Layton Greene’s start in the mainstream world came in 2019 thanks to the release of her “Leave ‘Em Alone” single with Lil Baby, City Girls, and Pnb Rock. Carried by a sparkly sample of Ciara and 50 Cent’s “Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone,” Greene’s breakout earned her an adoring collection of fans who quickly learned that there was more to the singer than the summery track that admitted to her unwavering attraction to a new lover. Down the line, the East St. Louis, Illinois-born singer would combine the weight of a traumatic past and a promising future as she launched her career.
As the R&B princess of Quality Control, Greene fought through numerous amounts of adversity to claim the position that she currently sits on. In an interview with Billboard, she described her childhood as “lonely” and “sheltered” while recounting some of the experiences, including sexual abuse, that she endured in her youth. Despite these struggles, she knew she was destined for a path that would lead her towards success in music. “God gave me this voice for a reason, and he already had my path set,” she said. “I just didn’t know when or how it was going to happen with all I was going through.”
Months after her breakout, the Midwest singer would unleash her debut project, Tell Ya Story, to her growing fan base. The seven-track effort was a completely solo body of work that Greene dropped off for the world to enjoy as they learned more about the singer. From the mislabeling of a poor living situation as karma on “Blame On Me” to a commitment towards love amid turmoil on “I Choose,” Greene’s debut EP is a representation of who she was, what she’s grown to become, and what she’s destined to be.
With her debut album set to arrive later this year, Layton Greene sat down with UPROXX to reflect on her 2020, speak about her goals for the new year and explained how for her, vulnerability and honesty will always be her policy in music.
How’s everything been with you in the new year so far?
Honestly, it’s been pretty good. I feel like I’ve been starting the new year off with a good mindset, I told myself I was going into this year with a better vision. I feel like 2020 was a rough year for me personally [but] I feel like my mindset’s been good this year so far. I’ve been on the right path, I’ve been really working, I’ve been just working towards my goals and yeah, it’s going good. I feel like it’s going to be the best year for me honestly.
You said you were working towards your goals, do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2021?
Yeah definitely. Just basically getting my album out, I’m working on that, I’m almost done with it actually. I know it’s gonna be amazing and I’m really excited about that. I’m really just trying to get myself together, mentally, physically, everything. Like I said, 2020 kinda just threw me off a little bit and yeah, that’s in the past so really two main things that I’m focused on right now.
With your upcoming album, it seems like things for it are starting off with “Chosen One.” What was the creative process and inspiration for you with that single?
So I got introduced to Nova Wav and they’re a group of talented girls producing [and] writing and they came up with this song and I fell in love with it. I loved the concept, just the female taking control and I felt like that’s where I kind of was in my life, or even what I wanted to be. I just love the message behind the song and that’s basically a man — I feel like I’ve dealt with a few men that have been kind of hesitant in really showing me love. I felt like that fell back on their past and the past relationships and what they probably did in the past with other females and how they treated them. They didn’t really want to fall into something that was real and genuine because honestly, I’m real and genuine. They may be hesitant about that. I just love the song, I love the concept, and I wanted to just speak on something different other than just heartbreak. I wanted to be the one in control.
What’s the overall theme or summary of this chapter in your life that you’re going to give us on your debut album?
It’s a lot, I want to touch on a lot. Overall, it’s just being honest. The ups, the downs, and just speaking on heartbreak, I went through a lot. Even with signing to QC, just speaking on that, I feel like I haven’t spoke on that, how that changed my life — signing with them and them becoming a second family to me, I want to speak about that. Just coming where I come from, I feel like in my first EP, me just being open and honest and seeing how many people could relate and how many people really just messed with my vibe just off the strength of me just being honest and telling my story. I just want to continue that and yeah, that’s just what it is. My story and maybe your story, I know a lot of people are going to be able to relate.
What do you feel has gotten easier or harder with creating this new album in comparison to creating your debut EP, Tell Ya Story?
Just to be honest, when I came out with my first EP it was easier to be open and honest, but once you put it out you get the good and the bad. I’m very much an overthinker, so just seeing how some people took it in with me being open and honest kind of took me back like, “Damn, do I really want to be this vulnerable?” or do I want to be something that I’m not. I felt like there was a time where I was making music that I didn’t even relate to myself and just trying to be something that I’m not and I feel like that’s why my album is taking so long right now. [In] 2020, I didn’t release a project and I didn’t want to put anything out that didn’t feel genuine to myself and I didn’t want to let people hear that. 2021 I’m just trying to get back to myself, get back to not caring, and just doing me. I see how far that got me and I know that it’s gonna get me further, I know everything that I’m going through right now is for a purpose and I’m gonna speak on it and I’m gonna talk about it.
You mentioned that you started second-guessing the vulnerability you had in your music, at what point did you push that aside and decide to stay true to yourself?
I just saw how I was falling off as a person, as a human being, just me being me. I just felt like I was falling off and I saw how my artistry was falling off. I wasn’t really posting on social media, I wasn’t being myself, and I would get DMs all the time like and my label, QC, they would call me, Pee would call me all the time like, “You need to step this up.” It was so hard, but I just had to step back and know that I have people on my side that believe in me, I have fans that believe in me. I mean, I remember myself when I believed in me and I just knew I couldn’t let myself slip any further and I just couldn’t care no more. At this point, I just wanted to be honest and open cause now I’ve been writing music, I’ve been feeling free, I’ve been feeling like music is my getaway, music is my outlet.
Last year was a difficult 12 months for us all, and you alluded to it earlier in the interview, but what about 2020 was the hardest for you?
The hardest thing I would say was just being secluded in the same place for so long. I got used to a life of traveling, going to places, and now that coronavirus has hit — I was living in LA when it had happened and now [I’ve been] in the same house for months. That’s why I feel like I had time to reflect on things that were really affecting me. At that point I felt like I had distractions, I had music to get out, I had friends to be around. I was just thinking about the negatives, I was thinking about my past and just being in a secluded place. Like I said, I was an overthinker — well, I am an overthinker — I didn’t have no distractions, I feel like as a creative, I wasn’t even able to be creative. Most creatives feel like “I have time to be creative,” and do this and do that, but I was just so out of it. It really wasn’t the best time for me.
Through all these hardships, what kept you afloat and focused on the positives?
I just know that I’m in a situation where I can change a lot of things for not only myself but for my family and even for the people around me and the people that’s been supporting me. I didn’t want a situation like that to really just allow me to lose it all and I just knew I had the talent. Like I said, my label and my fans and people that just really believed in me and told me that I am enough because there was a moment where I was questioning myself, but I just looked at the support that was around me.
One highlight for you last year was getting nominated for Best New Artist at the Soul Train Awards.
I definitely didn’t expect it. I was with my sisters when I found out and when I got the message, I was like, “What!?” cause I hadn’t put nothing out that year. That was another thing, people still recognize me even [with] the project that I came out with in 2019, it was just amazing. That feeling definitely unexplainable just to be recognized and thought about is definitely amazing, stuff like that just keeps me going. That’s what it’s all about. And being nominated with those that I was nominated with, it was just like “Damn.” I’m in a lineup with Snoh, I love Snoh Aalegra, Giveon, I love them, everybody.
Speaking of your fellow artists in the R&B world, Tell Ya Story was a completely solo effort. Will we see features on your upcoming album?
Yeah, there’s going to be features, I don’t want to speak on them just yet, but there’s definitely going to be features. I got some stuff coming.
How is the experience of working with someone as you create a project been for you?
It’s dope just seeing how other creatives work. I’ve gotten into the studio with a few and just seeing and getting to know the artist and the person you’re collaborating with face-to-face and not texting or FaceTiming, it’s a different experience creating a song together and just talking about your experience and my experience in the song that we’re coming up with. It’s just super dope seeing how they work and you’re getting a little something from them and I’m sure I’m rubbing off on them. It even helps my artistry and helps me get better, it’s super dope. I can’t wait for y’all to hear who’s on the album.
I read in an interview that Mary J. Blige is one of your inspirations and we recently celebrated her 50th birthday. Do you have a specific moment in your life that has to do with her?
After I had signed with QC, I went with Pee where she was performing and I got to see her, I actually opened up on the same stage with Lil Baby, that’s when I had dropped “Leave Em Alone.” She was performing that same night and I saw her perform live, but I would say the most memorable is anytime anyone brings Mary J. up. My daddy put me on [to] Mary J. Blige, and in a lot of interviews I say this, my daddy used to listen to Mary J. Blige faithfully. I feel like he was the one that put me on to love — just like, made me fall in love in music — because anything that he was doing, he was listening to music. He literally loved Mary, he knows every Mary J. Blige song, and anytime that was playing I would run in the same room, I’m singing “I’m Goin Down.” Even that’s a memorable moment for him, he always brings it up. Anytime he’s listening to Mary, he’s calling me like, “I’m listening to our girl!!” I just have a strong connection with Mary, even just through my childhood not even realizing what she was talking about, I felt her.
Is there anything you want to say to your fans as the wait for new music from you continues?
I love y’all, thank you for the love and support, even through 2020 and me not so being open and me not even posting on social media and just going ghost I feel like for a while. Y’all still understood, y’all stood there holding me down, and just know that 2021, this music is gonna be better than ever. I’m still gonna be that honest and vulnerable me that I’ve been. I’m excited, I love y’all, and let’s get it!