Show girl

This article is from 2007.

Rather than battling for space with X Factor wannabes Candie Payne takes an altogether more heady route to pop perfection. Fiona Shepherd looks into her soul

Ex-art student Candie Payne became the most promising young pop singer in the country ‘by happy accident’. The happiness, it transpires, is all ours. Her debut album, I Wish I Could Have Loved You More, is an immaculate, cohesive 21st century spin on the sultry 60s pop of Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra and the enduring soundtrack cool of John Barry and Burt Bacharach, topped with Payne’s pure, bell-like voice.

While the likes of Lily Allen and Kate Nash write about kitchen sink situations with bitchy wit and let their estuary accents hang out, Payne’s music is more heady, escapist and less concerned with current trends. There are few to really compare her to, but she would seem to have more in common with the likes of old lags like Jarvis Cocker or Saint Etienne for their appreciation of widescreen pop than upstarts like Allen, Nash or that other femme feted for cribbing her fair share of notes from old Dusty albums, Amy Winehouse. One reason for this style could be a desire for her music not to be fixed in one particular movement or moment.

‘The thing about people like John Barry and Serge Gainsbourg,’ says Payne of her influences, ‘is their music sounds so timeless, and it still sounds modern now. That’s why it’s used so much in samples, because it still cuts it today. That’s something I’m inspired to try and achieve, so the sound I tried to get is more timeless rather than retro.’

One wonders if Payne would have made the same journey into the land of kohl eyeliner and backcombed hair if she didn’t hail from Liverpool. That city engaged in an ongoing love affair with the beatpop sound which sprang from its nightclubs in the 60s, and, via a certain fab foursome, influenced the course of popular music. While Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and their kin spent much of the early 80s creating a whole new set of musical reference points for the city, the Mersey sound reverted back to type in a most beguiling fashion with the arrival of Lee Mavers and The La’s debut album in 1990. After this it felt that for the greater part, the Mersey’s musical youth have remained under that spell. It seems like every new band to emerge from Liverpool in recent years has taken its cue from pop’s golden decade and Lee Maver’s finest 37 minutes. Payne is however, quick to defend her musical brethren.

‘Bands in Liverpool are just into really good music,’ she explains. ‘Melody seems to be quite important to Scouse bands. Maybe it’s the Irish influence, strong melodies and really nice parts in songs.’

For years now, Payne has been immersed in the city’s thriving grassroots music scene. She has two brothers in the biz already – Howie Payne, erstwhile frontman of much underrated jangle pop combo The Stands, is now a solo performer, while Sean is the drummer with those crazy, all-conquering pop charmers The Zutons.

It was generally accepted in the Payne clan that the brothers were the musicians of the family, while their younger sister was the artist. But then she was asked to sing on a cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ by her then boyfriend’s band. ‘And I’m not the sort of girl who’d say no to something like that,’ says Payne. ‘If somebody dares me to do something out of my comfort zone, I’ll do it.’

From that point on she was hooked immediately, joining another band for a time. There was one small problem: she had never written any music herself until she was introduced to Simon Dine, who has previously recorded a couple of albums of lush soundtrack exotica using the name Noonday Underground. The pair started work on what was to become her debut album. The painstakingly-composed result was released earlier this year on Liverpool’s Deltasonic label – which happens to also be home to The Zutons, so fraternal support is always close at hand.

‘If ever I need advice about anything at all, my brothers will sit me down and give me a few hours of their time, because they’ve been there and they’ve seen a lot of it before,’ says Payne. ‘But I think most useful for me was watching their experiences before I went into music, knowing how difficult it is, and how hard you’ve got to work. It made me think a lot more seriously about it than maybe kids that go on X Factor and think that it’s all one big hurrah.’

The mixed fortunes of her siblings may help to shape Payne the younger’s feelings on the contradictions and pitfalls of the music business but she is extremely upbeat about the whole adventure. In an industry teaming with almost- rans and nearly men moving into the spotlight in your own right takes no little nerve. But having taken an unexpected leap of faith to start singing in the first place, does she now feel that she is in her comfort zone?

‘The nature of the job is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone in a way, always trying to improve and be better and do things that you’ve never tried before,’ she says. ‘But in the sense that I think I’m doing the right thing, I’ve picked the right career – yeah, I am in my comfort zone.’

T on the Fringe, Cabaret Voltaire, 0870 169 0100, 9 Aug, 7pm, £7.50. A single, ‘One More Chance’ is out 3 Sep on Deltasonic.

Candie Payne

Floaty Liverpudlian songstress, sister of The Stands' Howie and The Zutons' Sean, who is influenced by the filmic sounds of Serge Gainsbourg and Nina Simone. Part of T on the Fringe.

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