Waylon Payne Details Abuse, Difficult Family Moments: ‘They Just Disowned Me Because I Was Gay’
On his 2020 album, Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me, Waylon Payne is open about many of the difficult parts of his past. Both in his music and in interviews for the record, he's shared his experience of getting addicted to and sober from meth, as well as the challenges and enduring friendships that he encountered along the way.
Payne's familial past also plays a central role in his music -- not just the country music legacy that he was born into as the son of "Help Me Make It Through the Night" star Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne, but also as a kid who endured abuse from a family member and rejection when he came out as gay.
As Payne explains in a new interview with CBS This Morning, he was raised by his aunt and uncle, who was sexually abusive toward him. When he came out as gay at the age of 18, he simultaneously revealed that abuse.
"It was sex abuse. That's just the way it was," he explains. "When it came out, everybody was just ... [saying], 'We don't believe you, and not only that, but we don't want you around anymore.'"
Following that incident, he broke off all contact with his mother, not speaking to her again until years later. At that time, Payne had only met his father for the first time two years before, when he was 16. The elder Payne, in fact, introduced his son to drugs, helping lead him to an addiction that would dominate his life for years.
"He was the first person I ever did drugs with," Payne recounts.
On Blue Eyes ..., Payne grapples with the loss and rejection he faced early on in his life, including his conflicted relationship with his faith. In 2020, he told The Boot that he'd begun his life with a strong relationship to religion, but that devolved after his family disowned him.
"I believed that stuff as a child. I believed in the religion they were telling me. I believed in the family," he explains. "And in a matter of, you know, a five-minute period, all of that was gone, and they never wanted to see me again. So that caused me to have real problems with whatever God was."
Payne clarifies that it wasn't just the fact that he was gay his family couldn't accept: It was the fact that his uncle had been abusive. "Rather than confront that and deal with it, they just disowned me because I was gay," he says. "I didn't really come out. I was telling on somebody, and they didn't like the way that sounded."
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