Layne has loved live music since the moment she attended her first
concert at the tender age of seven. Since then, live music has become a
regular part of her life with both the general public and media
impressed by her performances.
Layne has her own following in Indianapolis, where she has made her home
for many years after growing up in Dayton, Ohio. Now she is poised for
national attention with the release of Beautiful Soul, an album
showcasing her vocal stylings in both the R&B and jazz arenas. Her
previous album, Reality, was a jazz-flavored set. Both records are on "Indy-based"
The independent, artist-friendly label discovered Cynthia through her
mentor/producer/fellow musician and friend Rob Dixon. Both have
performed together regularly over the years and continue to do so in
"He told me there was a new record label in town and that I should check
them out," remembers Cynthia. "He (Rob) set up a meeting with J. Allan
Hall (owner/president) and the rest is history. He (Al) checked out my
music and live show and wanted me on the label."
Beautiful Soul was co-produced and co-composed by Dixon, a respected
musician born in Baltimore and raised in Atlanta. He has toured all
over the world. Layne's band members include Dixon on saxophone,
Beautiful Soul co-producer/co-composer Reggie Bishop on piano, keyboards/keyboard
bass along with Kenny Phelps on drums. Both Bishop and Phelps are
"I've known and played with Cynthia for years even when I lived in New
York," said Dixon, who would sometimes come back to Indiana just to work
with Layne. "It is really easy to write songs for her and with her. I
also really appreciate that she trusts me musically."
"Funny," "Pimp Talk" and "Free Yourself" were co-written by Layne, who
says she draws inspiration from everyday living and the life experiences
she, her family and friends have experienced. "It seems to me that we
are all either ready to go through it, are in it or coming out of some
situation in life," she said. "And for me singing is like telling a
story...and we all have a story to tell."
Layne's new album is more R&B-influenced than her previous release
Reality. "I listen to a lot of music styles and grew up on R&B music,"
said Cynthia. "I wanted to do an R&B album to reach more audiences and
listeners. I think there is a little something for everyone on the
album. For example, "All I Need" has a more singer/songwriter vibe; "I
Can't Change You" is more jazz; "Be You" is more neo-soulish and "Free
Yourself" is plain old school funk."
Her favorite instrument is percussion and she considers herself
percussive. "I love different rhythms and drum patterns and the way it
can change the whole vibe of a song. I use my voice as an instrument
and like to be creative when ad-libbing and scatting. I get a lot of
ideas from the drums and horns to do vocals. I really get into the music
and you can see it and hear it during our live performances."
Other songs of note on Beautiful Soul include "Kings & Queens" and "Letting
You Go." The songs "Letting You Go" along with "Funny" and "We" were
originally on Reality. Layne said that the reason for including them
on the new record was "because as we gigged and played the tunes live
they sorta evolved into something that was different and better than
when we first recorded them." She felt they had to be a part of
Beautiful Soul. "They are such great songs. And I'm sure that this
album will reach millions of people who have never heard my music.
Layne, who has been performing for about 15 years, initially plans to
tour the Midwest this winter with her band. "We have a lot of energy and
passion that translates to the music when we are onstage," she said. "Our
vibe is great and we play with a lot of dynamics so you actually feel
the music. I use live horns, drums and keyboards.
'I've always loved music, especially live music. My younger sister
always encouraged me to sing. As a girl, I listened to Natalie Cole and
Diana Ross and emulate them all the time. In the mid 90's, I saw Dee
Dee Bridgewater live when she was promoting her "Tribute to Ella" CD and
was blown away. I was able to spend some one-on-one time with her and
she was very encouraging. She is an incredible vocalist and was very
inspiring." Layne also cites Phyllis Hyman, Teena Marie and Barbra
Streisand as musical influences during her childhood.
These days, Layne inspires others including her young daughter who is
included on the last track which was recorded when they were both
in-studio together. "She wanted to talk on the mic and during a break,
she started talking and being silly, said Cyntha. "Of course we didn't
tell her we were recording her. We ended up editing her "shouts" (believe
me she talks a mile-a-minute), added a synth track and loop and used it
as the last track. I think it was a fun way to end the album. It ends
leaving a smile on your face!"