Lessons and Goals: Talking Past, Present, and Future with Peyton
It’s a chilly January morning when I meet Peyton in Agora, a café in the heart of Houston’s Montrose neighborhood.
It’s a warm respite for both me and the native Houstonian, who is smartly clad in a winter coat and gloves. My green tea warms my hands as I chat with Peyton, who sips periodically from her glass of water. The twenty-year-old artist has a contemplative aura surrounding her, an intelligent and reserved energy that still makes you feel welcomed. She takes time to answer my questions, and each answer provides an honest peek inside the self-described introvert.
Peyton’s soft speaking voice reminds me of her singing voice, a delicate breeze that glides up and down each of her tracks. Her music is just as refreshing to listen to – her combination of R&B, hip-hop, soul, and electronic music blends together to create a fresh sounding spin on old school vibes. This classic sound is something Peyton aspires to create in every song she writes.
Peyton’s relationship with music started at a very young age, something she attributes to her father’s musical side of the family. She describes the gamut of music her family would play, ranging from jazz legends like Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, hip hop collectives like a Tribe Called Quest and the Pharcyde, and even classical music. Her list of favorite artists is similarly diverse – Imogen Heap, Grizzly Bear, Amel Larrieux are just some of the artists that Peyton has drawn inspiration from. “I was exposed to a lot of different genres at a young age and that’s why I enjoy so many different types of music.” She goes on to explain that it was “just inevitable” before Peyton herself started to become involved with music, beginning to sing at the same time she started learning to speak, and picking up the violin shortly after that.
Peyton would then go on to attend several schools geared towards music, eventually graduating from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as a vocal music major. High school is when Peyton began to write songs. “I was just writing poetry first, and I was good at putting words together,” she tells me, taking off one of her gloves to scratch an itch on her face. “For a few years I thought to myself that I’m capable of making music, and then I just started doing it.” She then joined MilkyWayv in 2015, a collective/record label created by high school classmate, Bobby Earth. Her first track with the label, Verbs, featured production by Steve Lacy and garnered over five hundred thousand plays on SoundCloud. Her debut EP, Roller Coaster, soon followed.
Peyton’s music career would only continue to gain momentum, collaborating with artists/producers like Zack Villere (under his alias froyo ma), opening for acts like The Internet and SALES, and even receiving a shoutout from rapper KYLE. Her debut album, Peace in the Midst of a Storm, was released in 2017 across multiple platforms, and several singles followed.
Photos by Marz
What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned in high school?
PEYTON: Maybe to accept who I am. I learned that very quick. I was always okay with myself, but when I got to middle school, I got introduced to a lot of ugly things, things my parents never taught me or I've never experienced before.
What were some of these ugly things you encountered?
PEYTON: In middle school, I noticed that I was brown. Like I could see the color of my skin, but I didn't think about how real that was, how deep it was until I got to middle school, and was like “damn, I'm black.” And I learned in elementary school about segregation but they tried to hide that shit like it wasn't as serious as it really was. I remember watching all these videos about Martin Luther King Jr. and thinking that, I don't know, he saved the universe. That’s what it seemed like. I just didn't think about how deep it was. I would start questioning myself because I remember that certain people I wanted to have some sort of bond whether it, be it romantic or friendly, I remember that sometimes if they weren't black, they would treat me differently. Especially in romantic settings. I would always hear people degrade black people and make it seem like they're not capable of love. It’s how black people were always treated. We were always animals. It wasn’t said, but that’s what it was like.
How has music played a role in dealing with all of these thoughts and feelings?
PEYTON: Music was always my safe place where I dealt with all of that, and I also dealt with anxiety my whole life, like extreme anxiety, so I mean music was always my safe space. I don't think I’ve ever expressed all my pain through it, at least not yet. I feel like as far as my songwriting, I would say I haven’t tapped into those things yet, but certain aspects of my life I’m starting to write more and more about.
Biggest takeaways of 2017?
PEYTON: Number one: don’t panic. I’m getting better at it. I don’t panic as much. Something slight would happen, and I would be like, “oh shoot, nothing’s in order,” but I just have to tell myself that it’s okay, everything will fall into place. Like I see everyday that something will be off just because of the balance of the world, but everything else will fall back into place, even if it’s not what you planned.
Goals for the upcoming year?
PEYTON: I hope to influence thousands more people, or have my music reach thousands of more people. I want to tour more places. I want to make some classic songs because that’s my goal. It used to be my goal that whenever I made a song, I wanted it to be classic because I wanted it to resonate it with people. I wanted to put my best art forward, and I want to continue to do that. And I believe I can accomplish this if I work hard enough, but I want to collaborate with and to write for a lot of artists I like, like James Fauntleroy, Thundercat, Pharrell, Bobby Caldwell, Kendrick Lamar. I want to work with a lot of artists.
04/02/18 Edit: Peyton’s first track with Milky Wayv was Aerial, which featured co-production between herself, Earth, and Brandon Willis. Peyton is no longer a part of Milky Wayv.