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Joshua's Pain

He sang with unrestrained longing, his classically-trained voice reverberating with such passion and raw emotion it was almost palpable throughought the room. It was Joshua Payne singing a few bars from "Your Love My Home," a song he co-wrote with Grammy winning producer-songwriter Michael Omaritan, which is also the title track of his debut album.

Filipinos can certainly relate to Payne's songs, being such romantics. His songs and the way he sings them with breathtaking sincerity course through one's heart. He has had his heart broken a couple of times before, he says, before he finally found true love. This is a surprising revelation from someone who, apart from being gifted with a deep baritone voice that can set ladies' hearts a-flutter, has the looks that can very well pass for a GQ model.

Voted by People Magazine as one of the Sexiest Men of 2004, Payne is now caught in a whirlwind of promotional tours, which includes a series of local TV guestings and a live performance on Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Meralco Theater at 8 p.m. (Tomorrow, Dec. 4, Payne's itinerary includes autograph signings at Odyssey at SM Megamall at 3 p.m. and O Music, Power Plant Mall at 6 p.m.).

Although the gifted singer may be at the peak of his career at this point in his life, he admits to getting off to a rocky start early on when, after graduating from high school and getting to Ouchita College in Arkansas on a football scholarship, he sustained serious injuries to his knee and shoulder after a year playing football. Music, thus, became a great consolation during this painful period.

"After getting injured, I came home and went soul-searching. Music has always been a part of my life. My father was a music minister, while my mother was a classical singer, so I've been exposed to a wide array of music," he relates.

Payne was actually born almost completely deaf and had an operation as a toddler. To rehabilitate his hearing completely, his parents would sit him down on the stereo and play everything from James Taylor to Prokofiev. It was also around this time when his parents discovered he had a good singing voice, encouraging him to sing in church and school functions. But then sports was his passion, until he got injured and started playing guitar and piano more seriously.
What the diamond field had lost eventually became one of opera's great finds.

Payne decided to study music formally, working with a voice teacher who had studied with the legendary Nicolai Gedda, one of the great "heroic tenors" of the 20th century. It was then that Payne began winning opera competitions. He was eight-time regional and state winner with the National Association of Teachers of Singing. After finishing undergraduate studies, he applied to the Master of Fine Arts program in vocal music at the Univeristy of Memphis and was simultaneously accepted for an artist-in-residence position at Opera Memphis, touring and performing with a professional opera company while performing great baritone title roles like Don Giovanni and Sweeney Todd.

He admitted to at one time wanting to go back to sports but his studies made it quite difficult. "I had felt the pain...and, at that time I was trying to get some kind of closure so I went into everything." Everything meant doing carpentry work: "I grew up in a farm, you know,with horses and cows and all that." And, having quite a bit of an interest in fashion, put up a store selling vintage fashion.

After finishing graduate work, he moved to Nashville to pursue his singing and songwriting until he got introduced to Nashville-based Michael Omaritan. The result of that collaboration had been "Your Love My Home."

When asked what brought on his forays into pop music, Payne said: "At that time, I looked back into my life and it's like...everything was going too fast. I was, like, turning a new chapter in my life. Songwriting is something I've always done in my own time and when all of the opera sort of...came away, eveything made sense. The album is basically my take on pop music."

Owing to a lot of classical singers who have lately gone into mainstream and gained relative success, it was inevitable that Payne would eventually be compared to another classical tenor, Josh Groban, being one of them.

"You know, a lot of that is starting to diminish as we (Payne and the record label) progress, and I think a lot of people will begin to understand the difference between us. Right now there are a lot of people out there who are still grappling with the kind of music we do, especially the new generation," says Payne.

The album, includes two original songs, "The Moon" and "My World" both words and music by Payne, that speak of falling in love. He also performs three pop classics, Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now," "If" by David Gates of Bread and "Let It Be Me" by French chanteur Gilbert Becaud.

"I grew up with a lot of these music and it had been a great idea when we thought of doing the these covers," says Payne. How then does he make these songs his own?

"When we thought of doing these songs, it's not like I take the song and say,'Now, how do I dance around it or how do I feel the groove to make it work,' For me it's always been like, 'My life syncs with the message that's there (in the song).' That's the time I can say that I had literally felt that emotion. It becomes easier for me then to adapt the song. At this point I'm beginning to know who I am, as a person and as an artist, so it's easier for me to say: 'Ok, this is how I would approach the song."

Payne admits to wanting to do other cover songs of singers like Bill Weathers and is really flipped out about John Meyer's songwriting ("He writes incredible music"). He would also like to work with Marc Jordan, a Canadian songwriter he particularly admires and of course, Micheal Omaritan. But when it comes to writing his own songs, he says his music is really "my story," thoughts and feelings that he wants to say.

"I'm listening all the time to what goes on in my surroundings and I think there's a muse out there, I don't know...maybe it's in the air or whatever, or it came divinely. At the same time there are recurrent themes, like a life motiff. That's when I get a get the lyrics and I start to write."

He went on to add that everything that happens around us is actually all about love. "I mean, what else is there to write about? It's the thing that holds us together. It's the reason we're all here. It's what we all seek and desire. Maybe I can write songs about political things but I guess ultimately I would still end up writing about love," Payne concludes.


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