HUNTERSVILLE – Since she was in seventh grade, Hannah Rhyne knew she was going to study songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville.
But the 17-year-old Denver native and SouthLake Christian Academy senior’s post-graduation plans changed when she was introduced to Franklin, Tenn.-based music producer Ed Cash. The two have worked on 10 tracks over the past year, and Rhyne, whose stage name is Ivory Layne, will release five of those songs on her first EP “Volume One” at a release party May 10.
With a father who’s a musician and a mother who’s a wordsmith, Rhyne has always been drawn to the arts and knew from an early age that she wanted to be a songwriter and musician.
“In high school, generally, you don’t even know what you want to do yet, but I knew and that made me feel different than anyone else,” Rhyne said.
It was SouthLake Christian art teacher Preston Springer who encouraged her to embrace her differences. Springer had a brother-whose-friend-is-the-brother-of-Ed-Cash-type connection and encouraged Rhyne to send some of her songs to him.
With nothing to lose, Rhyne sent off some songs – recorded with her keyboard and Garage Band in her bedroom – which sparked a Skype conversation with Cash. That lead to a visit from him and eventually an invitation to work with him in a studio.
“He would always ask my input, and we would work together,” Rhyne said. “These simple songs would turn into elaborate masterpieces. I can say that because it wasn’t all me.”
Cash’s producing style helped Rhyne polish her talent rather than change it, and the fear that her work would be turned into something that compromised her integrity as a musician was subsided.
“If I don’t like it, people won’t hear it,” she said of keeping her songs true to who she is.
As a musician, Rhyne’s material is “quirky” and “different” as she sings with a slight British accent and blends the thoughtful lyrics of the folk genre with pop-music-type melodies.
It’s different than when she led worship at a church service or school function. Though a Christian, Rhyne will pursue her career as a musical artist in the secular scene, a decision Cash left to her.
“I knew for (my music) to thrive and to reach more people, it would have to be in that secular realm because contemporary Christian is generally cookie-cutter, and I knew that I wasn’t a cookie-cutter kind of person,” she said.
Rhyne will graduate from SouthLake Christian Academy with her class this year then move to Tennessee to pursue music career full time.
The decision not to attend Belmont University was a tough one, Rhyne said. But the opportunity she has now just can’t be passed up.
Want to go?
An album release party for Ivory Layne’s “Volume One” will start at 7 p.m. May 10 at Palace Theatre in Cornelius. The concert will start at 7:30 p.m., and CDs will be available to purchase. Tickets cost $10.