Cancel the conference panels, shred your keynote speeches, ditch the debates. Mainly because there’s a pandemic, yes, but also because Ivory Layne has nailed it anyway: “Now more than ever, people want more from artists than just songs.”
If there’s a secret to being a musician in the modern business, that must surely be it. Instant distribution, a constant connection with fans, and more ‘stuff’ than ever before vying for ears and eyeballs, there’s a strong argument to say that is isn’t “all about the music” anymore. It’s about much more.
A daunting premise for a lot of artists no doubt, as fans expect more content, more engagement, more access to their idols. But not for Ivory Layne, who loves to share and, it turns out, is pretty good at it.
Her socials are undeniably her own, brimming with personality, humour and honesty as she lets her followers through the curtain into both her work and home life in equal measure – all to strengthen that artist/fan relationship.
Oh, and she’s good at music as well, of course. So good, in fact, that, in 2011, the demos she had produced in her bedroom and posted online caught the attention of Grammy Award-winning producer Ed Cash. The two wrote, produced, and released her first EP, Volume One, in 2013 and a career was born.
Moving from her hometown of Denver, North Carolina, to the holy land of Nashville, Layne signed with LBK Entertainment for publishing and went on to write with some of Music City’s top name’s including Jimmy Robbins, Shane McAnally, and Lori McKenna.
Her star as a writer and artist continued to grow and the title track from her second EP, Something’s Gonna Happen (2014), was plucked for two global ad campaigns.
In 2015, Layne was snapped up by Justin Timberlake’s artist development company Villa40, which has partnered with Absolute for the singer/songwriter’s upcoming releases.
With an EP on the horizon, we grabbed some time with Layne to understand how she approaches the many aspects of being a musician in 2020.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of big names in different ways. Is that something you look for and enjoy doing in particular?
I love collaborations that inspire and challenge me to make better art and be a better human. I’m lucky some of those collaborations happened to be with bigger names, but the notoriety isn’t a must for me! Unless we’re talking about Dolly Parton. Then, yes, yes to everything Dolly.
How did the Villa40 signing come about and what has your experience been like with them so far?
Mutual friends. One of my publishers is friends with a member of Villa40. Villa was looking for new acts and my name came up in conversation, then my music was sent along to Justin and the rest is history! Villa has given me the ability to steer my career in more ways than one, especially when it comes to writing songs I believe in, even traveling to London for the right kind of inspiration. I’m grateful for their belief in me as an artist, not solely a writer or performer.
You seem to have a very holistic approach in that you offer your fans a wide range of content and insight into what you’re doing. How much do artists also have to be content creators in general now beyond the music itself?
First off, “holistic” makes me sound very peaceful and methodical, so thank you, thank you. I think now more than ever, people want more from artists than just songs. They want three-dimensional people with lives and routines, eccentric wall art and dogs that watch television (cue my West Highland Terrier, Milo). I believe social media has the power to generate true fans because the “day in the life” quality of content makes artists more human, less “creators.” The love-me-as-I-am method keeps me sane.
What’s your philosophy/strategy when it comes to social media and how important are those channels to you as an independent artist?
I operate by the definition of “share.” Not the singer, though maybe Cher would agree? According to Webster’s dictionary, share means “to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others; to have in common.” Unsurprisingly, the term has been altered to accommodate its use on the internet, but I’d rather abide by the former definition, to truly share my life online with people as common ground, moments worth experiencing and enjoying together. I leave the strategizing up to my team and try to focus on posting things that are real and purely me. So, yes, lots of dad jokes.
You seem to bring your team/collaborators into the spotlight with you regularly as well. Why is that important to you?
As the middle of three sisters, I’ve always been part of a team/family. My older sister is on my management team and we’re housemates, so I think I have a unique exposure to industry work and how much people hustle for me behind the scenes. I think it’s important to give credit to where credit is due, and I think it’s healthy for both me and my fans to recognize that I’m not all that, not of my own efforts at least. And if someone doesn’t like the project, they can blame it on someone other than me! (Kidding).
How have you coped during the pandemic?
Music. Prayer. English. Breakfast. Tea.
What have you got coming up that we should know about?
I’ve got a few things up my sleeve, but I’ll just say a glorious EP is on its way to everyone. Hopefully it will be available as a Thanksgiving soundtrack, drumsticks crossed.