At just 15 years old, country music prodigy Payton Riley has etched her name in the annals of Texas music history. On a remarkable journey that started with singing as soon as she was able to talk, Payton has quickly risen to the top of the charts in the Lone Star State – especially around Houston, Dallas and the Texas Hill Country.
Recently, Payton achieved a feat that no one could have predicted when she became the youngest person ever to receive the prestigious 2023 Young Artist of the Year award from the Texas Country Music Association. The award was presented to her at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on November 7. As the youngest recipient ever of this honor, Payton’s accomplishment is a testament to her incredible talent and unwavering dedication to her craft. This accolade solidifies her place as not only a rising star but also a force to be reckoned with in the country music industry. Plus, on January 20, 2024, she debuted her new band – The Payton Riley Band – at The Table at Madeley, (a family friendly restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating and stage) – in Conroe, TX, who received a warm welcome with a round of applause from the audience.
Born in 2008, Payton started voice lessons at age seven and was soon singing the national anthem around town. At age nine, she started learning how to write songs and performed an original tune on the Dosey Doe Big Barn stage in The Woodlands, TX. Since then, she’s been a regular at Houston-area venues in Conroe, Montgomery, and Spring, performing original songs and cover tunes. In 2022, she was one of the youngest ever to attend a songwriting retreat in Memphis, TN, put on by award-winning singer-songwriter Grace Askew. There, she learned new writing techniques, co-wrote with seasoned artists, and recorded the songs in the Sam Phillips Recording Services Studio.
While many fifteen-year-olds may be content with participating in school concerts or jamming with friends in their garages, Payton is pursuing her dream with remarkable determination and maturity. Her soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics captivate audiences and are drawing the attention of music industry insiders.
As she embarks on this thrilling musical journey, Payton remains grounded and humble, expressing gratitude to her fans who have supported her since day one. Her Young Artist of the Year Award is not only a recognition of her talent but also a promise of greater things to come.
“My passion is songwriting, but I love being on stage, telling the stories behind my original songs, and performing. I first started writing inspirational songs and then shortly after that, I developed my love for country music primarily because it speaks to your soul and is so relatable to everyone.”
Payton’s passion for country music was recently awarded by the Texas Country Music Association in Fort Worth, TX, on November 7, 2023. “I was really shocked when I received the Young Artist of the Year Award! I am the youngest artist to ever be nominated for the award, and I was up against some super talented artists, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. When we got to our seats at the award show, we were toward the back of Billy Bob’s, so I kept thinking that I would be seated closer if I was going to win the award. Thinking that, I was really surprised when they called my name! I am so thankful for everyone who voted for me for this wonderful award. Last year, my family and I were at the very back of Billy Bob’s and watching all the great artists receive their awards. I turned to my mom and said, ‘That’s going to be me next year.’ I worked my tail off this past year, so I am so thankful that it paid off!”
In addition to her music career, Payton has a side gig that means the most to her. “When I was younger, my family fostered three different children which left a huge impact on me. I knew I wanted to do something with foster children, so when a woman, who saw me perform at a Jeff Canada concert, asked if I would perform at her upcoming gala, I was thrilled. She started telling us about her organization called Love Heals Youth and how she provides counseling for foster children. My mom and I looked at each other in disbelief! I jumped in helping every chance I got. I was blessed enough to be able to sing Christmas carols to the youth in group homes on Christmas Eve, sing with them on their Day of Counseling, and organize monthly service projects. I also turned a poem that founder Rebecca Smith wrote into a song called Love Heals that you can now find on your favorite streaming platform. Love Heals Youth not only offers free counseling to the kids in the foster system, but they also offer tutoring services, a mobile clothes closet where the kids can pick out new clothes, and welcome home bags. There are 50,000 foster children just in Texas alone, and that’s way too many! I believe that we can all do something to help them.”
Since she travels a lot around the state playing at various venues, Payton says this about Texas: “Texas is the greatest state! I travel quite a bit with my family and for my music so I can tell you Texas definitely has the friendliest people and some of the most beautiful spots to see. I love singing in Texas because almost all of the Texas artists are so supportive, will come cheer you on at your shows, and just really rally around you. There’s nowhere else you can find such an amazing group of people that really want you to be successful.
“I have been fortunate enough to open for Payton Howie and Ryder Grimes this past year. They have both shown me so much love, support, and friendship. My plan for 2024 is to book some new shows in surrounding states. I am looking forward to meeting new faces and sharing my music with everyone.”
School and music take up much of her spare time so balancing both is tricky for her. “I rarely have any down time. I am still in high school, and it is super challenging to juggle school with my music career. I go to school, come home, and do homework, then I have band practice or voice lessons, or I am practicing for an upcoming show. I’ve also had a lot of podcast and radio interviews this past year. I have even done a few of these interviews at school in my principal’s office just so I don’t have to miss more school than I have already. I miss parties, football games, dinners, etc. because I have to stay diligent and focused on my career.”
Despite being in the spotlight most of the time, Payton is an introvert and would not have pursued her dream if it was not for her mom. “I am super shy and quiet. I also would have quit guitar lessons about 50 times if my mom would have let me! Guitar is the hardest thing I have ever had to learn, but I’m so glad I did.”
To help others fulfill their dreams, Payton has this to say: “I would say go for it! Put in the time and work and focus on your goals. It’s going to be hard, and you will want to quit, but keep digging! My best advice would also be to start writing songs. There are so many artists that can’t write a song. Another good piece of advice is to surround yourself with good people that want you to succeed and that will help you achieve your dreams. Dream big!”
(Note: Payton introduced her new band, The Payton Riley Band, on January 20 at The Table at Madeley, Conroe, TX. She also released her newest song, “Mascara Doesn’t Lie” — a song that talks about the struggles of a teenage girl who is trying to figure out how to feel good about herself again after a breakup and experiencing heartache.)
Cover Photo Courtesy Payton Riley
Bob Valleau is a regular entertainment contributor for Texas Lifestyle Magazine.