Trinidad-born Paige Roopchan steps boldly into the spotlight as the enigmatic Payge Turner
In mid-October, 28-year-old Paige Roopchan — better known as Payge Turner — made her dramatic debut performance on the season premiere of The Voice. If you missed it, you can check it out below, and read part 1 of The making of a Payge Turner here.
Trini fans eagerly anticipated the next phase of competition — the “battle rounds”, in which the coaches of those who passed the blind auditions pit two (sometimes three) of the mentees on their team against each other to sing the same song in a duet (or trio). After all the judges weigh in, the coach can only choose one contestant to move on. And lucky for us, one of the teaser videos they released — which you can see below — was Payge’s stunning duet with young Lauren Frihauf… Payge also arranged a good deal of the beautiful duet herself.
Much to Trini fans’ delight, Payge was selected to advance to the Knock-out rounds, beginning Tuesday November 17th. Once again, coaches have members of their team compete against each other. This time, however, contestants choose their own song and sing individually. And once again, the coach must choose one to advance. Trini fans were lucky a second time… one of the promo videos was Payge’s powerful and poignant performance of Radiohead’s “Creep”, as she competed against Ryan Berg. Check it out below.
The live shows were where things got tricky for fans and for Payge, as voting was only open to those in the US — meaning Payge’s Trini fans were geo-blocked from voting. Disappointingly for fans, after her live show performance, Payge wasn’t one of the top eight who moved through to the next round (one from each team was “saved” by US audience votes, and one other “saved” by their coach). She advanced to the four-way sing-off for a wildcard placement in the next round — which again is submitted to a US audience vote — but another artist was “saved”. But, in the words of Payge’s coach, Gwen Stefani:
I feel so excited for you because I know after the show — I saw you grow as well, and this is just a moment in your career, so there’s so much to come … I think the thing about you that’s so special is you’re a real, true artist. I mean, the music is just coming through you. And it’s so real, and it’s so honest and pure.
— Gwen Stefani
We’ve only just begun to read Payge Turner’s story, guided by her own defining artistic principle of “self-emptying” rather than “self-gain”. Here’s a look back at her journey to The Voice, including a Q&A with Paige that offers a look at what may be to come.
Payge Turner’s road to — and beyond — The Voice
Paige Roopchan’s many talents, many paths
A beautiful singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Payge has looked like a natural on The Voice — a born star with that “x factor” that could take her far. But for those who knew Paige Roopchan when she was growing up in Diego Martin, her emergence as a serious musician might have come as a bit of a surprise (myself included). Not because there wasn’t oodles of musical talent in her family — her mother Jacqueline Johnson and older twin sisters Anika and Rianna Johnson all sing. You can read our interview with them here, and also see below where Paige gets some of her rich tone and low notes from.
But when she was growing up in Trinidad, Paige’s high energy and natural athleticism seemed to be pointing away from music, and toward serious potential in sports. As in Olympic dreams potential in sports. One doesn’t preclude the other, of course. And there are those sayings about fruit and trees, goats and sheep — or vines and branches. Her grandmother (and great grandmother) was a self-taught pianist; her mother an accomplished singer — as both a soloist in her own right, and longtime member of the Marionettes (both sisters also sang in the Youth Chorale); and the whole family would sing together in church, with music as one of the ways they would express their strong faith.
So music — which she describes as “magical, mystical, and mysterious” — was making an impact from an early age, not least because of the range of genres that she was exposed to at home, from pop and R&B to classical and soca. Jacqueline remembers her youngest daughter taking an interest in music by five; and by seven, Paige says, she had a strong sense of what she wanted to do: “I started studying Destiny’s Child and Beyonce very young, and knew that I wanted to some day be famous.”
A new life in the US, as music comes to the fore
When she was 12, after her parents had separated, the family decided that a move to the US would give Paige the best opportunities. As she described in her first appearance on The Voice, she landed in the middle of a cold Kansas City winter, and it was a shock to the system. Performing, sports, and the church provided a much-needed outlet and community. She got involved in theatre and was a versatile athlete, playing basketball and competing in track and field events in both high school and college. But music soon took centre stage. By her mid-teens, she was adding one instrument after the other to her repertoire, and beginning to experiment with songwriting.
“I started piano back in Trinidad, but it really didn’t amuse me as much, because I thought it — the lessons — was boring at first,” she explains. “I was definitely the student that learned by ear. As much as I liked the concept of sheet music, I thought it was just moving too slow. I read a lot slower than my ears worked,” she says.
But after I moved to the States, to play in church… it honestly became my escape from a lot of emotions. I started playing bass at 14 or 15 for church. Loved that! Still play to this day for a friend of mine in town. Drums I also started playing at church to help out. At one point, I played bass, drums, and sang at the same time at a service… that was life-changing,” she says, laughing. “Guitar was last, but so far my second favourite. I chose guitar because I loved it and needed to help in church, but I soon realised that I preferred writing on guitar versus piano. I feel like guitar really embodies who I am as a writer. We just connect differently and it really just brings out my voice the best, when it comes to writing.
After completing a degree in Music Theory and Vocal Performance, Paige moved from Kansas City to Seattle, taking up a position as a voice and keyboard instructor at the School of Rock, and gigging with her band The Authors — performing both fresh interpretations of classics as well as her own treasure trove of original material. She released several singles starting in 2016, and a debut EP, Sleep Walker, in May. Notably, the Seattle move wasn’t just about the city’s vibrant music scene. “One of the biggest reasons I moved out here was, obviously, for music,” she says, “but I also moved to Seattle for the nature. I need nature in order to function.”
Drawing inspiration from artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, Lianne La Havas, RY X, and Sade, her unique signature as an artist — “raw and real lyrical content with soul/alt/progressive vibes” — made her choice of Gwen Stefani a natural one as a coach. “I knew Gwen would help me with what I needed,” Paige says. “She’s a great person, a great brand advisor and, of course, an excellent artist.” How Payge Turner’s talents as a singer, songwriter, arranger, and instrumentalist will manifest on the show remains to be seen. As Stefani hinted in the promo, “we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg”.
Despite the distance, she also maintains a close bond with her mother and sisters, making music both in person and virtually. “We honestly did a lot of four-pieces for church together. A lot of medleys from what I remember,” she says. “We have only done one thing overseas, and that was The Blessing music video! Which was a task in itself, but I’d personally like more.” (You can check out that video below)
Q&A with Paige “Payge Turner” Roopchan
How’d you choose Payge Turner as your “sobriquet”?
I remember one day when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my stage name, I remember sitting down with a friend and contemplating different kinds of names musically. Like you know how Alicia Keys [born Alicia Augello Cook] has Alicia Keys, I was like, OK — Paige Chord, Paige Note, or some schuppidness like that. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out musical ways to interpret a last name. And that was a mess, so I didn’t go that route. And I just remember looking at her and saying, “What about Payge Turner”? And she kind of laughed, like “why would you do that?” But it was more so that I was saying: what about if the concept of my name makes people want to turn the page every time they listen to my music? So the objective of Payge Turner — yes it is a pun, but it’s not to meant to be like a hahaha hilarious pun — it’s really just mean to be like, OK, so every time I listen to this person sing, I want more. So that’s really where Payge Turner came from. It’s just like wanting more, and you know like when you’re reading a good book, you wanna turn the page. It’s real kinda cheesy, but I like it — and it seems to hit most people.
What made you decide to audition for The Voice? Was it something you’d always planned on doing?
I did it to really expand myself as an artist. I knew I needed something to push me over the cliff when it came to demographics — but also it’s a great place to learn about the industry in a controlled environment. It wasn’t in my original plan, but I tend to avoid heavy plans; I like spontaneity.
What are your favourite memories of Trinidad?
It would have to be family trips to the beach. Listen, me and water is best friend. So anytime we’d go anywhere near it, especially Tobago, I was happy!
What would you want the world to know about Trinidad & Tobago?
Our culture! We are such a diverse country, but when we bring everything together, we make the best kinds of humans! Culture pot for real. And our food! I don’t care what anyone says, we have the best curry mix.
What is teaching like? What’s your teaching style?
Teaching sometimes is a pain, not going to lie. But the best kind of pain. I’ve learned so much from my kids and students. I’d say my style is very laid back. We spend a lot of time working on fundamentals when we need to, but sometimes we’ll work on writing structures and figuring out our voices. We spend most time working on show material, though. I always like to make sure my vocalists approach their songs healthily.
How has the pandemic affected you over the last several months?
Sucked! Not going to lie. It’s been weird financially, but musically just dry like Crix. Nothing in between. I got some opportunities for live stream gigs, but it just wasn’t the same. Corona no more.
What kind of musical or artistic career would you like Payge Turner to have?
Very much lean towards independent all the way. I’d like to have a successful career, but also still have a private life. So, some fame, but not a lot. I want people to still be able to have a connection with me and be able to approach me.
Any question you wish someone would ask so that you could answer?
I think the only question I wish people would ask is how do I want my music to impact others? To answer that, I’d say I want people to feel everything that we’re doing on a record. I want others to feel the arrangement, the lyrics, and the emotions. But I also want others to grow from what they hear. I feel like I speak from a place of brokenness sometimes that they can relate to and grow from. If any of that makes sense.
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Written by Caroline Taylor