Your Weekend Playlist, Courtesy of Brandon Payano
A jack of all trades in the music world, Brandon Payano, has dipped his toes into several aspects of the industry. From journalism to A&R and artist management, Payano is the type of guy who would hear a track and be able to impress you with all the right references.
For this weekend playlist, he’s covered artists ranging from SZA to Lucky Daye, with just “a hint of savagery.” Payano talks the three markers that make a “good song”, his work with COLORS, and how to spot the promising traits of a rising musician. Listen to his curated tunes below, and learn about the “perpetual chaos,” that is attempting to balance the many facets of the music landscape.
How are you related to the music industry? Tell us about COLORS, Q, Elekt?
I’m honestly just trying to go down as a great storyteller in music through writing, A&R, and as a creative director. I started out in the industry as a writer and still am a writer. My very first piece ever was written during my senior year at Syracuse University, covering J. Cole’s headlining show during his Born Sinner run. It was a big moment that snowballed into me writing for various music publications and blogs over the last 6 years (Dope Avenue, Ones To Watch, Atwood Magazine etc.), to now fulfilling what’s become my first print opportunity as a writer with BRICK Magazine over the last year.
COLORS came into the picture in 2016 because of my need to always find new music. It’s actually the base for all of my writing: new and undiscovered acts. Currently I serve as one of the A&Rs and curators for the platform with a focus on scouting and booking US talent for the show, among other territories. Being a part of a team that loves music and storytelling in the same way that I do, had easily been an honor. And to see how we’ve not only impacted culture but have created culture, has been amazing to watch.
But my work with COLORS has only heightened my fix for curating and more specifically my own playlist series on the side with Elekt. The name Elekt is essentially taken from the word “elect” where we nominate someone to represent the things we believe in most. The take on the wording here is supposed to give the listener the indication that I’m curating a list of new artists that I truly believe in and would suggest keeping an eye on in the future. I’m proud of the project and hope to really build it out with a couple of talented friends helping me.
Having just recently stepped into management, managing a talented producer/artist named Hush Forte and a great musician/artist named Q, and speaking with artists on a daily, you kind of get an idea as to what some of their roadblocks tend to be; especially in the glamorized DIY and independent route. But within that world, there lies an increased opportunity for support and a team to help propel an artist and provide a platform for them to be able to think about music as a career and not just a hobby. Me getting into management was not something I planned or even wanted to do, but both of these guys happen to also be really good friends of mine and I didn’t want to see their talent go unnoticed with potentially wasted opportunities.
What’s a “good song” in your book?
I feel like my answers to questions like this change all the time. But right now a “good song” for me hits three points: great arrangement/songwriting, production, and melody or flow, if listening to rap. Usually, when all three of those things align, I’m in one hell of a bag as a listener. One of my favorite songs out right now is actually Lucky Daye’s ‘Floods’ which I placed on this playlist. That song hits all three points for me. I like songs with big moments in them.
What are the traits of a promising artist?
Uh, someone who has a strong idea of who they are currently, as a person, and how they plan to translate that into who they want to be as an artist. I think today that can be best seen on social media by how people choose to package their music and ideas. But even outside of all of that, I believe a promising artist is someone who is hardworking and willing to meet their talent more than halfway, has a creative vision or knows someone in their back pocket with a creative vision that they want to execute, and someone that just has a good heart. It doesn’t cost much to have great energy matched with great work ethic, talent and self-awareness.
You are involved in so many aspects of the music industry, from storytelling to managing, how do you balance all of it?
I tweet about this a lot, indirectly. I call it “perpetual chaos.” I’ve always wanted to do a lot. I still want to do a lot. So balancing everything I love within music right now is just a matter of time management, which I’m by no means great at yet. But I do make an effort every week and every day to stay on top of the many things I have going on creatively and on the management side. It’s really about me carrying my little notebook around wherever I go and making note of the things I’d like to get done throughout my day. I don’t think there will ever be a balance, and I’m actually really cool with that.
Any advice for people looking to take the A&R career path?
Support and advocate for the artists you believe in unapologetically. I think we’re in a unique position to really help artists more than anything, and that’s what it should be about. I had someone who’s become a good friend and kind of a mentor of mine give me that advice recently and it’s stuck with me. I realize that my side of A&R doesn’t necessarily fall in line with what people would typically associate it with as it pertains to being an A&R at a label, but it’s part of the battle.
A&R at a label is a much bigger ball game and also allows for you to advocate for your artists on a much larger scale, fully developing acts that you believe in on multiple fronts. You get to be a resource of value to them, providing so many key elements in connecting the dots (producers, managers, creative team, marketing etc.) for the betterment of the artist’s development and career.
Always know why you like an artist or a band, and find ways to articulate that to a room or group of people unabashedly.
How would you define your music taste? What have been the main influences?
I try to wear my taste on my sleeve at all times. But it’s a bit all over the place, to be honest. The main influences stem from my love of R&B/Soul growing up and a lot of alternative music. Rap came late to me as a fan because I listened to a lot of the music my parents listened to. So by default, I love music that tends to lean more towards complex production and great songwriting, across all genres. Honestly, though, I listen to so much music that I can’t describe it to be anything other than one eclectic ball of great music by great bands, singers, and rappers. Super basic in my eyes.
Set the scene – where do you imagine this playlist going off? / What’s the mood?
It’s easily good for a Saturday morning or early afternoon listen in the crib!
The mood is meant to be kind of a slow burn with a bit of feel-good music, introspection, melancholy, and a hint of savagery all in one. Kind of like my personality, haha. I didn’t want to do the obvious thing and curate a discovery playlist. So, I feel like I’ve made one that charts a portion of my taste from some of my favorite artists over the last few years. To be really honest, it has a good amount of songs I personally wish I could have written myself.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Weekend Playlists.