Is that Dusty call­ing?

Candie Payne’s star­tling voice and sul­try de­liv­ery is both of the 1960s and time­less. Andrew Perry meets her

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Arts -

‘Ilike to think that the way I sing, and the sub­jects I sing about, are a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of me,” says Candie Payne, a con­fi­dent 24-year-old from Liver­pool. “I’m tough, and I’m straight­for­ward, but I’m very sen­si­tive and very emo­tional.” She blushes a lit­tle at hav­ing re­vealed so much, but soon re-es­tab­lishes her tough-cookie ex­te­rior. “Just be­cause I can be vul­ner­a­ble, that doesn’t mean I’m a wuss.”

Re­leased ear­lier this sum­mer, Payne’s de­but album in­tro­duced her as a white soul singer of rare class and in­di­vid­u­al­ity. Called I Wish I Could Have Loved You More, it was recorded in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Si­mon Dine, whose ear­lier pro­duc­tions un­der the alias Noon­day Un­der­ground, have been de­scribed as “fu­ture-retro”, for their mod­ernistic as­sem­blage of beats, or­ches­tra­tion and sitary tex­tures from 1960s pop.

The com­bi­na­tion of Payne’s star­tling voice and sul­try med­i­ta­tions on love’s en­tan­gle­ments with Dine’s sound­world takes the album into pre­mier-league ter­ri­tory. For any fan of north­ern soul, Dusty Spring­field or Por­tishead, the album re­ally is a god­send.

The duo met four years ago, amid the tight-knit Liver­pudlian indie scene, in which Payne’s elder sib­lings are deeply in­volved. Her brother Sean drums with the Zu­tons, but Payne her­self never re­ally dreamt of be­com­ing a mu­si­cian – mu­sic was just some­thing that was al­ways in the air at home. When she was just four years old, her fa­ther landed a job in New York, and moved the whole Payne clan to Queens. It was there that she be­gan to no­tice her par­ents’ lis­ten­ing tastes.

“My mum’s an ab­so­lute sucker for swing,” she says. “Peo­ple like So­phie Tucker, Ar­tie Shaw, Ella Fitzger­ald. They al­ways had records on in the house, rather than the TV.”

When they moved back to Liver­pool, her eldest brother, Howie, would “sit me down and make me watch Sounds of the 70s and The Old Grey Whis­tle Test” (he later fronted the clas­sic rock-in­spired group, the Stands).

In her teens, she started to in­ves­ti­gate for her­self all the sounds that her var­i­ous fam­ily mem­bers had played to her but, al­though she had al­ways sung by pure in­stinct around the house, she didn’t go pub­lic with her vo­cal gift, un­til a lo­cal indie band called Tramp At­tack asked her to sing Dolly Par­ton’s Jo­lene on stage with them. “Singing on stage was never some­thing that I wanted to do,” she says. “It was more like a dare. Ac­tu­ally do­ing it, it was a feel­ing like I’d never had do­ing any­thing else be­fore. I was com­pletely in the mo­ment.”

Bit­ten by the per­for­mance bug, for a year or so she sang in an­other lo­cal group, Edgar Jones and the Jone­ses. When she met Si­mon Dine in 2003, they con­nected im­me­di­ately over their mu­tual love for Dionne War­wick’s Do You Know the Way to San José?. Un­like that song’s au­thors, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dine wasn’t up to pro­vid­ing words for the tracks they worked on to­gether – he was just happy to tin­ker around anony­mously in the stu­dio with beats and sam­ples, leav­ing Payne to face an un­fore­seen chal­lenge – lyric-writ­ing.

“Si­mon is the mu­sic, and I’m the words,” she ex­plains. “We write com­pletely sep­a­rately. I write in verse form, then he’ll write the mu­sic based on the mood of my lyrics, then we go into the stu­dio and put it all to­gether.”

Thanks to Dine’s soul-boy ob­ses­sions, and the breadth of Payne’s mu­si­cal up­bring­ing, the record has an ap­peal­ingly time­less qual­ity. With her el­e­gant, crys­talline voice, and sen­sual if of­ten rather frosty lyrics, Payne cuts the kind of lofty, unattain­able fig­ure long ab­sent from to­day’s re­veal-all pop/celeb land­scape. Slim, elfin and doe-eyed, and prone to burst­ing into Scouser-next-door laugh­ter, in per­son she’s per­haps more Cilla than Dusty or Ella, but she as­pires to em­u­late those kind of singers for all the right rea­sons.

“I re­ally ad­mire their style of singing,” she says, “for the ben­e­fit of the song rather than the singer. It’s tempt­ing to try and out-fancy ev­ery­body else, but I al­ways re­mind my­self of Roberta Flack and Bil­lie Hol­i­day, who did just enough. It’s harder to sing a straight note and layer it with emo­tion, than do all your gym­nas­tics. That’s the chal­lenge.”

In an ef­fort to bridge the chasm be­tween the sub­tle beauty of Payne’s de­but, and the con­tem­po­rary pop scene, her la­bel, Sony, have com­mis­sioned a remix of One More Chance from the album, by Mark Ron­son – the hot­shot pro­ducer, whose pre­vi­ous clients in­clude Amy Wine­house, Rob­bie Wil­liams and Lily Allen. It has suc­ceeded in se­cur­ing Payne’s first toe-hold on ra­dio playlists, where her sub­tle al­lure stands out and shines among more fa­mous com­pe­ti­tion.

Candie Payne’s sin­gle ‘One More Chance’ (Delta­sonic) is out on Sept 3.

‘It’s tempt­ing to out-fancy ev­ery­body else, but I re­mind my­self of Roberta Flack and Bil­lie Hol­i­day, who did just enough’: Candie Payne

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