by Kenny Kerner

Hunter Payne had little choice about deciding to become a professional musician. His fate was decided for him. You see, just about everyone in Hunter's family is musically inclined. His dad still gigs around town, his oldest brother is a musicologist and his second oldest brother is a sax player who toured with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Phoebe Snow.

"Music has been around me all my life," Payne confides, "it just seems like all the men in the family were into music. That's the first reason I got into music--the other reason was to get girls."

Not wanting to be the black sheep of the family, Hunter tried his hand at clarinet and drums but ended up becoming a self-taught guitarist. He also claims to have written his very first song at 12 years old but then confessed that it was "a piece of crap." As he recalled it, "the song was called 'Fireworks About You', and it was horrible. I never got beyond the first line."

Name: Hunter Payne
Residence: Santa Monica, CA
Occupation: Singer/Songwriter
Joined TAXI: 1995
Songs Forwarded: 50
Deals: Two (Song in Indie
Movie and in TV Film)
Hunter spent his teen years living outside of Boston. He had access to a barn and, ever the entrepreneur, decided to turn it into a club. "I started a club in my barn and we opened up every weekend with three or four local bands playing there. At that time I played mostly cover songs. My original writing wasn't really great at that point."

By the time he was 15, he had already been performing in the burgeoning music scenes in Cambridge and New York. He honed his craft playing the coffeehouse circuit and eventually teamed up with his brother, the sax player. Now here's where the story gets interesting:

"My brother and I were playing as a duo and somehow, John Hammond Sr. (legendary A&R Man for Columbia who signed Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen) heard about us and called us to come to meet with him in New York. We did a couple of sessions with him there and then went back home to Boston. A little while later he called and said, 'I'd like to sign you.' I said, 'what should we do'? and that was when he told me he wanted to sign me and not my brother. I told him no. At the time, I told everyone that I was being loyal to my brother but I really think it was because of fear--I wasn't really ready yet."

Yes, folks, Hunter Payne turned down a record deal from John Hammond, Sr. But amazingly, he wasn't finished yet! "We also turned down a record deal from United Artists. We were negotiating with them and on the final day of working out the contract, they did some little thing about the advance. I don't remember what it was but I didn't like it so I ripped up the contract. And after that, the band broke up. Guess why?" Most people can't get one record deal, but our Hunter Payne turned down two of them!

A bit despondent and terribly frustrated, Payne checked out of the Biz for 12 years. "I didn't know what I was doing so I took time off. I felt like I had my time but didn't do things right. I got back into it in 1986. I woke up one morning with the knowledge that I was wasting my time by not doing music so that day, I went out and bought a piano and also discovered MIDI. I immediately began to get serious about my writing and started working on my career about 60 hours a week."

In the mid-Nineties, Hunter began to immerse himself in the songwriting community and it was there that he discovered TAXI. "I heard Michael [Laskow, the President of TAXI] speak somewhere and I liked him a lot. I joined and started submitting some songs. I got an occasional forward but then all of a sudden, two of my songs attracted some serious attention. The critiques I get from them help a lot. They were responsible for getting one of my songs, 'Whole Lot of Weather' into a movie."

Hunter Payne is about to release an indie CD of his songs called One Last Chance, which is in no way indicative of his outlook on his future. His membership in TAXI is now in its fifth year and counting, which only goes to prove that you can't bust up a successful combination.


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