Sam Payne comes from a line of itinerant musicians with stories to tell.
Guitar in hand, Payne will be the next performer to reside at the International Storytelling Center from June 28 to July 2. 1970s.
Payne’s father combined the routine work of a traveling salesman with the creative life of a working artist. “It was a really mystical way to make a living,” said Utah-based Payne. “He just went out in the morning and knocked on doors. If he sold a lot of records, there would be a lot of lunch. And if he hadn’t, there would have been a small dinner.
On the road today, Payne still talks to people who remember those unusual encounters when his father sang songs from his records in their living room.
Abandoning a ukulele given to him by his father at the tender age of 8, Payne had already come of age before becoming a musician himself. His younger brother showed up at the door late at night. “He handed me the guitar and said, ‘You’re the only one of us who can’t play, and frankly, we’re tired of it,'” Payne recalls. He immediately set to work.
On stage at Jonesboro, Payne’s folk and jazz songs will be interspersed with stories about his life and his family. He will also draw on his repertoire of stories about American space exploration, a subject that has fascinated him since childhood. True stories about the Mir space station, the Mars rover and the James Webb telescope captured Payne’s imagination when he was a little boy looking at the night stars. He still remembers watching the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia on TV, which the school librarian brought to his class for the occasion.
Payne’s appearance in Jonesboro is possible thanks to Storytelling Live! program, a seasonal series of concerts that brings a new storyteller to town every week until the end of October. Morning concerts take place every day, from Tuesday to Saturday, at 14:00.
As part of its state-of-the-art online platform, which expands access for viewers who cannot attend live performances in person, the International Storytelling Center will record and broadcast one of Payne’s concerts. This performance will be available online from Thursday, June 30th until midnight next Monday. Online tickets cost $15 per family.
Like many storytellers, the pandemic has forced Payne to get creative with video conferencing and other tools. He was amazed at his ability to connect with people during remote performances, but he’s more than thrilled to be back on stage with a real audience.
“There is nothing better than being together in the same room,” he says. “The beautiful Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall is the perfect place to share stories. Nothing like this. I’m just incredibly excited. Viewers will get a new experience from my work because there are so many new things.”
First Sponsor of Storytelling Live! it is BIO-CLEAN. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, US Department of the Treasury, Niswonger Foundation, ETSU, East Tennessee Foundation, Tennessee Humanities, Hillhouse Creative, Carol and Bobby Frist, Norris Family Foundation, Dollywood’s. DreamMore Resort and Spa and the 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 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full schedule, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit www.storytellingcenter.net or call (800) 952-8392.