Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Jules Paymer was driving to get a haircut when the phone call came.
It was an unassuming number from New York. When Paymer picked up, the manager for international indie-pop sensation Jake Wesley Rogers answered to relay some major news.
Paymer had won the contest to be Rogers’ opening act at his sold-out Nashville show.
Soon after the news was delivered, Rogers got on the call to congratulate the artist himself.
“It was like a dream,” Paymer, who uses they/she pronouns, said.
Caught up in the excitement, the senior songwriting major was late for their hair appointment.
On Sept. 13, the Belmont University Songwriters Association announced that alumnus Rogers and his management team wanted a Belmont act to open his Wednesday show at The Basement East. The Los Angeles native jumped at the opportunity.
Their application process required a taped performance of an original song. Currently, Paymer has several singles available to stream, such as “Honey” and “Goodbye Party,” and the top tracks on their Spotify page are rich, ambient ballads with vulnerable lyrics.
Paymer’s sound is influenced by artists like Taylor Swift and Mayday Parade, they said.
The artist was unsure of which track they wanted the decision-makers to hear on their application but ultimately went with their gut and chose “Lost Cause,” a punk-flavored original with a hook that goes, “That’s why I never met God / Because even He thinks I’m a lost cause.”
The song’s message of accepting queerness and questioning religion was one Paymer hoped Rogers, a queer artist himself, might resonate with.
It did, said Rogers in an interview with the Vision.
“I first resonated with how they were using queer pronouns in the song and being unafraid to voice their truth and their vision,” Rogers said. “That’s something I was trying to do at Belmont too, so it’s really refreshing to see someone else doing it.”
Rogers graduated from Belmont with a songwriting degree in 2018 and has since found himself in the national spotlight, amassing thousands of Instagram followers and millions of streams on singles like “Middle of Love” and “Weddings and Funerals.”
“Pluto,” Rogers’ debut major-label EP with deeply personal themes, was released at the beginning of October to positive reviews, and starting February 2022, he will open for Broadway star Ben Platt on a national stadium tour. With a flair for theatrics reminiscent of a young Elton John, Rogers’ performance chops are strong.
And Paymer, who has been playing in bands since the age of 7, is looking forward to sharing a stage with him.
“Opening up for such a queer icon who makes it so OK and is so unapologetic about being gay is really special to me,” they said.
Paymer said that as a queer artist whose backing band is mostly queer as well, they have played a lot of shows to less-than-accepting audiences, so they are excited to perform in front of Rogers’ audience and anticipate there will be more of a mutual connection.
Paymer says that their setlist for the upcoming The Basement East will be a mostly pop mix with some punk and ballad influences. They also plan on pulling from their catalog of unreleased songs.
Jack Armbrust, the senior commercial piano major who plays keys for Paymer, will perform in Paymer’s backing band Wednesday night, and help prove that the artist can win over a crowd.
“I feel lucky to be playing with her because obviously it’s a fun time but I also really love her, and her music, and what she stands for, and just how genuine she is.”
Inspired by their community, Paymer seeks to contribute to the music scene as a queer artist.
“My goal is to make music that is just as good or better than the regular music that people are hearing. And it just happens to be gay,” said Paymer.
“People will listen to it even if they’re not queer because they’re realizing that I’m a normal person who makes music.”
Paymer also hopes that opening for a rising star will help propel their music career forward.
“Every day that I spend in Nashville, the more sure I am that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” they said.
PHOTO: Instagram photo courtesy of the artist.
This article was written by Maddie Buchman. Contributory reporting by Anna Jackson.