Payton Riley Rocks Sawyer Park Icehouse

By: Ruben Borjas, Jr., Columnist, Montgomery County News
| Published 03/18/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The parking lot was full, and the house was packed at Sawyer Park this past Sunday, as Montgomery’s own Payton Riley took to the stage at The Woodlands icehouse to entertain the throngs gathered to hear her new single ‘Not As Much As I Used To.’ Riley, 15, headlined a trio of talented singers, Jeff Canada, Donice Morace, and Bubba Westly; and the anticipation was palpable as Westly finished his set, and the Payton Riley Band began its prep.

The late afternoon's entertainment was held in conjunction with a fundraising event held by ‘Love Heals Youth,’ a Conroe based non-profit with its goal of counseling, tutoring, and clothing of older kids in foster care. Riley’s family had fostered youths in the past, and Payton works with LHY in different capacities, out of appreciation for the foster kids that have had a great impact on her life.

Riley remained cool and collected as the band started with ‘Jesus and Joan Jett,’ yielding to over a non-stop hour of musical entertainment. You could tell she was in her element, and showed true professionalism in maintaining command of the stage. If she was nervous she didn’t show it.

Payton’s song, ‘Packin,’ showcased her ability with the guitar, and gave rise to where she will be in five or ten years with a prophetic sense that the crowd was listening to a future Country Music Association award winner. She has already been named the 2023 Young Artist of the Year (18 and younger) by the Texas Country Music Association, and yet she still remains humble and respectful of her elders and fans.

“This was my first time hearing Payton and it was amazing,” said Stacy Burke, from Conroe. “She reminds me of a young Dolly Parton.”

The intensity of Riley’s emotion shows in her work. The patience she exhibits is a testament to her success, and all those years of playing open mic nights, church events, local venues in Montgomery County, and now in a growing number of places across the state, and in Nashville. And you can see how she has progressed through the years in her YouTube feed ‘Payton Riley Music,’ as well as through her Facebook page of the same name. And her music is easily downloadable on every streaming platform.

“She did really well,“ said Kimber Mackell, 10, from Cypress, who attended the concert with her father. “I wish I could sing like her.”

Payton has a unique ability to take a song, such as Miranda Lambert’s ‘Mama’s Broken Heart,’ and quite simply makes it her own in an almost alluring sense. She knows her craft and is able to excite a crowd looking for top quality entertainment. Riley’s twangy voice breathes new life into old songs like 4 Non Blondes ‘What’s Up,’ making them more palatable. And in time as she further builds up her song inventory and stagework, the Payton Riley Experience, will definitely be a Bucket List item for sure.

“I think that Payton and the band killed it tonight,“ said Lexi Groves, from The Woodlands. “They brought so much energy. It was amazing.”

Riley’s new release ‘Not As Much As I Used To,’ received a grand applause and cheers from the crowd, and she showed great pride in promoting her new offering. With her song ‘Make It Sad,’ which was played three-quarters of the way through her set, the swag she projected said, “I got this.” ‘Long Live Cowboys,’ a song about Payton’s perfect guy, had couples dancing in front of the stage, and makes you hope she does meet that perfect gentleman someday and leads a fairytale life. And even after an hour, she felt as fresh as her first song.

Payton’s trial balloon, ‘Limited Edition,’ a possible future release, had a strong rhythm that had the band strutting its stuff. Riley had hands clapping and heads rocking, as she displayed the range of her voice.

“I had a blast,” said Riley. “I will never forget this day, it was awesome.”

Payton's star is rising. She has been interviewed nationally, and invited to songwriting retreats in Nashville, and with catchy tunes like Packin, Make It Sad, Boys Keep Up, and even her newest songs; she continues to impress. Riley’s drive to continue writing original songs will make her career, and she is up to the task.

To search out Payton Riley’s music, go to: or @paytonrileymusic

Ruben can be reached at:

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