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Payton Smith: "It’s really important to me that people realize I’m a guitarist as much as a singer"

“There’s something special when you plug a Gibson into a Marshall Plexi,” says Payton Smith (Image credit: Tim Salaz)

19-year-old Payton Smith is a country music star-in-the-making - he co-wrote all the songs on his new EP (Payton Smith EP), and also plays every guitar part, which let him show off his innate ability to nail a memorable lead line.

Here, we get the lowdown on his gradual rise to fame and the simple tonal pleasures of a Les Paul through a Plexi…

It seems you’re primed to clean up with the teen country market. Any thoughts on that?

"I want to win the girls, their boyfriends and then their parents and grandparents, If I can. I want my music to appeal to everyone, all age markets. What’s great about country is that it covers so many styles, so there’s something for everyone to like."

The guitarists that influenced me, like John Mayer and Joe Walsh, always make really strong statements in their solos

Your EP perfectly encapsulates two main strands of modern country; 92 and Can’t Go Wrong with That channel the roadhouse feel of ZZ Top meets Hank Williams, while the other two tracks are in the country-pop vein that can crossover to any audience.

"It’s interesting you said that, as it was never my intention for things to divide that way. It’s all about my influences, which go from Brad Paisley and George Strait to John Mayer."

What’s your approach to songwriting - and writing guitar solos?

"I imagine the video that will accompany the song and tell the story of that. That visualization helps me tune into what I’m trying to express. The guitarists that influenced me, like John Mayer and Joe Walsh, always make really strong statements in their solos. It’s another way to express something and tell the story."

Where do you stand on gear? Tell us about your favorite axes.

Anyone who plays music, and is passionate about it, wants to take it as far as they can

"There’s something special when you plug a Gibson into a Marshall Plexi. I really love the sound of the P90s on my goldtop [Les Paul]. The weight of the guitar, the feel, everything is just right. Acoustically I really like Taylor guitars."

Any parting words?

"It’s really important to me that people realize I’m a guitarist as much as a singer. It’s my other voice. I’ve played since I was 10, and it’s who I am. Anyone who plays music, and is passionate about it, wants to take it as far as they can.

"I’m building my audience steadily, visiting every radio station in the country. The most important thing is to see the way fans react to the songs. That’s what makes everything worth it."