For Minnesota native and singer/songwriter Stephanie Layne, country music is as tangible as the dirt and mud of her family's ranch on which she grew up. “To me, country music is about the land of America, something you can experience with all five of your senses,” Layne says matter-of-factly. “Yes, country music is about relationships too, but it's the land from where those relationships take root and blossom. From the dust is where it all begins.” Her newly-released self-titled album's first single “Hunker Down” exemplifies this in no uncertain terms. Produced by and co-written with country music trio The Farm's Nick Hoffman, along with South Dakota native and longtime friend Craig Winquist, “Hunker Down” tells the unadulterated truth of the challenges farmers and ranchers face every season when nature's wrath is unleashed on the land. It is about the realization that, even though it's human nature to believe we have control over our own lives, we really have no control at all and just have to hunker down and weather the storms of life. Sometimes those storms leave things intact, and sometimes they leave you with nothing. “My songs focus on making something out of nothing and discovering God's purpose for that something,” says Layne. The 7-song EP recorded at Nashville's revered Blackbird Studios (owned by John and Martina McBride) pierces listeners' hearts with lyrics that unearth truths about self-discovery, taking risks, persevering, and having faith in Jesus, while salting those lyrics with a blend of modern and traditional country instrumentation.
Although she has graced the stage of Nashville's most famous venues including The Bluebird Café, World Famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, The Wildhorse Saloon, and the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree radio show, Layne's guitar and colorful custom cowgirl boots are covered with the dust of western stages such as Denver's Grizzly Rose, Amarillo's World Championship Ranch Rodeo Finals, Cheyenne Frontier Days, and many other venues where she has opened shows for fellow artists such as Terri Clark, Sawyer Brown, and Earl Thomas Conley. “I grew up on a horse and cattle ranch, helping vaccinate cattle, showing horses, and rodeoing, and when in college at South Dakota State University I would ride my horse through campus to the football games and watch them from the sidelines on horseback, so I guess you could say the west is truly in my blood!” Layne laughs.
While often traveling with her family to rodeos, Layne spent time listening to the late Chris LeDoux. “When I start missing the west, he takes me there in song,” she says. “His lyrics have inspired my own lyrics about the American cowboy and the simplicity of life in the west.” But life in the west is also about taking chances, which is what Layne did when she decided to pack up everything she could fit in her car and move east to Nashville to take a chance on a career in music. Although she may have physically pulled up her western roots, they have stayed firmly planted in the sound of her songs with the addition of delicate paint strokes of the Nashville scene. The lyrics of one of her most popular songs among live audiences, “What If I Do,” illustrate the importance of taking such chances in life. The song, co-written with songwriter Scott Southworth, is the story of never having to regretfully ask oneself the question, “What if I had pursued my dreams?” “This song is inspired by the struggles artists here in Nashville face and the relationships that come and go in a revolving-door town, and is meant to encourage listeners that you're never too old, too uneducated, or too anything to take risks and live life to the fullest,” explains Layne. “I want my music to encourage others to pursue whatever it is they want to do, while also inspiring faith, hope and love.”
Audiences can experience Layne's amorous encouragement and bold spirit in her latest album, Stephanie Layne , which as an added bonus includes Kenny Chesney's tour musicians on each song. “In addition to recording my vocals at Blackbird Studios, this album also came together in a rather unconventional way with Kenny's musicians laying down their instrumental tracks in their dressing rooms while on tour with him,” says Layne. The album is available at www.stephanielayne.com, CD Baby, and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum gift shop.