Payge Turner, the trench-deep, powerful-voiced singer-songwriter who wowed audiences and judges on NBC’s “The Voice” last year and recently helped to open up Western Washington live music again last month at the WA Museum of Flight with rockers, The Black Tones, begins to break up and cry when she thinks about what the idea of home means to her. When asked, it hits her — she’s home. Meaning she is her own home. Wherever she goes, her home – herself – follows, is there. It’s an important realization for Turner, and it’s taken her some 28 years to come to it. But she has now.
“I think people always want to find a specific place,” Turner says. “But I think home, for me, is anywhere where peace is 100% transparent. That can be sitting in a bathtub. That can be standing out in nature. I searched for so long to find home, but I realize now there is no reason to search. Because I am home. I am my own home. Wherever I go, home follows.”
It’s then when emotion overtakes her. But Turner quickly collects herself. She’s literally and figuratively come too far to melt under the weight of any difficult memory or future worry. She’s solidly built. A few seconds of listening to her newest track, “Garden,” and that’s clear and evident. The single, which is one of about ten new tracks on Turner’s forthcoming LP (set for release July 30), is about the singer letting her personal guard down. She’s characteristically enthusiastic, excited and generous in those flashes. But an open heart can get one in trouble. “Garden,” which sounds like a looming Ozzy Osborne track, is about the fury that can come when we don’t vet properly whom we let into our lives.
“Honestly,” Turner says, “this is the most proud I’ve been of my music in a long time. It feels like this album is about to hit and speak in ways that haven’t been heard before. Usually, I don’t care to listen to my songs over and over, but I feel like I’m learning stuff from my music.”
Turner was born in Trinidad and Tobago. For her, it was a beautiful place to be where music and sports caught her attention and allowed her to grow up a happy kid as a “tomboy.” Later, though, her parents divorced, and Turner followed her father to the United States, where he’d bought a hotel on eBay to run off a Kansas highway. It was an attempt at the time at a new life, albeit perhaps a shortsighted one. Nevertheless, Turner moved to Kansas around 2005, found herself in the American flatlands and began to try and assimilate.
“There was a culture shock,” she says. “Even going to school on the first day, speaking in my regular accent, I spoke fast, and no one could understand me. But musicians are attuned to pitch, so by the next day, I could speak in an American accent. I adapted in order to make sense to people.”
Though she never sang in public, her friends would encourage her to try out for school performances. In Trinidad and Tobago, Turner participated in several local talent contests, so she agreed to try her hand at ones in her school. A veteran now, she remembers nervously singing Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart,” which features a lower register for most female singers. Yet, Turner nailed it. Ever since, she’s been leaning into this unique, deeper side to her voice. And it’s what raised significant eyebrows as soon as Turner stepped on stage for the “blind auditions” at “The Voice.”
“From that point on,” she says. “I was in discovery mode.”
She’s studied piano, enjoyed it. But didn’t find her “voice” until she picked up the guitar. Now, Turner says, it’s like the instrument gives her the songs. She studied music in college but, later, decided to take a trip west. Turner realized a few years ago that Kansas was too limiting a home for her vast ambitions. She thought about traveling to L.A., Austin or Nashville, but something told her to visit Washington. When she did finally, she wept when she touched down, surrounded by the natural majesty of the Pacific Northwest. Turner took up a home in Tacoma and began to plant roots in the region.
“I arrived in Tacoma and stayed at a rundown hotel near an RV camper location,” Turner says. “It was my dog and cat and me. We came here with no money. Later, I started working in West Seattle, commuting from Tacoma.”
Now, with a new album set for release, Turner remains in touch with some of her rabid fans she gained from “The Voice.” While, in many ways, she was in her way distinguished before the show, her weeks on the popular competition have proved influential. It’s where she became supremely confident in herself, her work, and in her signature lower-register singing voice. While Turner’s journey has been long, in another way, she’s again at the very beginning of a brand new chapter. “It’s thrilling,” she says.
“I’m so excited,” Turner adds. “It’s exciting to see the future unfold itself, to finally see the fruit of the sewing. More than anything, I’m trying to live in the present. It’s a humbling thing to be in a place where my career is chugging along forward. This is what I dreamed about, and it’s actually real.”