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" Owl Studios.
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 Indianapolis.
"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 Indianapolis-born.
"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 Cynthia. "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!"