest influence on my playing. Then probably equal to that is Robben Ford.
Who’s coming out here in a few months…
I know, I already have tickets and am looking forward to that!
Then to a lesser extent there’s also Andy Summers and Mark Knopfler as well. I like the way how expressive they are with their instruments. Probably even people like Jonny Lang more recently, who just know how to rip a pop/blues tune which is quite inspiring.
So what is on the horizon as far as the remainder of 2011 is concerned….new album and I assume a bunch of shows?
There’s a whole bunch of tours that we can’t really announce yet, but we are planning to get to every state and every capital and finally take the album to people. There’s also a bunch of supports coming up, so stay tuned to social media I guess and you will find out before too long.
Well I really appreciate your time mate and look forward to seeing you Friday night at Frankston which is what show I will be attending!
Thanks mate, see you there!
Live Band Members: Michael Paynter – Guitar,Keys,Vocals, Nathan Goble – Bass,Vocals, Leigh Fisher – Drums, Susie Goritchan – Backing Vocals
Latest Release: How Sweet It Is (Single) – (2011, Sony Music Australia)