Zack Smith Photography

Music Man: Peyton McMahon finds his voice in the music world

Gavin DeGraw’s backing band was waiting on the kid from Louisiana. Time is money, and studio time is even more money. Flying out to L.A. to record with friend and DeGraw keyboardist David Maemone, Peyton McMahon had just two days at the mic to nail lead and harmony vocals on four songs with the band of one of his childhood idols. Despite his initial nerves, he finished just in time.

“It felt like a pop quiz—the pressure was definitely on,” says the 25-year-old Baton Rouge native. “But it’s always fun to channel your voice through a song and pour yourself out into it.”

For the Catholic High School alumnus who sang quietly in his room for years before singing in front of friends and family, a chance win at Disney World’s American Idol Experience at age 16—he sang “Walking in Memphis” to a thousand-strong crowd—and a Dallas concert appearance with Kelly Clarkson a few years later pushed the former introvert toward his passion.

After building a YouTube channel of 13,000 followers and 1 million views of his renditions of songs by Adele, Jason Mraz, Shawn Mendes and The 1975, McMahon’s new eponymous extended-play record is the first time he has focused on his own songs.

“I waited a long time before releasing it, and doing it all myself, it was a learning process because the business side of things took time to get ready,” McMahon says. “To have it out and share this music feels great.”

The record’s best cut is “Tell Me Why,” with its soaring demands for answers that crest with McMahon’s Southern soul voice, one that thankfully doesn’t overreach, but eases back from the soapbox and into the lawn chair. The song has a tone of comfortable conviction that could wash out with the currently hot “sensitive bro” sound, except that it’s anchored by McMahon’s frustration-laced lyrics that all artists and many young people can relate to: the struggle of finding one’s own voice, sharing it with others, and connecting on a larger scale through something so deeply personal.

“One minute golden, the next I’m frozen; Drill in my mind that it’s not my time; Put in my time though, not sure where it goes; Can’t seem to find what’s not going right,” he sings.

McMahon regularly plays acoustic covers at various restaurants and bars around Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

For show dates, music and more, visit