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Farmington native will be inducted into California Music Hall of Fame on Jan. 28

Brent Payne will join fellow inductees Dwight Yoakam, LeAnn Rimes and others

FARMINGTON — Country music performer Brent Payne hasn’t lived in Farmington since he was a child, but don’t try to tell him his roots here don’t run deep.

“I’ve got 60 or 70 cousins, aunts, uncles living there and running businesses — basically my dad’s whole side of the family,” he said, also citing his fondness for Navajo tacos as proof of his Four Corners bona fides.

Payne grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. Along the way, he picked up a guitar and started writing songs, something he said came naturally to him, since almost everyone in his family also played.

In the early 1990s, he moved to southern California, arriving just as the famed Bakersfield Sound personified by such already established stars as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, as well as a young Dwight Yoakam, was becoming a phenomenon. Payne put together a band, recorded his first album and embarked on a musical career that will reach its apex on Jan. 28, when he is inducted into the inaugural class of the California Music Hall of Fame in Temecula. Payne will be joined by such fellow inductees as Yoakam, Little Feat, LeAnn Rimes, Canned Heat, Ritchie Valens, Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers and William Shatner.

“I’m still pinching myself to make sure it’s real,” Payne said during a Jan. 17 telephone interview from his home in Corona, California, after finishing a recording session. “The California music legacy is so deep and articulate, and I mean that in a very humbling way.

“It’s probably my biggest honor. I’m a country boy from Oklahoma born in Farmington, New Mexico, but when I cross that stage, and I’m looking at William Shatner or LeAnn Rimes, it’s going to be kind of scary.”

Payne and his band have eight albums to their credit, the first of which features the Buckaroos — Buck Owens’ famed backup band — performing on it. He was once a contemporary of Garth Brooks in the early 1990s and recalls how they once squared off against each other in a talent show in Oklahoma City.

These days, Payne said he and his band travel a circuit that leads back and forth between California and Las Vegas while more than 3,500 radio stations around the world have aired his music. But his passion is performing for veterans and active-duty members of the armed forces while addressing such issues as post-traumatic stress and suicide prevention.

Payne said he has performed several times aboard the retired battleship the U.S.S. Iowa, which is anchored near Long Beach, California, as well as at the National Finals Rodeo and NASCAR events in Las Vegas. He said he loves the way his career has played out, even if he never took the standard Nashville route, where the country music establishment is based.

“It’s taken different avenues,” he said of his career. “ … I might not (have experienced) as much fame and fortune as Garth Brooks or George Strait, but I feel like I’ve done as much for veterans as anybody.”

More information about Payne is available via his website at

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: