A Conversation with Paytra

From Detroit, Michigan, at only sixteen years old, Paytra packed her bags, left her childhood home, and headed to Brooklyn, New York to pursue music. She knew she wanted to be an artist, without question, but without money, experience, and connection, Paytra found herself lost in one of the most crowded entertainment capitals in the world.

Inspiringly, however, she turned to the hip-hop music that surrounded her for strength and perseverance, and found solace and comfort in her studies from classical piano as she retreated to quiet moments of musical creativity for herself. Today, Paytra is an artist who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. The influences from the forward-thinking genres that inspire are evident in both her sound and song storytelling. Her latest single, Better, a hypnotizing pop track that showcases the empowerment found in moving on, proves just that.

With features on MTV, Womanly Magazine, Vlad TV, and Sirius XM’s Shade 45 radio, Paytra is an artist on the rise that you’re not going to want to forget. The rising pop artist has a sound she refers to as both “commercial and controversial,” and she spoke with The See Through to give an inside look into her musical journey so far, and what it was like to move in pursuit of a dream at such a young age.

How are you? Has quarantine been a creative time for you as an artist, or do you feel it’s messed with your flow a little bit?
I’m great! Honestly, I love being home and have always been more introverted, so this time has been very inspiring for me and has allowed me to transition to music full time for the most part. I’ve had so much time to write and create, and while somedays have lacked inspiration, I feel like I’m finding new ways to train my mind to write music. 

What has kept you inspired during lockdown?
I’m a big believer that the harder you work, the more opportunities come to you. During lockdown, I stayed focused and utilized my newfound free time to create and submit to thousands of opportunities. 2020 and 2021 has been insane for all of us, and that alone is inspiration to me. Inspiration doesn’t always come from positive places.. In fact, I used music to lift my spirits this whole year. Funny enough, all my music from 2020 was dance bangers. I think that’s what I needed.

You studied classical piano as a child, but fell in love with 2000s R&B, hip-hop artists. Who are your favorite influences that we might hear on your music today?
Yes! Where do I start? Alicia Keys has to be the number one. She’s such a beautiful and talented woman. I was so shy when I was little and never thought I’d ever have the confidence to sing. When I saw Alicia Keys sit down and play a Beethoven Symphony and then stand up and sing her songs, I thought, “Wow, I have to do that!” I’ll always sing her praises!

What’s the story behind “Better”?
I remember hearing this track and it immediately took me back to the 2000s. I loved it! At the time, I was upset about something and used that feeling to write the chorus. The rest is history.

Breakdown the meaning behind the lyrics, “I love me, I wouldn’t leave me.
“Better” doesn’t have to be about love… It can be about that part of your life that you need to let go of. Maybe a friendship, maybe a job, or a state of mind. It’s about saying I’m better than the BS and am going to rise up and know my worth. It’s absolutely empowering.

I love the “Better” music video! I love that it’s just you. Can you explain the message behind all the solo shots of you and why you choose to film the video in that way?
As an artist, you’re paid last. You pay the producer, the videographer, the staff, the marketing, the clothes, etc. It gets so expensive… all to look good. I realized none of that matters if you don’t stay true to yourself and make music from the heart. The music video is me saying “Look, this is me having a self-love day and chilling in my sweats jamming out to music.” No fancy lights, makeup, or camera. It’s just from the heart- and I want people to see that I’m just a normal person going through the same things as them. Eating brownies out of the pan and all! I literally just filmed me having a day with myself.

You left your hometown of Lambertville, Michigan to move to New York at sixteen. You’ve stated that it was difficult doing that at such a young age but hip-hop music gave you a lot of strength. What was that journey like and why do you think hip-hop was able to keep you persevering?
That journey was so crazy. The amount I had to learn in such a little time was scary, and for the first time, I was able to see both the beauty and the ugly of the world. Being 16, alone in NYC, and a female says enough of what I was dealing with. Hip-hop music is what my mom played 24/7 in my house. I was raised listening to the hardships and life experiences of people like Jay Z, Kanye West, Biggie, Tupac, etc. While I’ll never be able to relate to what they went through, I think hearing these stories of coming up from nothing and being rejected by everyone gave me that confidence I needed. I went through so many lows trying to figure out how to make money, how to get my foot in the door, and having no one around me to help. Hip-hop literally is the only reason I toughed it out. I wouldn’t be here without them. The music industry wouldn’t be what it is today without these artists.

What can audiences do to support you as independent artist the most?
The best way to support your favorite artists is to stream their music, go to their shows, buy their merch. If you can’t do that, share and comment on their posts. Spread the word. It all helps!

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being an artist?
I literally just love my life. I hear so many people complain about how awful their boss is, or how they can’t get vacation days. I’ve just never dealt with that. I never had a boss in my life, and I never will. I just love having the freedom to create my own schedule, travel when I want, and be able to talk to so many incredible people who my music has resonated with. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have such amazing supporters. I totally get that most people would think this type of life is hectic, but it’s perfect for me.

What do you hope fans and listeners will learn about you or take away from listening to your songs?
I hope you listen to my songs and know that 1. No one is worth your stress or tears 2. Being confident and bossy is not a bad thing and don’t let anyone tell you it is 3. You can do whatever you want in this life. It’s never too late as long as you know your worth. 4. Who cares what people think? Literally, who cares?

Better is available for streaming on all music platforms today. Keep up with Paytra online and at her website to stay up to date for upcoming releases!

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Photography by Christopher Levy