Nancy Layne grew up in the arms of music.
As a child, she watched father, Tim "Timbali" Prescott, a full-time musician, play the drums for local bands The Pickled Pickers, Rhino Jockeys and formerly Mike and the Micros. She loved their music.
"Everybody that he played with, they were like uncles – all of them were basically family," Layne said. "It was a lot of fun. I always loved going out and listening to them play and dancing. I remember when I was a kid, I would go in and sit a song and they would ask me whether or not that was any good or not."
Her clan of local musicians in Santa Rosa Beach and the surrounding areas encourages Layne’s own music career, she said. She will release her single "Understand It" on April 3.
A ‘real family affair’
Layne followed in her father’s footsteps with a half-size classical guitar for a guitar class in middle school.
"I remember my teachers were like, ‘Nancy, you need to get a full-size guitar. You can’t be playing that thing anymore,’" Layne said.
With a chunk of high school musical theater experience and only a pair of chords in her arsenal, Layne’s mother pointed out her inclination toward folk music.
"We were sitting in the car and she was like, ‘Man, you’re always playing these really guitar driven songs. You should probably learn how to play guitar. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but you really like this,’" Layne said.
Layne started guitar lessons with her father’s friends in the music community and continued them for college credit at Pensacola State College. She started with learning her favorite songs, until she had an epiphany while listening to the radio.
"I heard a song I liked and I was like, ‘Ya know, I wonder what would happen if I wrote a song,’" Layne said. "I’d written poems and short stories. I liked to write and I liked to sing, so I was like, ‘Time to put them together I guess.’"
Layne wrote a couple of songs, but didn’t have the musical toolkit to write anything advanced, she said. Then she stumbled upon a flyer about a songwriting workshop at the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival.
"I did not really understand until the night before that they wanted me to perform some songs at the workshop," Layne said. "I was like, ‘Oh, great. I’ve never even shared these things with my parents and now I have to play them for some industry professionals. Awesome.’ I took the one song I was really proud of and I played it for them and actually got some really good feedback."
It was there where Layne met CJ Waotson, a man who saw her potential and guided her to Nashville. He has since died, but Layne, now a three-year-long Nashville musician, credits much of her career to him.
Since pursuing music, Layne visits Northwest Florida regularly. Things came full circle when she once recorded with local musician Shannon Wallace at Wallace Productions, Inc. in Santa Rosa Beach.
"My dad was like, ‘Hey I booked you some sessions with Shannon, so come down and we’ll do some demos for you,’" Layne said. "I was like, ‘OK, great,’ under the impression it was just going to be me and my guitar."
Layne’s father had unknowingly told his buddies Layne had grown up listening to, Mark Gillespie and John Hoormann.
"So I’m sitting there in the studio about to start recording, and they all walk in the door and start loading in their instruments and were like, ‘By the way, we learned your songs and we’re gonna play with you,’" Layne said. "It was a great surprise, a real family affair."
Together, they recorded "The Cat, the French Press and the Shower," and "Statues Don’t Move," which are available on streaming platforms now. Layne’s describes her genre as Americana or folk.
"I grew up listening to a lot of Crosby, Nash, Stills and Young, Carole King, The Beatles, so I definitely think that has informed some of my music," Layne said. "I have been told that I sing a lot like Judy Collins and Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell—that’s what I’ve been told. They are legends; it’s hard to draw a comparison."
‘Living your life’
Layne doesn’t mind that her single "Understand It" will release amid a pandemic – it’s partly why she’s doing it now.
"I think this virus is reshaping the way people are viewing the world," Layne said. "There’s a lot of wonderful things that have come out of it. By staying home, we are all really working together. There are a lot of things that are rightly giving people cause for concern. At the risk of sounding cheesy, we are all trying to understand it, and I think now is a good time while we all have nothing to do. Might as well share what we’re working on."
She wrote the lyrics during a similar time in her life, after a severe concussion interrupted her education and job in early 2019.
"I got injured at a concert actually," Layne said. "At a time, I didn’t really know what had happened. My back was hurting so bad, I didn’t even notice I had a concussion. I went to a doctor and she immediately was like, ‘You need to go get a CAT scan. I’m not touching you. There’s something wrong here.’"
The concussion put her out of commission for eight months, she said.
"I couldn’t do anything really," Layne said. "It was very stressful. I was very lucky, I had some great friends who were helping me out and making sure I was taken care of. When you get an injury like that, it takes a lot of energy out of you. There are emotional side effects. I was really down for awhile."
During that time, her brother recommended the "My Struggle" book series, a memoir by Karl Ove Knausgård.
"I came across this passage where he was talking about the different ways we try to understand the world around us and how we have to put things into perspective," Layne said. "Trying to understand the stars, we have to shrink them down in our minds. If we’re trying to understand the cells, we have to magnify them."
Before long, Layne was inspired to write a song.
"This song in particular is more about trying to understand your place in the world through religion, science and stepping away and then realizing the only real way to understand your place in the world is to live your life and not run away from living your life," Layne said.
Layne knows many people who shy away from their own emotional vulnerability as a way to make some sense of their world, she said.
"The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized, the only thing that does is make you more of a stranger to the world," Layne said. "It becomes more difficult to understand it if there’s no emotional connection. I feel like a lot of people think to understand something, you have to look at it very rationally. Our intuition is very informative."
While much darkness has come from the coronavirus, Layne knows many are at home working on creative projects.
"I think there’s a little creative renaissance going on at the moment," Layne said.