In 1991, Geto Boys released their seminal track ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’. This single did more than put the hip-hop group on the map - it also put their home city, Houston, Texas, on the map too.
Fast forward thirty years, Houston’s musical community is more culturally diverse than ever before. And one versatile artist at the forefront of its transcendent spirit is Peyton, an active collaborator in Houston’s artist community who recently earned her degree in classical voice. Peyton saw music as a form of comfort and expression from a young age: she started playing violin at the age of five and singing in her church gospel choir – inspired by her late Grammy nominated grandmother, Theola Booker – further aided her musical development. Essences of that same wide-eyed, youthful curiosity towards music remains prevalent in Peyton’s work today, which infuses flavours of funk, jazz, R&B and classical into her own melting pot of musical goodness.
The 23-year-old’s talent has certainly not gone unnoticed up until now either. She’s currently signed to the Stones Throw record label, joining her alongside a roster of boundary pushing artists like Sudan Archives, NxWorries and Mndsgn.
With her new album ‘PSA’ arriving this Friday, we caught up with Peyton to talk about blurring the lines between classical and R&B as well as transcendence, transparency and technicalities within the world of music.
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Hey Peyton, how have you been so far this summer?
I’ve been up to a lot this summer! I’ve been working on making my album rollout really awesome, doing music with different artists and having a lot of fun.
What are some of the memories you have of singing in your church gospel choir when you were young?
I still sing in the church, but obviously not since before the pandemic. It’s something that I’ve been doing since I was so young that I didn’t really think about it. But I feel like it definitely gave me practice to become a good performer because there’s a lot of big energy being in a gospel setting. I really appreciated the environment and it’s taught me how to be a versatile musician because not only was I studying classical music when I was at school, I would go to church and learn even more about music.
Sometimes, I feel like there can be limitations to learning classical performing and things like that, but because I have a gospel background, it definitely humbled me from a very young age because I was meeting all these other musicians who may not have been fortunate enough to go to the schools that I was to learn about music theory and things like that. But certain musicians I grew up with in the church were so in tune with music – they didn’t need to know how to spell out a chord or the technicality of it, they just felt it. Being around that was so inspiring because it shows that there’s not just one way of doing things.
How much of an inspiration was your late grandmother (Grammy nominated gospel singer, Theola Booker) in encouraging you to pursue music from a young age?
I would say music was never forced upon me, but I was just brought up in an environment with a lot of music in it. My Grandma, she obviously had the background of gospel and was an active musician in her church I think since the age of six. Then she also studied music in school and college and went on to be a well-respected educator, as well as also being classically trained. It made me make sure that I had to have balance; I’ve got to be versatile but I’ve also got to be knowledgeable too.
I know you recently completed your degree in classical voice. How did it go?
Yeah, I enjoyed it! It was fairly easy for me, I guess, because I have been doing it my whole life. I would say the biggest challenge of it was just balancing doing things outside of school. This is something that I’m always keeping in mind; to blend elements of classical voice with the music that I make.
How do you think classical music can be made more accessible to young people today?
That’s a really good question. I feel like classical can be more incorporated into things that people value most or enjoy. Even things like TV or everyday life… I don’t know. I try to make it more accessible by sharing the things that I know or incorporating it into my own music by sampling songs or things like that. Eventually, maybe I can come up with something to help with accessibility like classes and stuff. There are things out there like that, but that doesn’t mean people are interested. I just try my best to share what I know and make it interesting for people too.
From a songwriting perspective, how do you go about melding elements of classical and R&B together?
I guess it just happens naturally because I learned a lot about both these worlds when I was young. I’ve found a way to mesh them, I think. Learning classical music, doing practical training and learning the basis of music, is like the fundamentals. But when you know it, you can translate it to any genre, you know? But this also ties in with what I was saying earlier that sometimes you can meet musicians who might not be familiar with theory or technicalities but they know more than you in a sense.
I’m just grateful that I can do both am grateful that I can translate my classical knowledge into other genres.
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What do you like most about Houston’s music community?
I love how many different sounds come from Houston. There are so many versatile artists, so many different artists, and it’s a testament to how diverse we are. Being in Houston is like a cultural melting pot; whether its artists or creatives of other mediums, it’s almost like we’re on another plain. We’re transcending because we have so many different influences and sonics.
How does it feel to be unveiling your album ‘PSA’?
It does feel like a pretty big moment because I’m very proud of what I’ve created, I really resonate with the music. I hope that will people will find something within it that they can resonate with too.
What were some of the highlights/challenges you faced putting together the album?
I guess the most rewarding thing was getting over the demos that I’d started and expanding on the ideas. Sometimes that can be scary – you can be like, ‘I wanna rearrange the whole thing!’ – and for certain songs I did have to create even fuller ideas, but it was definitely worth it. In terms of challenges, there were times when I was recording where there was an error with how it was recorded but it sounded so great and I didn’t wanna redo it! But I got through it all which was very rewarding.
Is there anything you’re hoping to communicate about yourself through the record?
I would say that through this album, I feel like I’m very transparent about my thoughts. It represents who I am. I also just want it to show that I’m someone who’s loving, experiencing life and trying to take it for what it is. I’m just an observer How does it feel to be signed to a label like Stones Throw alongside artists like Sudan Archives and NxWorries? It makes me feel like I’m a living legend.
Any visits to the UK lined up?
Not that I know of but I hope so. I’ve never visited!
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of things I’m working on – I’m always creating. I don’t have a whole project together but I’m just writing music, living life and going with the flow of things.
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'PSA' is out on July 23rd.
Words: Jamie Wilde
Photo Credit: RIOT MUSE