A known commodity in Metro Detroit, Barbara Payton has been rocking stages and Pride festivals in the area for 25 years. Despite all that local clout, many might not realize that she has a pretty snazzy side gig, too. Since 2006, she has been joining Detroit rock legend Bob Seger as a supporting vocalist when he tours.
“Singing for Seger is one of the most rewarding experiences of my musical career,” Payton told Between The Lines. “He is a joy to work for and his attention to detail and level of professionalism is inspiring. By watching him I have learned how to be a better musician, a better performer and have taken away things that I can apply to conducting my own rehearsals with my band.”
Currently, Payton is on the road with Seger and the Silver Bullet Band for the Roll Me Away tour. The show rolls into DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkson for a few select dates next month from June 6 through 21.
“This is his farewell tour,” Payton said. “It’s exciting and I will savor every moment. He is a consummate professional and whenever he takes the stage, he always brings his best to every show. He is fully present and clearly, to this day, enjoys what he does. From my perspective, it differs from previous tours in the sense that I am taking in every moment on a deeper level. I have always felt that it’s a privilege and an honor to step onto his stage and I have loved every tour. However, this is bittersweet.”
Having fronted her own band for so long, one has to wonder how Payton feels about singing backing vocals.
“It’s been my experience that backing vocals differ from lead because of the precision it takes to blend with the other singers,” she explained. “Oh, and we have one hell of a blend if I do say so myself. I have learned so much from Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy over the years. They have been Bob’s longtime background singers and when you hear them it obvious as to why.
“As far as my being a lead singer, I take more liberties and am well aware that because of that and the fact that I’m rather animated at times on my stage that I am not always as precise,” Payton continued. “I don’t prefer one over the other. They are different animals, so to speak, and I love them equally.”
With Seger’s tour winding up this summer, Payton, who proudly boasts she will turn 56 in August, must consider the future herself.
“What’s next for me is the big question,” she said. “I purchased a Victorian-style home in my hometown of Port Huron and have plenty of work ahead of me while I ponder my next move. I will say that I’m excited to get back to collaborating with my dear friend Nolan Mendenhall. We’ve written some songs together and have recorded several of them already. I would love to go out on another tour and am already putting some feelers out there. We’ll see. Bob Seger is a hard act to follow. I love Bob, my bandmates, the crew and everyone else that makes this tour possible and will miss them terribly.”
But the show, or life as it’s sometimes called, must go on.
“I do still have my own band, or at least I think I do,” Payton said with a laugh. “I say that jokingly because all of my band members have their own projects or continue to stay in high demand within the Detroit music community. I feel very blessed to work with such talented musicians. I am very much looking forward to reaching out to them when the tour wraps up and booking gigs. I will say that I have missed playing to our LGBTQ community and want to focus on booking gigs within the community as soon as we’re all able to.”
For more about Barbara Payton, visit barbarapayton.com.