Doug Johnson should have every right to be jaded about the music business.
As keyboardist of the legendary Canadian band Loverboy, the South Surrey resident has pretty much seen it all, sharing in the international success of such hits as Working For The Weekend, Turn Me Loose and The Kid Is Hot Tonight, and such accolades as multiple Juno Award wins and induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
But he’s far from jaded about the talent of Payton Rector, the young singer who will introduce his song, Because We Dream – the official Surrey 2012 BC Summer Games theme song – tonight at the games’ torchlighting ceremony at Bear Creek Park.
“She nailed it,” he said of Rector’s contribution to the project.
When he and his collaborator on lyrics, Surrey-based drummer Don Wells, were looking for a young local artist to record the song and perform it live at the games’ opening, the requirements were both simple and daunting, Johnson recalled.
“People said ‘let’s get somebody from our city who can step up to the plate and deliver a killer vocal,'” he said.
But one name kept coming up: Payton Rector.
Though still only 14, she’s won a slew of talent contest titles – including the BC Junior Talent Search – but, more importantly, has already garnered industry attention in pop, blues and country circles for powerful, spot-on performances, versatility, self-possessed stage presence and eminently marketable looks.
“I took a look at her YouTube videos and was really impressed,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t believe how mature a performer she was. I only had one question – can she really sing like that?”
Any doubts were soon dispelled when she came into his studio after having studied MP3s of demo vocals and background instrumental tracks he’d arranged, and they’d made sure it was a musical setting she’d be comfortable with.
“Honestly – we did three takes and I had all the pieces I needed to put it together,” Johnson said.
He also acknowledged the creativity and individual inflections she brought to the song, a rework of a piece he and Wells originally wrote for the Summer Games in Langley last year (they also collaborated on a successful torchlighting song for the 2010 Winter Olympics).
“She did her homework and brought a really very fresh approach. I’m very pleased with how it came about and how it grew,” he said.
“It was unbelievable – the very last take we did was because I realized we’d only been (in the studio) for 20 minutes.
“I didn’t want to make her think that she was just too good,” he added, with a chuckle.
Rector, a Grade 9 Elgin Park student, admitted she was overawed when she first heard about the possibility of the project through her mom, Stacey – who is also her trusted manager (or “mom-ager,” as Rector puts it).
“I was so shocked and excited,” she said, noting the iconic status of Loverboy. “I was so amazed that he wanted to work with me.”
While she was nervous about the assignment, he quickly allayed any fears she had.
“Doug’s one of those people that, once you’ve known him for five minutes, you feel like you’ve known him for five years,” she said.
There’s no question that, in choosing Rector for Because We Dream – an anthemic tribute to youthful aspirations not only in sports, but in all walks of life – Johnson has given a generous boost to the young singer’s career.
Versatility has been a hallmark of her singing so far, and Rector, who was winning contests belting Gloria Gaynor covers at age nine, doesn’t regret that.
“It’s nice to be open to different genres,” she said.
“Now that I’m getting a little older, I want to narrow it down – people ask me all the time ‘what’s your sound?.'”
Since she started playing guitar, she has been working on writing her own material, she said, and developing that side of her talent with a CD of her originals will be a big step to determining her musical identity.
“Payton can really go in so many directions – it takes a while to find your voice,” Johnson said.
His own musical career is nothing if not versatile, including forays into jazz playing, musical theatre and classical composition (his four-movement Crescent Suite debuted four years ago – and he is currently writing music for a theatre project inspired by the Warsaw Uprising of the Second World War.
At the same time, Loverboy continues to keep him busy, including an upcoming tour with Journey and Pat Benatar, starting July 21 in San Bernadino.
“There are a total of 70 shows so far – and we finish off in Vancouver, Dec. 8,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rector’s live performance of Because We Dream will be featured at the games’ opening ceremonies on July 19, while the recording will accompany medal ceremonies throughout the four-day event.
The games are expected to attract as many as 2,800 athletes between the ages of 11 and 18 from across the province.
To help organize 20 sporting events at 15 different venues throughout the city will take 3,500 volunteers, and games participants are also expected to have an impact of some $2.5 million in direct spending in the city.
The torch-lighting ceremony will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m., at 13750 88 Ave.