CRESCENT Entertainment: The Piedmont Boys’ Greg Payne Opens Up on Stories from the Road and What it Takes to Get Noticed by Nashville

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South Carolina is not exactly shabby when it comes to turning out musical acts.

Not it’s not.

We’ve got a pretty strong history in this state.  Even recently, you look at Hootie, you look at Edwin.  I can remember back in high school watching Edwin play acoustic, sitting on a bar stool out in front of what was Dempsey’s, across the street from the Hyatt.  I mean those guys, they took their lumps and they made it, so we’ve got it in this state, there’s no doubt about that. 

Every band has that ONE road story.  What that’s one road story for you so far? Because it’s still early.  Another one’s gonna come along but right now there’s got to be that one.

We’ve got so many that I can’t even say, but honestly, the best story I could think of was our last night with Dierks Bentley on the Jaeger Tour.  We were in Norfolk, Virginia and we played in font of a packed house at the NorVa, and the place — when we got through with our set, obviously we were the first band on — the place erupted because we threw a little shout out to the…we had a song that was a tribute to the soldiers.  It’s on our new CD and half of the people there were all military because it was in Norfolk near the air base.  Well, it erupted, man, it was crazy.  The loudest noise I’ve ever heard for us.  So after the show was over, it was our last show for the Jagermeister Tour for everybody, so the Jagermeister people took us out and had way too many Jaegers.  I lost my band, couldn’t find them and ended up walking back to the venue where we parked our truck and trailer.  It was gone.  My cell phone was dead so I didn’t know what else to do but wait there.  It was about 2 in the morning, I guess.  I sat down amongst several homeless people, and I fell asleep.  I got woken up I don’t know how long later by a couple of ladies and they were like, “Hey. Weren’t you the guy that opened up for Dierks tonight?”  I was like, “Yeah.”  “What are you doing here? You’re going to get killed.”  I said, “Well, I lost my band, my cell phone was dead, and I didn’t know where else to go.”  “You’re coming with us.”  I woke up in a hotel, up on the top floor the next day, buck naked, in this bed with these 2 girls.  I don’t know what happened.  They told me the whole story.  Ended up having to put on Facebook the next day, “Hey, band guys, I’m in room ….”  I’d borrowed one of their phones, and sure enough, about an hour later, they called me and came and got me, and we went on home.  That was a pretty funny story.

And people say Facebook doesn’t have any use.

Exactly, it saved me that day.

What do you have right now on your iPod that would surprise people or you’ve absolutely embarrassed to admit?

I’m an 80s hair band guy, man.  I love Poison Cinderella, Motley Crue. I think that may or may not surprise people, but I’m definitely not embarrassed about it.  I love that kind of stuff.  I like the old Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill” album.  That’s what I used to listen to when I was in middle school.  Anytime one of those songs comes on, I’ll listen to it.  But as far as new stuff I’m just learning about?  It may not be that new to a lot of people.  I was out west a couple weeks ago.  A guy who was riding me around had a Hayes Carll CD.  You ever heard of Hayes Carll?  Texas guy, but he is one of the best song writers.  His album is amazing.  So I’ve been listening to him a lot. It’s really good songs.  Good melodies and good musicianship.  His songwriting is incredible. I love it.  I just got introduced to him.  Other than that, man, I’ve always got my Waylon in there, my Willie, my Merle.

Who’s your number 1?  If I said you’ve got to pick somebody, who’s number 1?

It would be Johnny Cash.

Hands down?

It’s a tough one to call, but if I’ve got to pick one, he’s the one I relate to most.  I used to listen to him when I was a kid.  I had a record player next to my bed.  I would play Johnny Cash records every night when I went to bed.  I just put the needle on there and let it go, and it’d put me to sleep.  So I know so many Johnny Cash songs that people have never even heard before.  “Did you write that?”  “No, I wish I did.”  But Johnny is my number one all-time.

And it’s a shame that kids coming up today will never understand what music means when it’s on vinyl and to hear that scratch and pop.  It just adds something else to the music.

But a lot of new artists are starting to put out vinyl and it’s starting to make a comeback. You go into any of these old record stores now, these vintage record stores like Horizon in Downtown Greenville, there are a ton of them now.  They all refurbish these old record players and sell them. Hank III. He put one out on vinyl.  I think Jamie Johnson has his last one on vinyl, too.  Obviously they have the CD, but as a side thing, they do vinyl, too.  It’s coming back around.  My guitarist, every time he runs by a record store, he stops and buys a couple of records.  But you’re right and I think people are starting to understand that and starting to get back in to it more.

There’s just something about that sound, that scratch and pop and the needle that added its own, different track.  It’s funny you talk about Hank III.  The last time I saw something with him, it was doing something with Jesco White.

Uh-huh.  Yep, “The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.”  Isn’t that right?  I saw that the other day.

What do you hate getting asked, or have I already asked it?

I don’t hate getting asked anything, man.  Except that it shows when I get asked to play a Rascal Flatts song or something.  I hate getting asked that.  But other than that, I guess I never even thought about that question.  Maybe that’s the one I hate to get asked.

OK.

Naw, I don’t know, man.  I’m just kidding.

Not too long ago, CRESCENT sat down with Aaron Tippin and he discussed the impact that digital recording and distribution have in new artists getting their music heard. He said:  “It’s still the same old way.  There is still no star ever born without a great song.  You gotta have a great song and it always starts there.  That hasn’t changed.  That’s one thing in the music business that hasn’t changed.  You’ve got to have a great song.  If you do, then that’s the first step.”  The stuff that you guys are putting out could be placed in rotation tomorrow.  So what’s the next step for y’all, and do you agree with what Aaron says?

I do agree. There are a lot of people that people put money behind, and I’m not going to name any names, but they are absolutely awful.  They’re touring around on the bus, and they’re playing in front of thousands of people every night, but they’re awful, awful, awful.  But the cream rises to the top, that’s why those people don’t stay around.  He’s right, you’ve got to have a good song.  After that, you’ve got to have a follow-up song to stay around.  The next thing for us is really is to keep building the fan base, keep getting people to talk about us, making sure we play all of our gigs.  You never know who’s going to be at the show.  It’s about just keeping forward with what we’re doing and what we have been doing.  We’ve got to keep writing songs, like Aaron says.  I appreciate what you said.  I think we’ve got a lot of good songs, but I’m always looking for that one that just above every other one.  I’m not a strategic song writer.  I don’t sit around in a group of people and say, “OK, let’s write about this topic.”  Songs just come to me out of nowhere.  A little melody, a little line or something.  I’ve got to keep writing my style and hope that it catches on somewhere.  I met…it was funny…here’s another story for you along the same lines.  We played a show at the hockey game a couple weeks ago.

I saw that, something about y’all playing in the concourse.

And the after party, a lot of hockey players were at Ford’s Oyster House. It just so happened, there was a song writing forum there.  A bunch of guys from Nashville were there…a bunch of girls and guys.  One of them had just written “Crazy Town” for Jason Aldean.  His name is Brett Jones.  There were a bunch of other ones there and the owner of the bar said, “You’ve got to meet these people.”  OK, I met a couple. They were real short with me.  I came back in the bar…

They’re sitting there thinking “Here’s somebody plugging their CD…”

Some girl, without me knowing, signed me up for karaoke. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and so I didn’t know she did it.  I went up there, sat at the bar drinking my drink.  They said, “Greg Payne, ‘Folsom Prison,’ come on up.”  I’m like, “Oh, man, I don’t want to sing right now.”  But I go on up there and sing anyway.  As soon as I did, the songwriters came over and said, “Who are you?”  And I said, “I’m Greg out of The Piedmont Boys.”  “Here’s my card.  You need to send me what you’ve written.  I want to hear everything you’ve got.”  I said, “You’ve got it.”  I haven’t done it yet, but as soon as I get situated with my move, I’m going to.  Little stuff like that.  I’m a firm believer of you pay your dues and you keep persevering, you’re going to end up in front of the right people.  And I’m not saying that I’m counting on that to even go anywhere, but it could.  I could get discovered just like Gretchen Wilson did playing in a… singing in a karaoke bar somewhere.  So I don’t know, I don’t have a huge…I’m not smart enough in the business to have this big musical plan.  I really don’t.  I just want to keep booking gigs and building the fan base. I’m trying to network on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can.  I’m just trying to spread what we’ve got, and it’s a slow spread because we’re not on the radio.  But every week I see our fan base building up and building up.  As long as it doesn’t stall out, that’s what we want.

To keep up with The Piedmont Boys, visit them at www.ThePiedmontBoys.com.

If you want to hear The Piedmont Boys live, catch them:

  • Friday, January 20, 2012 at Wild Wing Café in Asheville, NC
  • Friday, January 27, 2012 at Rusty Rudder in Cornelius/Lake Norman, NC
  • Saturday, February 4, 2012 at Johnny and June’s in Winston Salem, NC
  • Friday, February 10, 2012 at Ford’s Oyster House in Greenville, SC

Stay Tuned for Part 4. To Read Part 1, Click HERE. To Read Part 2, Click HERE.

 

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