Abby Layne is a new American vocalist who performs with guitarist and songwriter John Alper. Her voice is powerful, going from intimate to intense. Remember her name.
Born near Finch Hill in Pennsylvania, Abby Layne currently resides in Gaylordsville, Connecticut. Just like so many children, she loved to sing as a young child. She comes from a musical family. Her grandfather had 7 siblings and every one of them played an instrument. Abby was influenced by their talents and skills in creating music. With her mother’s encouragement, she began singing back-up in church when she was 15 years old.
One day a local singer, songwriter, and musician named John Alper was sitting in the back of the church and heard Abby perform. He was so impressed, that after the service, he walked up to the front of the church, extended his hand to Abby, introduced himself, and said, “What are you doing with the rest of your life?” And as they say, the rest is history.
John Alper’s mother has been an artist her entire life. When he was little, she painted, played a little piano and she had a good singing voice. Her father played jazz standards on the organ. John’s family lived in the Washington D.C. area and his mother would take little John and his sister to listen to live jazz at various venues. She led a bohemian lifestyle and had a great jazz record collection. John began spinning vinyl records on their victrola when he was 3 years old. His mother took him to every museum in the area. She also brought him to Charlie Byrd’s Showboat Lounge in D.C. Charlie Byrd was an American jazz guitarist, best known for introducing latin jazz into the mainstream of North American music. He collaborated with Stan Getz on the album Jazz Samba. At the Showboat Lounge and Carter Barron Amphitheater John Alper heard Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Oscar Peterson and many more amazing performers, and has frequented the Showboat for many years. He was hooked.
When John Alper’s mother married a very successful doctor, they had a series of parties at their home and hired many great musicians to provide the entertainment. This was pivotal for young John Alper. One of those musicians was a guitarist named Andy Merrell who played classical, flamenco, and jazz. John was hypnotized by his music and decided that he wanted to be a guitarist too. He took classical guitar lessons from age 8 to 12. He studied under the direction of Sophocles Papas, a student of the internationally renowned classical guitarist Andres Segovia.
During junior high school, Alper formed a rock band with his friend Jeff Cooper called The Off Beats. They performed at every school event. When John was sent to a private school, he stopped playing guitar for a while but later picked it up again. He has had a successful career in film and became an internationally known award-winning director of tv commercials and has composed and performed music for film, tv, and gospel.
By Abby’s junior year of high school, John and Abby began recording their music. Abby started off in country music, but John didn’t want to do just straight-up country. An example of that is the song Mississippi Sun. They found that the genre of Americana was a good fit for them. John enlisted Roger Filgate, a local guitarist and composer, as well as Tom Dobson, a producer/songwriter/performer who helped change their style, reworked a couple of songs, and wrote some new songs. In 2016, Abby Layne was picked up by Fieldhouse Music, a multi-level music production platform actively involved in seeking “emerging artists” at BMG Music Publishing.
Abby also took a lesson from Wendy Parr (New York and Nashville) who runs the Artists’ Circle, a monthly group get-together, which she found to be very spiritual.
John and Abby have been practicing together once a week for over 5 years. Their songwriting process is a typical one in that John writes the lyrics and Abby contributes as the piece is coming together. After writing the lyrics, he sends Abby the texts. John puts some chords to it and Abby explores the melody through her vocals. The song takes form after rounds of rehearsing and finessing. Abby inspires John to write— she is his muse. “At the beginning, I was channeling a 16-year-old. I learned her vocabulary and applied it to the lyrics. I used the issues she was having with her boyfriend as material.”
These days they are into the music of Amy Winehouse—their musical range actually fits in a jazz/pop/country style. John calls it “pop with a jazz influence – jazzy pop.” Layne and Alper now have about 50 songs in their repertoire, and are actively working towards a first album.
The duo has performed in many venues in Connecticut, including The Hopkins Inn and The Owl Wine Bar. At The Towne Crier in Beacon, New York they performed on the main stage to hundreds of people. The have also performed at a wedding, a funeral, and as a praise band at the New Milford Walnut Hill campus.
“Music is my escape, happy place, and where I feel I can be myself. I couldn’t live without it,” says 20-year-old Abby Layne. Abby’s voice is silky smooth, with the ability to go from intimate to intense — and you might even hear a growl or two in there. She looks young and innocent, but her voice sounds mature and experienced. Chains is a high-energy song with sass. Crazy for You has a pop sound with a hip beat. Spiraling Down references a country sound. White Turns to Black has a slower-paced, sexy tone. And Lullaby is a soft piece with an ascending chorus that is catchy — you’ll find yourself humming or singing it. You can listen to these songs here: www.abbylaynemusic.com
Abby Layne is an enormously talented vocalist who is yet to be discovered by the bigger world. Together with John Alper’s beautiful songwriting, compositions, accompanying vocals, and his incredible talent on the guitar, the duo is a tour de force. As John Alper notes, “The world is ready for Abby, but is Abby ready for the world?”
You can catch Abby Layne and John Alper at the Owl Wine Bar at 18 East Shore Road in New Preston on Saturday, August 3rd and on August 30th, 5:30 – 9 pm.