Technonaut Nathan McKay and folkie Barry James Payne didn’t seem to have a lot in common musically. Or did they? McKay is an electronic musician, a Street Producer, or as he likes to call it, “a backpack producer.” He creates wherever he feels comfortable deploying the contents of his backpack—microphones, a variety of cables and cords, and a few different devices that he can attach to his DAW (recording studio in a box) on his laptop—in a restaurant, a park, a bar, a coffee shop, the cottage, the country… you get the idea. Payne is the architect of Americana/Canadiana project String Bone and approaches things a little differently. Ever the brooding songwriter, he most often embraces solitude to craft deeply personal lyrics that tackle subjects ranging from difficult relationships to social injustice. Combining his thought provoking storytelling with classic melody and production, Payne tends to labour until a song is complete before inviting other players in. The two couldn’t be further apart: Acoustic folkie creates alone; electronic musician relies on samples and loops to create amongst a room full of strangers.
And yet when Payne and McKay found themselves working together in 2012 on the music lineup for a community festival in their hometown of Stratford, Ontario, they quickly developed a mutual respect for each other’s tastes, which ranged from Folk, Punk and Rock to Dance, Electronic and Drum & Bass. Many conversations ensued over meals and meetings as they bonded over a combined 60-plus years of making, distributing and promoting music. Naturally, the topic of collaboration came up occasionally, but it took until now for that proposition to finally bear fruit. They both say that their first session together was magic. Feeding off each other, the energy in the room was dynamic, light, fun, energetic and freeing. Within three hours they had given birth to their first song, ‘Two Stars Collide’, best described as a Folk Dance epic.
The success of the first session quickly spawned another that was equalling compelling culminating in a Lana Del Rey-inspired dark ballad. More sessions followed and they realised they were closing in on something special – exploring this musical concept: “what if an alt.country artist went to a rave?”, yielding their own take on a Folk-Pop-Electronic hybrid.
To that end the duo are releasing three different mixes of ‘Two Stars Collide’, one with a focus on Folk-Pop, the second will be an electronic-dance mix and the third a guitar driven Alt.country jam. Can they all live in the same space? The way people are listening to all kinds of music today, Payne and McKay think they can. To the pair’s amusement and surprise, they have found themselves thoroughly embracing the thrill of spontaneous creation, allowing them space to play to each other’s strengths, somehow meeting in the middle of two disparate genres. In this room, almost anything goes!
Canadiana / Americana best describes the music singer-songwriter String Bone AKA Barry James Payne plays.
Well worn by the rumble of the road, Payne and his “North” Americana band String Bone bring his true to life narratives close to the ear with tender arrangements and gruff sincerity. Mixing folk, blues, country, rock, and other contemporary and traditional elements, his sound is both fluid and solid, thus true to its name. Payne’s last full-length album, Love & Highways (2016), drives through darkness, betrayal and remorse towards love, light, escape, with Payne at the wheel.
Born in London, Ontario, surrounded by tobacco and corn farms and some of the richest fields in the world, Payne had to get out of Dodge at an early age. Beginning at age 17, he hitchhiked west across Canada to the B.C. coast a half dozen times over the course of four years, eventually settling there before traveling south as far as L.A. and to 15 other states. Since then, he has also traveled and toured England, France, Spain, Greece, Holland and Germany. Relocating back to Stratford, Ontario, Payne launched his ‘String Bone Presents!’ live concert series, which produced over 100 shows over 10 years, bringing the best of Canadian and U.S. folk-roots to the stage at various venues in the small town best known for its internationally renowned Shakespeare festival. Artists such as Danny Michel, Mary Gauthier, Fred Eaglesmith, Madison Violet, Luke Doucet, Eliza Gilkyson, Lynn Miles, and Romi Mayes (among many others) have taken part in this highly anticipated, annual performance series. Payne’s first full length release ‘nadir’ drew comparisons to Lucinda Williams, Jay Farrar, Wilco, Dylan, Steve Earle, Nick Lowe, and Elvis Costello and the single “Midnight Train” landed in regular rotation on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s national country station for several months. Payne also performs and records with other musical projects including Celtic powerhouse Rant Maggie Rant and as half of the duo Payne & Taylor, alongside Rick Taylor (Willie P. Bennett, Stan Rogers, Colleen Peterson, Dashboard Rattle).
Nathan McKay has been creating and promoting music for as long as he can remember. His late father was a musician who helped him develop a keen musical sense and passion. In addition to his dad’s musical influences, McKay also studied classical, jazz and improv for 8 years, graduated in Entertainment Administration at Durham College and took courses from Emory University on Sound Design and Berklee on Music Production. McKay is an eclectic producer and has recorded over a dozen albums with over 350 songs in multiple genres. Two of his releases, The Flavours of Inspiration (2015) and The Crayons and the Mess That Was (2013), had to be released in two parts due to the volume of songs on each release, 51 and 65 respectively.
He was Justin Bieber’s neighbour in Stratford, Ontario, Canada and met him when Bieber was only 2 years old. They’ve had an ongoing friendship that lasts to this day. Through this friendship, he supported Justin in his early musical development and aspirations, producing the budding artist’s first concerts and fundraising for the child prodigy’s first drum kit. On that end, he has been a tireless supporter of young talent in his community for at least 25 years.
Aside from his collaboration with Barry James Payne (String Bone), McKay also collaborates with rapper Emcee Nat Saturn, jazz-soul-pop vocalist Karaleigh and with several of his students he teaches music production to.
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