By Patti Samar
In the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it has been a long and winding road that has led Barbara Payton back to her hometown of Port Huron.
To simply call Payton a musician would be a disservice to her wide array of creative talents, and her holistic approach to living.
But the multi-talented, musical Payton – who only more recently added “songwriter” to her credentials –is happy to have replanted herself back in her hometown, as she expands her musical career in new directions, and where she would like to make a positive influence in the community, especially on those who are members of the LGBTQ community.
Last year, Payton purchased a home near downtown Port Huron in close proximity to the water. “I love the water,” she said. “I can’t fathom being away from the Great Lakes.
“I came back here to be closer to family,” she said. “I’ve lived away since my early 20s, but I like being somewhere I can make a difference.”
Rock and Roll Road Trip
Many in the Blue Water Area know of Payton’s musical career because she is a back-up singer for Detroit rock and roll legend Bob Seger, with whom she has spent many years touring and recording. She is about to head out on the road with him again later this year. She has also performed and recorded with Detroit-based artist Kid Rock.
And while touring the world with internationally-known acts has been a great day-job for a musician hailing from small-town Michigan, Payton is so much more than that.
“I just love music,” she said. “Both of my parents were music teachers. But being a musician has its pros and cons.”
Years ago, when, like many young, aspiring artists, she found herself not always certain of her musical job security and income, she taught herself how to rehab houses – “it was baptism by fire” – and she also became a licensed massage therapist, something she continues to practice locally.
Currently, Payton is working on her second album, which will be released next year. In it, she showcases a newfound talent: songwriting. “I hadn’t written any of the material for my first album,” she said. “But other artists inspire me. I’ll just start writing about that or my own life experiences.”
She credits friend and fellow musician David Jack with helping her hone her songwriting skills. “He started to show me that I could write.
“To have this album come to fruition is very important to me,” she said. “It’s about satisfying my soul.”
So does Payton hope that one day, it will be all about her band, Barbara Payton and the Instigators, on tour as the headliner?
“I’d like to continue to be a touring musician,” she said. “But that’s not why I do what I do. It’s not about a Grammy. I’ve witnessed what takes place behind the scenes with Bob Seger and with Kid Rock and it’s a fantastic life, and I’m sure they’d agree with that, but I see the pressures that come with it.”
So what does inspire her to continue making music of her own?
“Look at the impact Aretha Franklin had,” she said. “It wasn’t only as a musician, it was as a political activist for social justice.”
“When I believe strongly in something and I think it’s a social injustice, that’s when I speak up,” she said. “I don’t back down.”
A member of the LGBTQ community – Payton is gay – she has experienced first-hand the injustices that come with being a member of a marginalized minority.
“I’m tired of walking on eggshells, be it for women, the gay community or black people,” she said. “I want to be embraced, not tolerated, because I am gay.”
“I want to have conversations with people with opposing views,” she said. “But I’m just horrified by the turn this country has taken. It’s not okay to continue down that path.”
Payton noted that her grandparents were in the Salvation Army and that she has been inspired and boosted by the love that she has received from her family.
“I love my family and I respect them, and I think I get that in return,” she said, noting that, like many families in 2018, they sometimes disagree with regard to politics.
Her mother, she said, has been particularly inspiring, throughout her life, noting that she was inspired to rehab houses after watching her mother do it.
“My mom did that to our home,” she said. “She did things that women really didn’t do at that time.”
With regard to helping people overcome obstacles regarding their differing perspectives of the world?
“My mother is a Christian in the truest sense of the word and she gives me hope,” she said.