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SCHERRIE PAYNE 2016 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
We laughed a lot. We gossiped greatly, and put the world to rights. We haven’t hooked up to chat since, well, years ago, but talked as if it was yesterday…about the fact she’s still in the business, her love of writing, The Supremes, how she beat breast cancer, her bouts of depression and, well, read on…

Miss Scherrie Payne is an extremely busy lady and, to be honest, I was lucky to catch her when I did because not only is she recording again, but is working on another screenplay, one of several she’s got in the pipeline. So, where to start I wondered? The new music project seemed appropriate.

“Remember Who You Are” has just been released on Altair Records and is available on download from all the known sites. “I’d never heard the song before” explained the lady. “And actually, to be frank, when I listened to it – and I love Phyllis Hyman – it had to grow on me. I didn’t think it was me but Rick (Gianatos, her producer) kept on saying it was. And he can be pushy! But anyway, he sent it to my daughter. She listened to it and said it was perfect for me.” I’m so glad the majority won because the single is sophisticated and smooth, lovely and warm, and the accompanying video is wonderful to watch. Scherrie is such a consummate artist. However, my gripe was…eek, download only. She laughed. “I like something physical in my hand. I’m old fashioned like that.” She confirmed there’s an album “Vintage Scherrie” in the works, plus another by The Former Ladies Of The Supremes, both of which, she hopes, will see 2016 release. However, she’d dearly love to visit the UK to promote “Remember Who You Are” and indeed for the Former Ladies to tour here as well. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been over there so I think we’re over due don’t you?”

Singing is still very much a priority in her life, thankfully for us. It’s something she always wanted to do, she laughed, even if it was just to herself. “I would sing if I was happy or sad, that’s how I released my depression or showed my happiness. I still love to sing. I don’t have the voice I used to. It’s harder now, so I’m taking lessons from my daughter, hoping to get 90% of it back. I’m 75% now. Your voice gets deeper, and as I had breast cancer surgery in 2011, the medication that I’m on - which I’ll be through with in May - really affects the vocal chords which I didn’t realise. I’ve been really struggling to breathe and hit notes. Then my friend Eloise Laws, she had the same procedure and the same medication, told me about it. Apparently, the medication breaks down your muscles, and your vocal chords are a muscle. I’d never thought about that. But I’m still here. “

Being taught by her daughter Shoshana must have been a weird transition, particularly as mum usually comes out tops when advising daughters what to do. Once again, Scherrie burst into laughter. “It was hard at first, let me tell you! At first I was a little defiant. She’d say ‘you need to phrase’. And I’d say ‘don’t tell me I know how to phrase..I know what I’m doing blah, blah.’ It got sort of tough for a while. She has two master degrees and her own vocal studio where I take lessons from her. But I’m so proud of her, and my grandson who will be eleven.”

Spending time with her family has always been a problem due to her touring and recording commitments, but now that her work has slowed a little, it seems she has been making up for lost time. ”There was a time when I was just gone all the time. I’m sort of glad because I don’t care about traipsing all over the place any more, especially when there’s so much happening in the world. I do enjoy travelling overseas. I’d love to come to England again. I haven’t been to Japan in a long time, that’s one of my favourite places. Italy is another. Primarily we always worked out of the country so it was always nice. However, it’s also nice to be with my family. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite times. It’s family time together as we always go to, Freda, my sister’s house. And we all share in the cooking. There’s nothing more precious than family.”

Right, moving to The Supremes. Prior to Scherrie joining them she was lead singer for The Glass House, signed to Invictus Records, the company formed by Brian and Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier following their exit from Motown. Other artists sharing the roster were Freda Payne of course, and Honey Cone where, ironically, Scherrie sang lead on their international hit “Want Ads”, before Edna Wright took over. Following the release of the smash title “Crumbs Off The Table”, The Glass House failed to repeat that global success, and eventually disbanded in the early seventies. Scherrie joined The Supremes when Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong - who was later replaced by Susaye Green – in the final official trio line-up. It was clear that the-powers-that-be at Motown cared little about The Supremes’ future when Mary opted to pursue a solo career. I’ll let Scherrie take up the story – “When Mary left Joyce Vincent was going to replace her. She’s a very good friend of mine, I’d known her for years and people really liked her. So we decided on Joyce. And then the day came when we got word from Motown that, as there was no original member in the group, there was to be no group. I don’t know who gave that order but that’s what happened. Susaye and I approached Suzanne De Passe (then one of Motown’s presidents) because they didn’t know what to do with us. They said we don’t need two soloists. Then Suzanne had the idea of putting us together as a duo. I didn’t care either way, but that’s how it came about. And Susaye came up with the title for the album ‘Partners’. Released in 1979, the project didn’t sell that well at the time, but has enjoyed re-issue in recent years. Shortly before its release solo Scherrie issued the solitary single “Fly” which remains as vital today as it was then. Sadly, it was the only one. Maybe there’s other material in the can I ventured? “Y’know I can’t even remember a lot of the stuff I did. I know there was one that I always loved, and it was going to be on the second album because it was too long for the first one. Called ‘Slow Dance’ and written by me, it was something like eight minutes long. Susaye loved it but….. there was no second album.”

Being more assertive, the lady said in all honesty, may have changed her future career when Mary left the Supremes, but she was suffering with a dreadful period in her life. “It was right at the time when my mother died, and I was in such a vulnerable and weak place. I just had no kind of fight in me. I simply went along with the programme whatever it was. I allowed things to be dictated to me, and I didn’t care. I lost my way. I’ve always been my own worst enemy.” Hah, my problem, I told her, is the opposite, as my thinking is - God gave me a mouth so use it! Laugher roared down the phone line “I don’t know how to open my mouth Sharon! I just say ‘OK, whatever you say’. However, push me to a certain point then I’ll really rally. I’ll be like a little Chihuahua, so don’t push me. Let me tell you, if I’d had an agent or a manager, it might have been a totally different outcome with someone fighting for me. But I was always on my own.”

We finally got round to chatting about her current, hugely successful and critically acclaimed screenplay “Lady In Waiting”. It was produced by Don B Welch, premiered at The Missing Piece Theatre, North Hollywood, and I could tell by the pride in her voice, the success of it has taken her breath away. “It’s about a woman who is on trial for murdering her husband” she told me. “With lots of twists and turns in it.”

Did you take it from real life?

“Oh my God no! It’s all made up!”

Following the initial run, the play has been re-scheduled several times, with a date in March coming up. “It’s performed in a small theatre so we’d like to take it to a bigger venue if possible but I’m so happy that people really like it. This is the second stage play I’ve written and Don put on my first one in September 2012. Y’know, all my dear British friends were there with me too.”

To date, Scherrie has written a staggering 19 screenplays, and about to start on her 20th. In fact, she was editing one when I phoned. “I hope somebody will want to film them and whenever that door opens I’ll be ready” she explained. “I’ve had several people interested in them; people have come back and told me that needs to be a movie, and I’m coming back, bringing some agents. It’s scarey…but I’ve been waiting and praying for so long now.” When I asked why did she think this was happening now, and not back in the day, the lady replied with her usual honesty. “Maybe I would have been stupid and acted stupidly, or let it go to my head. It’s very humbling because I thought God gave me this talent for a reason. Sometimes I get depressed and really anguished – ‘Lord, you gave me all this, but you didn’t give it to me to let it sit on a shelf, and you continually give me ideas’. So something must be going to happen with it. I’m just patiently waiting for the day. If He’s delaying it, it’s for a reason and whatever the reason is, I’ll accept it. So, I’ll just keep doing my thing every day, working on my screen plays, knowing I’ll be ready when that time comes, and the door opens.” She paused then giggled. “Please don’t let it be posthumously. I’ve done all this stuff and I’d really like to be around to enjoy it!”

Before the chat ended, we touched briefly on Scherrie’s periods of depression, when the dark side kicked in, and again, she was quite open about the subject. “Sometimes I do suffer and I’ve told people that in recent months and they were much surprised. Even my own sister. However, I think that’s part of anybody who’s really creative. That they have those up-and-down mood swings. It’s only when I’m being creative that I’m happiest of all. I enjoy listening to classical music. In fact, I have this music on in the background when I’m working because it really inspires me and gives me thoughts that make me go into a deeper place.” Interesting she should divulge that, I interrupted because although I’m not really into the classics, when I need to be somewhere else when writing, I listen to – dare I say this – Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” or anything by Coldplay. It’s all on one level. Whereas if I played Motown music I’d need to stop and listen because I’m instantly drawn into it. “No, it doesn’t really do it for me either. I may dance a little bit, but other than that it wouldn’t take me to that place I need to go to. I’ve heard so much of it over the years y’know. Don’t get me wrong, it is always good to hear. But when I really want to get into deep thoughts I put on something like Rimsky Korsakov, or those plush movie themes. Oh, my goodness, they really do it for me.”

Don’t put on the theme from “Titanic” then, I quipped.

“Oh no, that didn’t end very well did it!” she laughed.

Two soul gals talking about classical and rock music! Doesn’t actually gell well does it?!

Last question coming up I said. Anything else she needs to do? A little thinking time followed. “I think I’ve done just about everything. My writing I love and to see it up on a proper stage would be incredible. And to see it on a film, well, that would just be the ultimate for me. I could die a happy woman.”


About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.
  
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