Sam Payne comes from a group of traveling musicians with a story to tell.
Guitar in hand, Payne will be the next performer at the International Center for Storytelling from June 28 to July 2. He works in a tradition established by his father, a door-to-door salesman who sold his own folk music albums in the 1970s.
Payne’s father combines the mundane work of a traveling salesman with the creative life of a working artist. “It was a really mystical way to make a living,” said Payne, who is based in Utah. “He just went out in the morning and knocked on the door. If he sold a lot of albums, there would be a lot of dinners. And if he doesn’t, there will be a small dinner.
Along the way today, Payne still talks to people who remember those unusual encounters where his father sang songs from his recordings in their living room.
After rejecting his father’s gift for a ukulele at the tender age of 8, Payne came of age before he became a musician himself. His younger brother appeared on his doorstep late at night. “He handed me a guitar and said, ‘You’re the only one of us who doesn’t know how to play, and honestly, we’re tired of it,'” Payne recalled. He immediately set to work.
On stage at Jonesboro, Payne’s folk and jazz songs will focus on the stories of his life and his family. He will also draw from his repertoire of stories about American space exploration, a topic that has fascinated him since he was a child. True stories about the Mir space station, the rover and the James Webb telescope captured Payne’s imagination when he was a little boy looking up at the night stars. He still remembers watching the Colombia space shuttle launch on television, which the school librarian put in his classroom for the occasion.
Payne’s appearance in Jonesboro is possible thanks to Storytelling Live! program, a seasonal series of concerts that brings a new narrator to the city each week until the end of October. Matinee concerts are every day, from Tuesday to Saturday, from 2 p.m.
As part of its state-of-the-art online venue, which expands accessibility for audiences who cannot attend live performances in person, the International Storytelling Center will record and broadcast one of Payne’s concerts. This show will be available online from Thursday, June 30, until next Monday at midnight. Online tickets are $ 15 per household.
Like many storytellers, the pandemic forced Payne to be creative with video conferencing and other tools. He is amazed at his ability to connect with people during remote performances, but is more than excited to return to the stage with a real audience.
“It’s like going into a room together,” he says. “The beautiful theater, Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall – this is the perfect place to share stories. There is nothing like it. I’m just incredibly excited. The audience will have some new experiences with my work because there are so many new things. ”
The main sponsor of Storytelling Live! is bioCLEAN. Additional funding for the program comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Treasury Department, the Nisuonger Foundation, ETSU, the East Tennessee Foundation, the Tennessee Humanities, Hillhouse Creative, Carol & Bobby Frist, Norris Family Fund, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and Frist Foundation. Media sponsors include Herald & Tribune, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Cumulus Media, News Channel 11, WJHL 11, ABC Tri-Cities and Daytime Tri-Cities.
The International Storytelling Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information on Storytelling Live !, including the full schedule, or to purchase tickets and season tickets, visit www.storytellingcenter.net or call (800) 952-8392.