Robert is the Pastor of Worship and Arts at North Ridge Community Church in Cave Creek, AZ. Prior to that, he has served in ministry at North Phoenix Baptist Church for 18 years in several different capacities including his most recent as the Director of Worship. He is a singer-songwriter, band leader, choral and orchestra conductor, arranger, composer, film producer, and guitarist. He also moonlights as a music producer and lecturer.
Robert earned a B.A. in Theory and Composition, and Guitar Performance at Grand Canyon University.
He’s married to a brilliant woman named Monna and has three fun, creative kids.
The single, Drive, from the Robert’s Debut album, “Sunlight.”
WATCH THE music video “Red Letter Day -Live”
The music video, Anthem of the Free, from the Robert’s album, Sunlight
Illumination thrust itself upon a young eighth grader lying on a basketball court with a broken clavicle bone: How else would one be stuck for six weeks straight in a position that perfectly allowed for the guitar to be played? For the first time, the purpose of two years of guitar instruction and years of piano lessons before that, became perfectly clear. Thus ended a promising basketball career, and a young teenager began to recognize his obsession with guitar, music, and rock stardom.
A student of music from an early age, Robert Payne began playing piano at the age of seven. Immediately, he showed great proficiency in technique and composition. Much to the chagrin of his instructors, he often ignored the songs from the lesson books, preferring to write original songs for his lessons.
Watch the Behind the Scenes of “Anthem of the Free”
Not long after, Robert bought an old 1980’s sound system from a garage sale, and his ears were opened to another world of music. Robert became obsessed with AC/DC’s classic rock anthem, “Shook Me All Night Long,” the Phil Collins song, “In the Air Tonight,” and Aerosmith’s “Angel.” However, it was at age 12 when a fateful sailboat trip to Catalina Island changed everything. It was there that Robert’s uncle showed him how to play the famous classical guitar piece, “Romanza.” A focused and inspired Robert learned it in only two days time.
Throughout high school, Robert began to play in bands.During these formative years in Phoenix, Robert wrote music, mainly heavy progressive rock, for the rock bands Anastasia and Resistance. All the while, Robert continued in High School marching band and concert band, playing tuba as well as playing double bass in the district honor orchestra. Robert even premiered his wind ensemble piece, “Spirit of the Wind,” showcasing his constant go-between rock-pop and traditional, legitimate composition. Even at a young age, Robert’s musical taste was well versed.
“I had only four cassette tapes when I first started in music,” Robert notes,” Joe Satriani’s ‘Surfin’ With the Alien,’ a live concert of Andres Segovia, the soundtrack to the movie ‘Crossroads,’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘Slowhand.’”
Watch a Behind-the-scenes of the song Drive
At age 17 Robert went to Centesrfuge Student Camp at Glorietta, NM. there he had an illumination of a supernatural kind. Having grown up in Baptist church life, he always felt as a pariah, the one who was obsessed with “the devil’s music” and “the devil’s instrument.” Robert never felt like he belonged to the church or that the church had much use for his talent. But, God would have different plans. God used the music video, “Secret Ambition” by Michael W. Smith. The video depicted the last days and resurrection of Christ and featured one of the most impressive guitar solos of all time, played by Dan Huff.
Robert committed his life to following Christ and making music for Him.
This transformation led Robert to Grand Canyon University. There, not only did he study music and the Bible, but he formed the band Poetshaker along with fellow students. The Band was quickly known for being one of the only Christian Progressive rock bands, in the same vein as Dream Theater, etc. The band enjoyed modest regional success in the US, and toured extensively with their 1997 debut EP “Progressions of Faith.” They opened for Sammy Hagar, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, and Fates Warning.
Upon graduation, Poetshaker’s final formation was complete and Robert formed a brand new band, Drag of Gravity, with Poetshaker’s bass player Brian Smith as the lead singer. Brian and Robert quickly formed a highly successful four song EP, that made the band a sought- after act. With music connecting to fans, Drag of Gravity released their critically-successful full-length album, “Down” in 2004. During this time, Robert also was captivated by a young soprano, Monna, who would become his wife in 2000. Monna currently runs the “Organic Mama Cafe” blog.
As recordings began, people began to notice Robert’s record production skills, as he would often take the helm of Poetshaker and Drag of Gravity studio sessions. In 2006 he began working regularly in the studio, producing records for such artists as David Ellis, Steve McCarty, and Rocky Searan.
The original trailer for the Sunlight album release
In 2006, Robert also began work in a new young adult ministry at North Phoenix Baptist Church called “Crash.” This worship service allowed Robert the opportunity to hone a new skill: leading worship. Having worked for the church since 1998, Robert’s main concentration was instrumental music, producing bands and developing musicians, working in film, and church administration. But this new endeavor helped Robert develop his voice further and helped him lay the groundwork as a solo recording artist.
By 2011, Robert had toured Nashville and the CMA Fest. This nailed down Robert’s desire to record his first solo album, so he began writing songs and penning lyrics as well as employing his longtime friend, Rocky Searan (Matt Maher, Bluetree), to produce his album. Robert took the next year to get songs ready and hone in on his style. However, he still kept the album and the songs almost a secret, even from his wife.
By this time, the world of connected social media was in full swing, giving new artists an unprecedented platform to expose fans to their music. Additionally, crowd-funding was growing in popularity, and the Amazon-based company Kickstarter was helping fund music projects all across the board. So, in March 2012 Robert successfully raised $13,600 in funds for his new album through Kickstarter, and shortly thereafter, full-swing production of the album began.
Robert’s debut album “Sunlight” is a testimony to his vast musical influences from his youth, college, and beyond. Many people have described his music as rock with some major modern country and blues influences. However, Robert himself refers to his style as Americana. There is no question the album’s style shocked many of his fans, given his progressive rock past. But, what shocked fans more was Robert’s decision to give 100% of his album sales to Students at a University in Zambia, Africa.
For years now, local musicians, even musicians signed to record labels, lose massive amounts of album sale profits to online piracy and illegal sharing. So any recovery of the initial investment is very difficult. Most musicians see most of their positive income in merchandising, publishing management (songs used in TV/Movies etc) and live concerts.
“So, I thought, what if you gave people a motivation to not only buy a record legally, but share it, and even gift it to friends. It could grow exponentially,” said Robert. “I chose 100% to make a statement. I’m making a statement to artists and fans can that we can pave a new way to tackle needs around the world.”
To date, Robert’s record as already paid for one student’s University education for a full year. Robert continues to tour and push his record to help people capture the mission behind the music. He also remains the highest funded Kickstarter artist for a music project in Arizona.
The album “Sunlight” was released on October 23rd, 2012. A blend of country, rock, and gospel, Robert’s album promises a new threshold of quality for music recorded in Phoenix. “We wanted to set a new standard in both guitar tones and songwriting,” said Robert, a twenty-plus year guitarist, “and I believe we have accomplished that goal with this album.”
This album offers more than listenability and musical excellence. Robert has committed 100% of album sale profits to Northrise University students in Zambia, Africa.
Robert works for North Phoenix Baptist Church as the Director of Worship. There he is a creative brainstorm-er, band leader, worship leader, orchestra conductor, a staff arranger, composer, film producer and guitarist. He also moonlights as a music producer, composer and lecturer. Robert is a graduate of Grand Canyon University where he received two bachelors degrees: Theory and Composition, and Guitar Performance. Robert is married to his beautiful wife Monna and has three children.
Watch the Making of the Album Sunlight on Amazon Instant Video now!
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