If you look back on the defining themes of country music, a prominent one would be songs that empower women. Whether it be showing pride in being a woman, changing the narrative about how women are perceived, or powering through a breakup, women empowerment anthems have proven to both have a major slot in the country music format, as well as strong staying power.
Southern California native Payton Howie is making her mark with her empowering debut single “Catch Flights,” encouraging women to “catch flights” instead of feelings, to break free from bad relationships, and to live life. Combined with southern-rocking instrumentation, “Catch Flights” explodes through the speakers as Howie, just 17 years old, delivers the lyric with noticeable sincerity.
Get to know Payton as she describes a life changing moment at a Carrie Underwood concert as a child, all about “Catch Flights,” opening for Honey County, her upcoming single “F150” and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Payton Howie: Oh my gosh, so many! But mainly, I grew up digesting a healthy diet of Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, and Christina Aguilera in the back seat of my parents’ car. So I would say my sound is shaped by my love for the traditional greats and the fact that I continue to fall in love with the newer country artists of today.
PC: Your bio says that you’ve been singing for as long as you can talk. What was it about music that connected with you so early in your life?
PH: As a kid, I would be singing all the time. Even before I could speak, I would just be humming tunes or listening to music. Since I’ve always been somewhat of a shy person, growing up in school, I never felt like I had a voice until I discovered that music was my voice. I noticed that when I sang, people stopped and actually looked into my eyes and listened to what I had to say.
PC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
PH: Music and singing are in my blood, but a pivotal moment for me in my life was at a Carrie Underwood concert when I was 5 years old. A big light panning the audience happened to pan over me dancing in the aisle. She saw me, stopped the whole concert, crouched down and waved to me. Next thing I knew, she had security bring me up on stage. She held my hand and we danced and sang for a song or two. I’ll never forget the bright lights, the big stage, and the thousands of faces looking up, smiling and singing. It was such a life-changing moment for me.
PC: You released a cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” in June. What went in to the decision to record and release a cover of that song?
PH: Well if I’m being honest, I always wanted to perform that song live, but because I’m a younger artist, some people advised me not to, which made me want to do it all the more. So at 15, I recorded it in the studio and then released it this year to make myself more relevant on streaming platforms prior to releasing my debut single, “Catch Flights.”
PC: What emotions were you feeling when you were preparing to release original music for the first time with your single “Catch Flights”?
PH: I was so pumped to release “Catch Flights” because I just knew people would love the vibe and the strong beat the song brings. It’s the kind of song you have to roll your windows down to listen to. I was really looking forward to connecting with my female fan base through this song because it is just such an awesome message for women to get out of their comfort zones and expectations placed on them and to go out into the world, travel and see all it has to offer before settling down.
PC: “Catch Flights” was a song that you cut from outside writers. What was it about that song that drew you to record it? What has the reaction in the two weeks since the song’s release meant to you?
PH: The first time I heard “Catch Flights,” written by Karianne Jean, Kim Penz, Zach Laughlin and Allison Laughlin, I totally connected with the song because I had recently gotten out of a really controlling relationship. Everything from what kind of jeans I wore to what songs I sang was something that he tried to control. He had already picked out the wedding date when I decided I was outta there. I COMPLETELY related to the feeling of being trapped and not being able to be who I wanted to be. I know firsthand how freeing it feels to escape that kind of relationship, to break free from it and to get out there and start living. The response to the song has been amazing! I’ve had a ton of “my girls” come out of the woodwork messaging me saying how much they love the anthem of the song. People always comment on the “white picket fencing me in” line because they relate to the pressure of the stigma that we’re all supposed to get married and settle down right out of school, especially us girls that come from a small town.
PC: On “Catch Flights,” you combine a southern-rocking sound with a solid country sound. Was it at all important for you to showcase that level of versatility in your sound and artistry on your debut release?
PH: Oh yeah, completely. I was so fortunate to be able to work with producer Kelsey Smith from Vancouver, as well as Carey Samsel, instrumentalist. Kelsey is also an amazing drummer, so his input on the level of intensity of the drums combined with Carey’s riffs on guitar completely defined the country rock sound I was going for. The beat and vibe of the song totally encouraged me to tap into the grit of my vocals, and yeah! It was just such a blast to record and it’s super fun to perform live.
PC: What can listeners expect to hear on your second single “F150”?
PH: Well, I drive a truck, and anyone and everyone that drives a truck knows we’re a kind of a breed! [laughs]. You can do things in a truck you can’t do in a little ‘ol car, and we find power and freedom in that [laughs]. “F150” is a song I wrote for my fellow off-roaders and truck people that know just the right way to blow off some steam!
PC: You had the opportunity to open for Honey County recently. How can the experience of opening for a national, established act help you with your own career?
PH: First of all, those are three of the most talented girls I’ve seen in a long time, and they’re just so humble and kind. Being asked to open for Honey County was such an honor and such a humbling experience. Getting to hang out with them at the show and getting to know them has been such a blast! They’re completely crazy and fun on and off the stage. Opening for such an amazing well-known national act has definitely given me opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, that’s for sure. I was able to perform “Catch Flights” on stage at that show and got to meet so many new and amazing sweet fans there. What I loved about that show and Honey County in general is their heart for “women of country.” They are huge supporters of up and coming female country artists, and being a young woman in country music, well…it’s nice to know there are mentors and amazing examples like them out there to look up to.
PC: In 2018, you were awarded New Country Female Entertainer of the Year and Traditional Country Female Entertainer of the Year from the West Coast Country Music Association. What does it mean for you to be recognized in that way at this early stage in your career?
PH: Winning New Country Female Entertainer of the Year was a complete shock to me that year because it was the largest category, and there was just so much amazing talent that came out. And to win Traditional Country Entertainer of the Year as well that same year, it just completely blew me away. I trained very hard with my vocal coach, Rhonda Parish. She completely prepared me for everything from song choice, to stage presence, to wardrobe. She’s absolutely phenomenal and so valuable to me in my career. I just love that woman.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
PH: I have a completely packed schedule through the end of the year promoting “Catch Flights” and recording new music in Vancouver, which will release around Christmas time! I have quite a few shows lined up that’ll take me through the end of the year, including a special one I’ll be announcing in about 30 days, so stay tuned! I’ll also be writing some new music and will be back in the studio in December working on an EP that’ll be released in 2020!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
PH: I just want to humbly thank you guys so much for the opportunity of this interview and giving me a voice to tell y’all about my debut single, “Catch Flights.” It’s people like you that give people like me a chance to live out our dream of creating music and sharing it with the world. That’s all we want to do, really. We want to share ourselves with the world and connect with everyone out there who gets what we’re trying to do. So THANK YOU so much again from the bottom of my heart! Oh! And follow me on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter! 🙂
*Images courtesy of Payton Howie*