Birmingham singer-songwriter Jesse Payne finds peace in 'Nesting' Posted by Mary Colurso -- Birmingham News August 07, 2009 7:45 AM Categories: City Scene, Columns, Music (Special / Gwinevere James) Jesse Payne says the songs on his new CD, 'Nesting,' were conceived in solitude. 'I decided to lock myself in a cave and write,' he says. Jesse Payne has a suggestion. It's not a demand, or heaven forbid, a direct order. Still, the Birmingham musician would like it very much if people set aside a specific chunk of time, found a dark, quiet spot and put on headphones when they encountered 'Nesting.' That's Payne's new recording, set for release Aug. 15 on Silent Crow Records. Eight tracks on his CD, which Payne describes as 'American music,' are meant to evoke feelings of comfort and safety. (That's where the nesting comes in, as you settle into a secure space to listen.) 'Everything is so chaotic right now, it's hard to clear your head,' Payne says. 'I want you to feel good about taking 40 or 50 minutes for yourself. I like to think nesting is something we all experience, a homecoming, a seasonal experience. We can embrace it and reflect on it.' As those words suggest, Payne is a philosophical guy, and if his thoughts don't follow the mainstream, well, isn't that what art is all about? Art is his goal, and nothing less, as Payne makes music with like-minded friends such as drummer Mason Boyd, guitarist Noel Johnson, bassist Jonathan Sutton and keyboard player Nick Timkovich. In fact, Payne thinks of his songs as audio paintings, producing imagery that can be interpreted as light or dark, upbeat or downcast, hopeful or sorrowful, depending on the receiver. 'Nesting,' his fourth indie disc, probably will find a home in collections of folk or acoustic rock, although Payne prefers not to categorize tunes such as 'Ramble We Hang,' 'Heavy Cotton Hands' and 'Scripting Carolina.' Suffice it to say he takes inspiration from Wilco and Andrew Bird, and his roots run to the Dylanesque. Payne plucked a few numbers from 'Nesting' for a City Stages benefit this year, and he'll play the CD in it's entirety during an Aug. 15 concert at the WorkPlay theater. The White Oaks will share the 9 p.m. bill with Payne, and he expects the two bands to collaborate onstage, despite their separate sets. (They already share Johnson's skills as a singer-guitarist.) 'We're trying to put on a theatrical production; we've got some props, got some actors and we're all thinking of a carnival atmosphere,' Payne says. 'We're going to make a nest on stage and create chaos around us.' Expect some trees, then, and perhaps an owl, among the props at WorkPlay. The nocturnal birds are an important symbol for Payne, and a stylized owl adorns the CD cover for 'Nesting.' 'I'm definitely a night person,' he says. 'They've always called me a night owl.' Also, some of Payne's most cherished childhood memories are linked to a small stuffed owl that was a gift from his father. Owls, for him, imply a safe haven, rather like the one Payne has found after settling down with his wife, Amber. 'It's calmed my insides down,' he says with a smile. And that's been good for the music. According to Payne, the material on 'Nesting' reflects his intentions more clearly and precisely than any disc in his catalog. 'I've been working to achieve a sound,' he says. 'It feels good to stand behind something 100 percent. I hope that people are able to grasp it, and enjoy it, and let it be about the music.'