Its 3 a.m. The rain is pouring, the wind
howling and the thunder deafening. Sandra Payne is running outside, barefoot, in a panic
because she just woke up and realized the sunroof on her 3-week-old car is wide open.
Its been raining for five hours. Theres more than an inch of rain in the cup
holders of her 98 bright red Ford Escort ZX2. "Its soaked," Payne
says, catching her breath. "I cant believe I did that. My Dad will probably
say, Thats so dumb. Sandy. You should remember things like that."
It takes a
while to get used to a new car. Its also taking the 23-year-old from North
Ridgeville, Ohio, a while to get used to her career as an inspirational artist. After
living on her own for four years, shes moved back home to make travel easier.
Paynes frustrations sound similar to others her age ... well, others who have a
record deal and touring schedule, "Oh my gosh, Im 23 and living with my
parents. But its nice, because Im not there all the time. Every time Ive
been home its been for a day, a day and a halfjust time to go to the dry
Traveling is nothing new to Payne. Shes done it all her life, with her
parents southern gospel group. The Paynes, with whom she recently sang on a Bill
Gaither Homecoming video. She began singing with her family at age 14. The group disbanded
a few years later, but re-formed when offered a contract in 1996 with southern gospel
label Daywind Records.
Through the recording of that album, producer and A&R director Wayne Haun heard
Sandras "phenomenal" voice and offered her a deal with Whitefield Music, a
division of Daywind Music Group. Her multi-octave ability resembles the vocal stylings of
female divas such as Anita Baker and Mariah Carey, while she names her musical influences
as Bob Dylan, Yolanda Adams, Patsy Cline and, "of course, Davy Jones from The
Like her wide variety of influences, her self-titled debut contains a broader range of
styles than most inspirational offerings. From her duet with Alvin Slaughter,
"Ill Believe In You," to the easy, big band feel of "Kings
Table" to the guitar-driven Bob Dylan cover "Saved," the selections reflect
Paynes search to fill a niche and find her place.
However, the subtleties in her voice adapt to each style effortlessly. "Every time
someone hears this album, they say, How does she do that? says producer Wayne Haun.
"Sandra is not a trained vocalist. Its a God-given talent."
"The tape is very personal," Payne says. "It has all different varieties
I love to sing. I love jazz. I love that Bob Dylan style, with the rocky edge. I love the
church songs, the inspirational songsthe ones that really get to the heart. The next
album will probably be more inspirational, just because they dont know where to
market me. Eventually I will do another variety album."
For now, shes working hard, touring and getting used to the spotlightone
place shes used to sharing with her parents. She still finds her solo shows a little
nerve-racking for her. Before a show in Sparta, Tenn., she forgot the words to a verse of
"Throw Me a Lifeline" during the pre-show sound check. Her publicist had to
write down the words while listening to Paynes tape in the car, five minutes before
But the song ministers to the singer as much as to the listener. "Sometimes I feel
overwhelmed with all the cares of this life, to the point its as if Im
starting to sink in the sea of problems," she says. "Sometimes, even though
Im a Christian, I feel like the disciples on the ship while Jesus was
Then a smile creeps over her face as she thinks of the storm the night before, as she
rushed to save her upholstery. "The song has a whole different meaning to me now
after the downpour of rain inside my car."