Variously described as one of the UK's most unique and versatile guitarists, Steve Payne is also feted as a talented and non-predictable singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, wordsmith and story-teller whose compositions cross the musical boundaries from Blues to Folk to Contemporary Roots.
Starting out in the folk club boom of the 70's Steve appeared, recorded and played with many, and indeed most, of the musical roots innovators of that time and since. He first stepped onto the stage in 1972, appearing in various college folk clubs. His first paid performance - for the princely sum of £10 - was in the inauspicious surroundings of the Printers Devil pub in Slough in 1974.
But his emerging talents were soon in demand and he began to play guitar with Joanna Carling, who had signed to Dick James. He played on Fancy That, produced by Hugh Murphy (of Gerry Rafferty fame) and went on to play with Gerry Donaghue, Gary Herd, Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Gary Taylor (Peter Frampton).
By 1976, he was touring Europe with Loudon Wainwright III, and also found time to team up with comedian Jasper Carrott on his memorable Funky Moped tour. He featured with various other artists of the time, recording with Rosie Hardman on the Eagle Over Blue Mountain album in 1978, which was produced by Steeleye Span's Nigel Pegrum.
As punk swept the nation, Payne briefly followed suit, his new band Brent Ford and the Nylons swerving from R'n'B to punk and back again. The early eighties saw the birth of the Paynekillers, a band which evolved into the longstanding regional rock & blues favourite, The Parole Brothers. Their debut album, "When's your album coming out?" found favourable reviews. During this time Payne continued to work with other artists, most notably Dr John and blues legend B.B. King.
In 1986, he moved to L.A. and played on the West Coast scene for three years, before returning to the U.K. to form The Candy Run. The band's debut album of the same name took three years to complete, punctuated by Payne's return visit to L.A.
Back in the UK in 1989, he teamed up with well-known musician Steve Tilston and together they played Glastonbury Festival and recorded the album, "In For a Penny, In For a Pound". Candy Run toured for a year or so, before Steve began working with harmonica afficionado Keith Warmington.
They played Glastonbury Festival in 1993 and a new band - Payne and Friends - took shape soon afterwards, touring Europe through 1994. This year also saw Steve begin to move more heavily into slide guitar and jazz styles, teaming up with fellow (unrelated!) guitarist Rick Payne. The two played together regularly over the next couple of years, a period that also saw Steve's first collaborations with blues singer/songwriter Maggie Thomas.
They recorded one acoustic album at the Hope Centre in Bristol - aptly named "Hope", and carried out a successful, televised tour of America's East Coast in 1998. During this period, Payne returned to Toronto where he built a following, appearing with Paul Brady in 1997.
Steve began to focus more on his Roots leanings in the late nineties, leaving the electric side of his music alone, and releasing a succession of acoustic albums. "Six" was released in 2000, followed by "The Kiss" a year later, and "Outlines" in October 2002. His most recent album 'No Commercial Value', its title reflecting a perhaps realistic view of roots versus pop music sales, is not at all a reflection of its content but a series of brilliantly perceptively-drawn vignettes from a long life on the road.
With a long list of festival and club appearances not only in the UK, but also regularly in mainland Europe and North America, a musical life's worth of troubadour globe-trotting has resulted in Mr. Payne perfecting his particular succinct, and at times very tongue-in-cheek, live ‘in concert' experience .
However, instead of dwelling on past glories or ''what I did then'' Steve Payne is intent on the present and the future. An influence on, and at the vanguard of, the present and on-going folk and roots revival, according to SP:
''There doesn't seem a lot of point in advertising that my past collaborations, appearances and bill-sharing were with such eminences as BB King, Dr John, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, Dave Mason (Traffic), Watermelon Slim (not to mention from the folk world Paul Brady, Loudon Wainwright, Steve Tilston, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Rosie Hardman etc.) and an Ontario tour with David Knopfler / Dire Straits in 2006. But that was then, let's move on …”
Future plans include writing an album for fellow Digitdoc artist SharBaby Newport, and a new album for the latest incarnation of his band, The Steve Payne Band.