Justin Payne: The Northwest Ohio Vagabond

Justin Payne is a songwriter born in Newark, Ohio. It’s a town in Northwest Ohio that has befallen to some hard times. At 18 he was able to attend Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio where he calls home now.  It was in Newark where music really took a hold of him, and where using this medium of art he could calm his mind. If ever the statement were true, that being, “music is therapy” it is true to Justin who deals with his own mental handicaps as he was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. Music for him is that release for him, which in his words, “I have never found a pharmaceutical solution to these issues more powerful than experiencing and performing music.” That testament is defined in his songwriting, and within his playing and performing.

He started playing violin when he was 8 years old, in a public orchestra program. By 18, he was in love with string instruments in general. Violin can seem daunting for anyone no matter what age you are, but over a period of time not only did violin grow on him but pretty much all stringed instruments. While attending BGSU, he took up the mandolin, guitar, and bass. Through this experience, he honed in on his craft, that, and a with the help of a teacher from high school. Said teacher introduced Justin to James Brown, Appalachian Folk Music, and other forms but the main thing this teacher taught him was to have “bigger ears,” and “to not fear trying unconventional combinations with performance and composition.” Speaking as somebody who has heard Justin’s music, this translates beautifully into his songs.

Justin has some music out there. His EP, Interstellar Vagabond is on Bandcamp. Through his inflection of his voice, the delivery of the song, and his playing of the guitar, I can hear the effort that he has put in. All of the years of work, and writing, and really honing in on his craft is all palpable within his songs. Justin, like most artists in general, has a vault (for lack of a better word) that one goes to for inspiration or to finish a song. It’s extensive as well. Within his vault there are songs in there that have been there for over 10 years. Some of them become “done” others get re-worked for any number of reasons. The most important part about this however, is the work and hours put into it just to make a song playable for his own ears. The songwriting process is different for everyone, for any musician, Justin is simply using his own methods to his madness.

With three tours under his belt, and certainly looking for more, Justin is merely setting off to share his songs in any town that will give him a shot. For him, it is the getting out and being on the road where he finds comfort, and takes solace in. I get the feeling this is where a lot of songs come from as well, and that vault grows. Justin and I had an email conversation, and I have known of him since last winter. His songwriting is deep and thought out, and his playing is top notch. Through our email conversation and his EP Interstellar Vagabond, I’m not sure where else he would like to be? He has a partner in crime, and misses this person when he is gone, but the road can lend so many amazing moments and worrisome moments as well. All he knows is he wants to keep going at this wherever it may lead to.

I asked Justin the question I ask everyone: Why music? Of all things to do and create why this? And I will let Justin close this out, “Music has always helped to heal me when I have been broken. I have Bipolar II disorder, and there have been some truly dark and desperate times, in my life. I have never found a pharmaceutical solution to these issues more powerful than experiencing and performing music. It has literally helped me through the worst parts and framed the most golden days of my life. If I can create something like that, and it can have the power to do the same thing for another person that it has done for me, then I believe that I should give everything I have to my muses and create the best music that I can in this life.

Additionally, songs are immortal. People come and go, lives end eventually. One day, none of us will be here anymore, but the songs we write and the music we make can have an enduring legacy, well beyond our own short times here. That's powerful stuff, much more so than the technological progress, corporate mass media news-as-entertainment, and "reality" programming we have come to worship.

All of that will eventual crumble, but there will still be someone beating on a drum, blasting out a hall with their horn, or plucking the strings. Music endures and is a truly universal language far superior to most of the rest of what humanity has managed to create.”

Justin Payne will be at The Listing Loon this Sunday July 24th, and I highly recommend him.