On Nov. 5, Mary Persons freshman Ethan Payne will compete against five others for 2017 Teen Artist at the Georgia Country Music Awards. He will perform before judges at Crazy Bull in Macon, which has hosted the event for the last three years.
Ethan’s mother said his nomination for the title came from someone within the Georgia Country Music Awards; parents were not allowed to nominate. Ethan competed for Teen Artist of the Year in Cartersville earlier this year. Although he did not place first in the competition, that performance gave him the exposure that impressed someone in the industry enough to nominate him. Ethan said that most of the others nominated may have more experience than he does because they are 17 or 18, but he doesn’t think any of them can enjoy performing more than he does or be looking forward to singing to the crowd at Crazy Bull as much.
The Georgia Country Music Awards event will also name the best male singer, female singer, duo, group or band and traditional artist. There will also be awards for best venues, country music radio station and national artist. A percentage of online ticket sales to the awards will go to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief.
For Ethan, it’s more about the chance to perform than the competition. He loves singing and playing guitar. After a summer of two-hour gigs at least once every weekend, he knows that where he wants to be is on stage performing country music. Listeners agree that he is in his element as Ethan, 14, wows audiences in venues he can’t legally enter except as the entertainer.
He sings at Twangs in Macon, Mellow Mushroom in Warner Robins, Brick House in Gray, Wild Wing Cafe in Macon, Sinclair’s in Milledgeville and more. Ethan also frequently plays for benefits, such as singing the national anthem and then entertaining for two hours at the Michael Norris Memorial Ride in Culloden on Sept. 16.
Ethan has been a part of several Make a Wish Foundation benefits. He is eager to contribute to Make a Wish because being on the receiving end of Make a Wish gave him an opportunity that cemented his desire to make country music a focus in his life. On Oct. 22, 2016 Ethan got to meet country star Luke Bryan backstage before a concert in Dallas, Texas.
Make a Wish arranged the meeting because Ethan, like an older brother, has cystic fibrosis. But meeting Bryan backstage was only the beginning for Ethan. He sang a couple of Bryan’s songs for him and so impressed the star that Bryan invited Ethan on stage before 50,000 fans at At&T Stadium where he remained for seven minutes singing two duets with the headliner. Afterwards, Bryan told Ethan he could keep his $2,000 guitar.
Amazingly, one thing that is not on Ethan’s repertoire is stage fright.
“I want to do it every day,” said Ethan. “I love it.”
He got his first guitar for Christmas when he was eight, and has been playing ever since. He studied guitar with Lucas Woodgeard at Young America Music School in Macon for a year-and-a-half. He said he reached a point where he needed a break and didn’t play for four or five months. At that point he was ready to play again and has been teaching himself since. He has a vocal coach and is working on stretching his range.
More recently Ethan began writing his own lyrics and expects to release his first single, “Back in Time,” in the next couple of weeks, before the Georgia Country Music Awards. The song is about the loss of a loved one; the words are about a man getting the news of the death of his wife, who was serving in the military in Afghanistan. He said he means for anyone who has suffered a loss to be able to relate to it.
Even though he is only 14, Ethan said he feels like he understands loss deeply enough to write about it. He said he has dealt with the deaths of both of his grandfathers and of uncles and has dealt with the sense of loss that came from his parents’ divorce. His mother, Lisa, says he “was always an old soul.”
“I turn it into songs,” said Ethan.
His immediate goal is to complete two more songs to combine with “Back in Time” to release as an EP. His method of writing is to begin playing the guitar and focus on letting the lyrics come to him. He hopes to begin learning other instruments, starting with the keyboard. His dream is to be able to launch a career in country music by the time he is 18 and graduates from high school.
“It’s kind of a hobby now. I want to take it to the next level,”said Ethan. “I’m limited some by transportation and age right now.”
Luke Bryan remains his favorite country singer. Others that he likes include Chris Stapleton, Jason Aldean, George Strait and Garth Brooks. Asked about influences from his family that led him into music, Ethan said that both his older brother and his mom can sing. There is a lot of karaoke at home and someone is always singing. He has two older brothers, Josh, 24, and Chris, 20.
“His passion is singing to people,” said his mother.
For the time being, school work is priority. Ethan said that luckily he is quick in school and has time to work his music and perform. He said his favorite things to do are singing, fishing and golf “in that order.”
Check out his Facebook page, Ethan Payne Entertainment, to watch videos, find out where he is performing, and keep up with the release of “Back in Time” and his first EP.