When the debut album "Jordan's Sister" by unknown artist Kendall Payne hit the stands... people took notice. A 1999 press release read, "She sings and plays with a passion that belies her age and she writes with the insight of a young woman who has lived beyond her years." The album sold close to 100,000 units, and its music was featured in films including "Never Been Kissed" staring Drew Barrymore and "Beautiful" with Minnie Driver, and the single "Supermodels" was selected as the theme song for the WB's hit TV show "Popular." In 2001 Payne was honored with a prestigious Dove Award for Best Alternative Rock Album. After co-authoring the book Mirror, Mirror published by Zondervan and touring with the likes of Lilith Fair, Dido, Third Day, Delerious (and many more), it seemed that everyone was beginning to understand what made this artist so special.
However, due to trying circumstances in the music business and an unexpected regime change at Capitol Records, Payne and the label parted ways in 2002. "Every great songwriter needs fuel for their fire," she says, "and there is no greater fuel than the ache of rejection. I just never bargained for how hot the flame could get." Shortly after leaving Capitol, she also parted ways with her management company and Christian label counterpart. Once the darling of the industry and now alone in the music business, she recounts, "I found myself standing in my living room, ironing something while in my pajamas, wishing the phone would ring. It was quite humbling, I must say. I had made and found my identity in being an artist. If I wasn't that anymore... I didn't know who I was."
And so began a season of soul-searching. Payne remembers, "It was a very dark place for me, but in retrospect I would not trade it for all the success in the world." Days were spent taking classes at community college, working odd jobs around town and getting involved in a local church. "I felt like I was re-discovering my passion for life." And each night she'd return home to her guitar. "It called to me - the music was practically writing itself. It only needed me to transcribe it onto paper." The songs began to pour out, each inspired by real life heartaches and happiness. "People always say 'what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.' I'm a firm believer in that principle; in fact, I'm living proof of it."
Being so moved by her voice and talent, friend and actor Zachary Levi (ABC's "Less Than Perfect") approached Payne with an offer she couldn't refuse, financing her sophomore album. Now that the songs were written and the funding was in place, all they needed was a brilliant producer. After an inspiring late night coffee one Thursday evening with producer Tim Schoenhals, the team was in place, and on Monday morning Payne found herself in the studio starting the first session on her follow-up record "Grown".
Recorded at the Treatment Room in North Hollywood (with additional recording by Justin Schier at Sonik Wire), Payne and Schoenhals worked tirelessly for 5 straight months. Without an established band, each musician was hand picked for the appropriate song with special appearances by Jason Wade (Lifehouse), Ricky and Randy Jackson (The Daylights) and Jamie Wollam (Avion). Payne explains, "I hate being in the studio. I get so bored; I'm much more of a "Live" kinda girl. However, I must say this group of guys made it not only bearable but enjoyable!"
Anyone who's seen Payne's live show will not quickly forget the high energy she brings to the stage. (Even when it's just her and her guitar.) "Grown" has its fair share of toe-tapping, up-tempo, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind of hits. Payne is the sole songwriter, with only one co-writing credit. She recounts, "I already had the verses to the song "Backwards" (Track 8) but I was really stuck on where to go from there. So I took it to my friend Jason Wade (Lifehouse) and in 5 minutes he wrote a chorus and bridge. After that, I took it home and wrote all the lyrics in a few hours. It's a rare thing when a song comes that easy."
The title of the Album "Grown," finds its origin in the opening lyric to the song "Twenty Three" (Track 10). A masterpiece Payne began creating on the night of her 23rd birthday. "Twenty-three, when did we become grown?" she sings lamenting the cynicism that typically progresses with age. "There was a time," says Payne "when I wanted to call the album 'Sad & Slow' because it felt like all I was writing was sad and slow songs. I even wrote a song called 'Happy' (Track 6) which is about being sad."
There are also songs that fall in the mid-tempo range for some easy listening, such as "Aslan" (Track 9), a whimsical, childlike melody with a grown up message. Payne says, "After re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis as an adult, I fell in love with Aslan all over again."
By continuing to write songs, non-fiction and children's books, as well as speaking engagements there appears to be no end to this artist's creative capabilities. With the little free time Payne is left with she enjoys staying closely connected with family and friends, and also stays involved with her church community. There is no doubt, Kendall Payne will continue to "wow" audiences for decades to come, the independent release and success of "Grown" will indeed be an integral step in her journey.