Interview: Layne Staley’s Mom Nancy McCallum Talks Layne’s Childhood, Unreleased Music & Final Days

In a rare interview, Alternative Nation sat down with late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley’s mother, Nancy Layne McCallum, for an in-depth exclusive feature. In this interview Nancy discusses Layne’s childhood, how his voice continues to speak for new generations, his tragic final days, whether there is any unreleased music, Demri Parrot, Layne’s religious views, and a possible Layne Staley poetry book.

Also remember to check out the 2015 Layne Staley Tribute Weekend later this month including a fan gathering at Seattle Center International Fountain on August 20th, acoustic night on August 21st at The Central, and the big birthday celebration on August 22nd at The Crocodile.

Nancy, you obviously have some musical talent. Were you the one who first exposed Layne to his musical abilities?

Everybody in our family has really nice voices (except for a couple of people) and we all just sang. There was always music. My parents had beautiful voices. Layne first heard the most beautiful voice in his environment when I was pregnant with him and I was taking voice lessons at Cornish School in Seattle. My voice teacher had been a voice coach in New York on Broadway for forty years. That was the first really big, full, male voice that he ever heard. I think I would credit that voice more than anybody else’s. I was in choir six years with very demanding choir directors. Thank God for them. David Sanarud was my junior high choir teacher and boy, I’m telling you, my choir teachers expected a lot. If your eyes left them, they stopped the whole practice and said, “From the beginning…” We got A++ for our regional competition. Then I took the year of voice at Cornish. I was chosen to be in the first musical to open The 5th Avenue Theater, but I was pregnant with Layne and it just wouldn’t have worked with me climbing on a ladder. So somebody else got the part and I got Layne.

What were your thoughts when you heard the first Alice in Chains album?

When Facelift came out, and he and I were talking on the phone about it (because, I had listened to the tape several times) I said, “Layne I think there’s a sleeper on this album.” He said, “Which one, Mom?” and I said, “Man In The Box.” And he goes, “Oh that’s our next single.” And I said, “Oh Layne, it’s so beautiful.” And he’s like, “I wrote that, Mom”. So I am very proud of him for that song. He wrote the lyrics, I’m sure, is all I thought he meant. But I don’t know that for sure. I don’t know how much he participated in making the music. So, you’d have to ask another band member about that.

I understand that Layne may have played drums before he started singing.

First he took trumpet, because, in fifth grade everybody got an instrument, and he used Uncle Bob’s trumpet. Our friend, Fred, had a set of drums and Layne was interested and he gave them to us. He loaned them. Then Layne bought a set of drums from the neighbor boy. So that’s how his interest in drums progressed, but I don’t remember him taking lessons.

So he had his own drum set, set up in the house?

Yeah. In the living room, the bedroom and the garage. It depended on where they got the best sound.

My take on Layne was that he was not a very judgmental person. I never heard about him ever getting in fights or even having an enemy. Does this sound accurate?

Pretty much. Yep. He was pretty mild-mannered about that even though he certainly had his opinions about people and things and events; but, he wasn’t a fighter. He didn’t make trouble. Nothing I knew about. I heard later funny stories about naughty things he did. And I went, “What!? I can’t believe that.” But you know, boys don’t tell their mothers all the naughty things they do. I knew of a few things that he did around the junior high age that make me angry. But I guess that’s to be expected.

In your opinion, do you think Layne would have married Demri Parrot?

Layne and Demri loved each other dearly. They wanted to be clean and sober.

Tell us something we don’t know about Layne.

I think people would be surprised that he was raised in the Christian Science Sunday School for twenty years. They asked if he believed in God? And I thought, oh, for heaven sake, listen to his music. Of course he did. And we’re all challenged to demonstrate our understanding, and I’m sure that he was very shocked to find that God isn’t going to dig you out of every tunnel that you put yourself in to. You’ve got to do that yourself. And I think that was where he was – that was probably in my world, if he is at all like me, he would’ve been very disappointed in himself for getting himself in something that he couldn’t dig himself out of. And we hear about miracles every day. I even struggled with why didn’t our prayers work? Well there’s, you known, there’s – the universe has a bigger novel to write. And we don’t know about the afterlife, and we do not know what he’s up to these days; but, I’m sure it’s full of humor and trying to make things better for himself and others. If indeed there is an afterlife, and I tend to think there is, he better be behaving, because when I get there I’m checking on him.


Tell us something about you that we don’t know.

You know, I spent fifty years taking care of children…and people think, well…? Well, that includes a lot! It’s a really important job. And I worked with five women friends and started the first parent co-op in a public school in the United States (Mountlake Terrace Elementary). We were on national news when we started it, and then again years later when the kids were now going into junior high. That all grew out of the Edmonds Community College Family Life Program, where we had preschool. We had kids in preschool as they were the little lab rats. And the parents were the students. And it’s a fabulous program. I would recommend to young families to get involved in your community college family life program. It’s amazing. And it just took off from there. There’s PTA and there’s Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and all the things that moms do. And camping, well we didn’t go camping but we went on vacations. And mom’s jobs are huge. They’re huge. And they’re multi-faceted and they’re full-time and, you know, you have extended family and church. And so in life I’ve done a lot that just fills me as a wife and mother, homeowner, pet owner, car repair gal.

Layne had some recording equipment at home. Would any of this music be worthy of release?

There is nothing. We’ve listened to everything and — Just because he had the equipment didn’t mean that he had the professional ability to pull it all together. I know that he practiced on it a lot. Just unfinished little ditties. And I don’t even know if he did them. It might have been a friend going “doodly-wop”. I don’t know. His music room was completely pristine and clean even though the rest of the house was an artist’s home. So I value the possibility, but no. Don’t you suppose that after 13 years if there was something valuable, it would’ve been heard by now?

Do you know who may have been the last person to see Layne?

According to the stories, it was Mike (Starr) and he went to the store for Layne. So that’s all I know.

It’s heart-breaking to think it was you, his mother, who was notified by Layne’s management that there had been no spending activity from him in two weeks. You (and Jim Elmer) then went to his home with the police, broke down the door and discovered him lifeless on April 19, 2002. Is there anything you can clear up? You brought him in this world, and you went to save him.

I didn’t know I was saving him when we were checking on him. And the phone call that I got said, “Now, don’t be overly concerned because it’s not unusual for Layne to take out a sum of money and then just use cash”. And when I got there, I had been there a couple of days before; because, Demri’s brother had died in February and I hadn’t known about it and I didn’t know if Layne knew about it, so I had been there a couple of days before to talk to him about it. There was no answer. I think that would’ve been a Wednesday, yeah. Then when I got the phone call to check on him on Friday, I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t an answer. He had a little bit of mail by the door, but the kitty meowed, and she had never done that before and somehow that just alerted me. And when he didn’t answer after a while, I thought, well, I better have somebody come and check on him. So that’s when I made the 911 call. The police first went in and then they said – I said, well, I need to go in and be with him. And they said, “Oh I wouldn’t do that.” And I said, “I can do this.” I’ve always promised myself that if anything happened to my children I would be there for them. And I went in, and he was tiny and I thought at first that he had made like a life-sized mannequin of himself because he had lots and lots of art projects always. And I thought, you know, somebody could have thrown that little guy over their shoulder and walked down the street and nobody would have even know that it was a real person.

So, and I sat with him for a few minutes. And I told him that I was really sorry how things had turned out. Because, of course we tried to not pressure him. We always felt like pressure would just push him to the wrong place, and he knew what he had to do. He had to go in treatment, stay in treatment, communicate with his sponsor, stay with healthy people – but the music industry doesn’t afford you the time to do that. And those aren’t healthy people – a lot of them are not. It was pretty tough to get cleaned up. By then he had pretty much secluded, been secluded. So it was shocking to see my child like that. It should have turned out better. And it’s been amazing how many people have expressed their love and support. And they say, “Gee, I hope Layne knew how loved he was.” And I think, Wow, how could he not have known?” I’m sure he did. And then there was the crying and the storytelling and the making the plans. You know I think people who are sweet-hearted deserve to know the truth, and you know, “Warning, warning. Don’t kid yourself. The best of the best succumb to drug addiction.  Stay away.”


Why do we lose certain people?

Once Layne and I were on the phone and he was saying, “You know why, Mom? Why did this happen to me?” And I said, “Honey, that’s a witch hunt. Just go to treatment. And move on with your life. We have no idea. We have no idea of the why.” Believe. Don’t take yourself out to teach somebody a lesson. He didn’t. And I mean, everybody’s circumstances are different. I understand that. Don’t judge somebody else. Don’t think you know things you don’t know for sure. You were not there. But the whole why thing is part of a distraction that the world wants you to get distracted away from your purpose. Let it go. You don’t want to blame – what if you figured out the reason and it was someone’s fault? Are you going to go through life judging and blaming? No. Just drop the why and move on.

There is a small bar next to Layne’s last home called the “Blue Moon”. Did he go there?

Yeah, to just hang out and be around people. To come on down and see a band play.  I think he knew that he was kind of safe there because they knew not to make a fuss over him. Just let him be.

What are your future plans with Layne’s music?

Please clear this up. It won’t be up to me anyway and won’t be new music. It would be anything that he has the copyright to, and it will be up to professionals. I’m not at all capable of making those decisions. The (same) way the people ask about the artwork.

You often get asked about your lawsuit against Alice In Chains. Can you set the record straight here for all those who ask about the outcome?

It really isn’t anyone else’s business, is it?

Do you have any plans to officially release any artwork or photos by Layne?

Well, I think that it will be up to someone who promotes and that’s probably part of the future. You know, I once asked someone about poetry because we’ve received so many poems. And he has some lyrics that are just – they’re poems, they’re not lyrics. And I thought, well somebody would love that in a poetry book. And I talked with someone who publishes and he goes, “No, we don’t do poetry books.” They just don’t sell very well.” So it has to be a self-published thing or…I don’t know. Until I knew what the parameters were of what my rights are, I really couldn’t make a plan around future projects. He does have some interesting art. And of course he didn’t release it, so did he want it to be released? Those are decisions that are hard to make. I wasn’t a part of his business, and when he came home, it was brownies or chocolate chip cookies and meatloaf and the longest nap he needed and a hot long shower and no interruptions and just visit about other things, be around family and the pets and be home. And so, it wasn’t a lot of talk about business.

The 14th Annual Layne Staley Tribute is coming up in August with three locations of memorials and celebrations. I assume you will be at all three events, but will fans have easier access to meet you at the first gathering – the Fountain?

Absolutely at the Fountain.  Because it’s quiet there. At the other events, fans come up and they want to tell me stuff and it’s like, “Hey, I want to hear the bands that we’ve asked to come and play.” I want to hear their music and their renditions, and by the end of the night if I have to talk to people I have such a sore throat. And so if you want to come and visit, come to the Fountain and then we can really visit. And there is always a little acoustic time where we hang out underneath the covering by the Fountain and people bring their guitars, and they bring their cell phones so they can read the words to the music and it’s a sing-along and it’s really sweet. Prior to that, people visit. So that starts around 7pm at the Seattle Center International Fountain.

You have been known to get up on stage and sing the Mad Season song, “Wake Up.” What are your personal reasons for this choice of a song?

I can’t sing most of Layne’s songs. They’re too hard. But I do love them, and I don’t know the words, you know, I’m Layne’s mom. But, I’m talking to the audience. He was. This is the song that mom would sing to this young crowd of people who think that drugs are recreational. They are not! Wake up. He was singing it to them. And I would sing it. It’s you know, I’m not a showman; so there is some music in there where I just sort of hang out on stage and wonder what should I do with my microphone.

But it’s a beautiful song and it means a lot, and you know, it says ‘10 long years of leaves to rake up.’ There’s a Bible verse that said that ‘the leaves were for the healing of the nations’. Our purpose is to be healers and be helpful and be kind and live quietly in your heart and love other people and don’t blame them and don’t judge them. People ask sometimes about, “Oh, did you forgive whatever so-and-so for whatever?” And I go, “You know, to forgive means I had to have judged”. I’m not a judge. And everybody has to square things up with the universe themselves.

So, I kind of love that song for a lot of different reasons besides the fact that it’s easy to learn and I can sing it. But since then I’ve actually learned more of the songs just because of repetition and the environment. You know, I hear bands playing and if I go to a show and they’re on the radio and once in a while I put the music in myself; but, it’s very painful most of the time. And I don’t watch the videos because people say, “Oh, but you have all those videos”. You can watch them. It’s like, do you know what it’s like to see him there and not have him in my world just for everyday stuff?

And besides, that guy onstage was only part of Layne, and he was so many other parts. And he meant so many other things to other people for other reasons.

What else can we expect at a Layne Tribute?

At The Crocodile, two years ago, it was such a spiritual experience. I cannot describe it well enough, but I can tell you that when everyone sang along, it sounded like a choir, like a church. And at the end of the night I jokingly, but not really, I said, “You know it felt like going to church with Pastor Layne presiding”. It was amazing. And people who had been to many, many concerts said they had never had that experience before. So bless his little heart, if that’s what he does. He brings people together to love one another and have a happy memory, and make happy memories. We do little things different every year; but one year, I just said, “You know if you’ve lost a friend to addiction, call their name out. And that was a really sweet few minutes where people just called out their dear friend’s name and everybody was flicking their BIC’s. I don’t know if you can do that anymore because Washington is in a drought. If you want to bring a glow stick, oh, Layne loved glow sticks. Everybody bring your glow sticks. That would be so cool. I also have a friend who wrote a beautiful song for Layne and it’s my understanding is that it will be played at the Crocodile. And I’ve heard it and it’s gorgeous.


Do you have a message you wish to give to fans of Layne’s?

What would Layne say? He said it in his lyrics. He warned you. He described what he was up against. He said stay away. Don’t follow. And in the end, he said we’re alone. And I say we’re all alone together. Each of us has our own experience and past; but, we are walking alongside one another. And ask for help, for heaven’s sake. And for heaven’s sake go to 12-Step if you need help. 12-Step for anything. I don’t care what your obsession is. If your obsession is green and you can’t stand it anymore, go to a 12-Step program. It doesn’t matter what your obsession is. The 12-Step program is the same. If you do too much for others, if you don’t do enough for others, if you smoke, if you gamble, if there’s a sex addiction, if there’s a drug addiction or alcohol, or you can’t talk to people because you sweat, I don’t care what it is, the 12-Step problem solving process is for everyone and for everything. We all have parts of ourselves that are not socially acceptable, that scare us in ourselves, that might not be acceptable in our families, or things that are hidden; because, we don’t want to talk about them or relive them or whatever. But I think that’s the nerve that Layne hits for some people in his music, (but) not everybody. I’ve heard people who said, “Oh, I get so much joy out of his music”. I thought, ‘Do you listen to the words? Because they’re not nice stories.” We know what was going on in some of that and it was very painful. And it’s a part of ourselves that need release and relief. Not that we had to go crazy and wild about, you know stuff, but stuff has to have some kind of outlet. You know maybe you just – maybe you cook or maybe you bang on the drums or maybe you run or ride your bike, whatever it is – stuff has to have an outlet.

Is it true that eventually you answer all fan emails sent to you?

I do. Thirty-one thousand so far and counting. I have one thousand waiting for me at home, but only about three-hundred haven’t heard from me. And I’m still trying to catch up with them. So have patience, and don’t change your e-mail address. Plus a few thousand letters (to answer) because not everybody you know has computers or they want to write. It’s really sweet.

You went to Layne’s twenty-year high school reunion. How was that?

I asked people, “Is Calvin here? Is Calvin here?” (Because he had a friend Calvin that I had never met; but, he used to talk about him). Well several people said, “Layne Staley was Layne Elmer!?” (Because he went to school with his stepdad’s last name). “He was the quietest boy in our class!” So I’m going out, Calvin is coming in, and someone said “There’s Calvin.” And I went up and I said, “I’m Layne’s mom. And I know that you were Layne’s friend.” And we started to talk, it’s kind of a narrow hallway and his back was leaning against one way and I’m facing with my back against another as people are going through, and he said, “That kid could not run a drill press.” And I said, “Well you know people are telling me that he was the quietest kid in class.” And I said, “But once he got out on that stage, he used it for other things.” And Calvin said very seriously and sweetly to me, he said, “Nancy, Layne did it for us all.”

I was surprised to hear that you still go to concerts. (Referring to House of Blues, Fri., July 19, 2015)

The band was Michael Grande’s band, Memory Layne.  They played “Queen of the Rodeo” at the House of Blues on Friday night. That‘s a funny song.  And it’s on (Alice In Chains’) live album, which is my favorite album; because, it’s so causal. The audience is right there and the guys are wearing their cowboy hats, and then they do “Queen of the Rodeo” in Texas. I just think that’s funny. I also attended the Mad Season concert at Benaroya Hall recently, in Seattle. What a night!

Washington State has now decriminalized recreational marijuana. What are your thoughts on this?

Any state that decides to legalize marijuana is asking for what they get.

It’s interesting that donations for the Layne Staley Memorial Fund go to the Therapeutic Health Services – the very same company you were working for when Layne passed.

When I worked at THS, it was a brand-new job. I had been there three weeks (with) my girlfriend (it was her first job out of high school). And THS had been in existence for over forty-some years now. They have seven locations. They do alcohol and drug addiction including heroin. They also have family programs for moms who are pregnant and are using, and for the addicts, their support system. All of the counseling includes a support system for those people who want to help. Most of their locations have heroin treatment. They do co-presenting, which means that if you have a drug addiction and something else going on, a mental health issue, or physical, they coordinate the service. So that is the whole approach. Oh, I feel so lucky. I got to know many people at THS in my short, well, I was there two years altogether. And I got to know the administrators and the Executive Director, and these are some of the finest people you could ever work with and they love everyone who comes there. They will do whatever they can to accommodate any kind of financial need, because people think, “Oh, I don’t have any money for treatment.” Well, if you don’t have personal money and you don’t have insurance and your company doesn’t have insurance for you now, there is Medicare, Medicaid and ACA, which is the Affordable Care Act. And there’s funding from the cities, counties, state and feds through grants that the facility applies for and uses on behalf of people who cannot pay for their own treatment in one way or another. So there’s – I mean there’s ten different ways that the treatments center will try to make treatment possible. And yes, it’s a revolving door proposal once in a while, and yeah, you might have to go back a few times. But stay as long you need and get the help that you need. And don’t give up on yourself because everybody has a clean and sober core.

But I am not involved at all in the (Layne Staley Memorial Fund) finances anymore. The only thing that I get involved in is if there’s a copyright issue. At the end of the Hungarian tribute, the Italian tribute, the Swiss tribute, the Bulgarian tribute, Seattle’s tribute and anyone else’s, it’s up to the coordinators to pay their expenses and then any money left over, goes to THS. And then if I find money on the street, it goes in an envelope. At the end of the year they get that along with any checks that people have sent to me, because sometimes a letter will include a donation check. But it should be made out to THS (Therapeutic Health Services). And I think people need to know about the website, because it really is a gift of love. One woman said, “I went to the website.” And she said “I thought it was really kind of weird”, and then she said “I realized how much you love us”. Please spell his name correctly, because he just hated it when people spelled his name wrong.

What made the Seattle scene so special?

Because you were all brothers. That’s what made this Seattle scene so unique. They weren’t competing. They weren’t undercutting one another. They cared about one another and they shared musicians and instruments and practice space, and it was a brotherhood. It was like Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men.

How were Layne & Mike Starr together?

They were funny together. They were a comedy team – the two of them. But you should talk to Gayle Starr about that.  Because she had more experience with them sitting at the piano bench and you know, being silly.


People sometimes name their children after Layne.

We have Layne, Delayne, Elayna, Dalayna, Alice in Chains – that’s the cat. All these parents send me pictures of their babies that they’ve named for Layne. It’s really sweet. And they’re the cutest little kids. And sometimes they send me Christmas cards later. And they’re growing up. Now they’re four and then they’re ten, and it’s just precious. One little boy’s name is Layne Staley and then his family’s last name. It’s humbling. It’s very sweet.

Originally, your last name was Layne?

Yeah. It’s my maiden name. And my dad had three daughters. So when we had Layne, I thought that that’s kind of a cool first name and it carried the name another generation, Then Layne chose his middle name, Thomas, when he got a little bit older.

To donate to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund, please visit:
Therapeutic Health Services

Donations also accepted by mail:
Therapeutic Health Services
1116 Summit Ave.
Seattle, WA. 98101

Upcoming Events:
The 14th Annual Layne Staley Tribute

Thursday, 8/20/15, Fan Gathering at The Fountain
Seattle Center International Fountain, Seattle, WA 98109
7:00 pm

Friday, 8/21/15, Layne Staley Tribute (Acoustic Night)
Jar Of Flies, Outshined, Poottana Play for Money
The Central, 207 1st Ave South, Seattle, WA  98104
(206) 622-0209
9:30 pm

Saturday, 8/22/15, Layne Staley Tribute
(Celebrating the lives and legacies of Layne Staley, Mike Starr, Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, and more.)
Jar Of Flies, Outshined, Poottana Play For Money
The Crocodile, 2200 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA  98121
(206) 441-4618
9:00 pm
$15 Advance
$20 Day Of Show
Tickets available at


  • Boom

    Boom miss the Staley. The Staley was first music man from the new generation of the music that Boom listen too, Boom come from the old generation of music and was sucked into the “Grunge” scene. Boom probably oldest “Grunge” rocker at time Nd was oldest at moore theatre show the easy.

    Boom out!!

    • Rizz

      You doing okay nowadays?

      • Boom

        Boom do the good. Boom be the stronger than ever and rocking out and banging wife again.

        Boom out!!

  • alice

    I don’t ever remember seeing Laynes family from 1986 to about 1990 at any of the parties nor the music bank.
    I do know layne was spiritual. in fact he had a keen sense of the occult since before I ever arrived.
    this is a documented FACT.
    that’s the layne I knew.
    KEEP YOUR kids off god! THAT DUDE!
    some people have serious issues with TRUTH!
    USUALLY religious ones.
    SAD. a sad story.
    I feel bad, just hate hypocrites and liars.
    feel bad for his family.

  • Joe Costigan

    Great interview. She seems to cut through all the bullshit – she is very straight forward – I appreciate that.

    I always wondered about his music studio and any unreleased stuff – glad I got an answer although it’s not the one I wanted to here I don’t have to wonder anymore.

    Pretty sad story about her going in to his apartment and being with him after he passed away.

    RIP Layne

  • Fuzhi

    Great interview, I appreciate it.

  • halcyon

    Thanks for the interview, Tim!
    I wonder what happened to the book Layne was writing and his solo album he mentioned in at least one interview in 1995 or around that time.
    I also find interesting what Nancy has to say about Layne’s religious views and how he was raised “in the Christian Science Sunday School for twenty years”.
    It’s pretty inconsistent with what Layne said on the subject: “I have a fascination with how brainwashed people get with religion and how they’ll give up their money, their time and their whole life for a cause that they’re sure is right, but I’m sure is wrong. I think there’s a lot of people who are scared of life and living and they want to make sure they get to Heaven or whatever. I try to stay away from it as much as I can. I was raised in the church until I was 16 and I’ve disagreed with their beliefs as long as I can remember, so when I had the choice I chose not to believe in anything apart from myself.”
    (the above quote being just one of many other anti-religious statements he made)
    Also, Layne’s stepbrother Ken Elmer wrote on his blog: “First of all, Nancy raised the house in Scientology, not this neighborhood small Christian church picture (…). When Layne could stop going, he did. He was very smart and contemplative, but certainly not religious.”
    IMHO, Man in the box is (among other things) about (religious) bigotry, mind control and willingness to accept and internalize a simplified view of the world and Layne’s disagreement with religion or any other ideology being forced on children (Layne’s initial idea for the music video was a baby with his eyes sewn shut) or on people in general, so I find it a bit ironic that Nancy liked the song.

    • Rebecca Posselt

      yes! exactly.

    • Dibbie

      I have never once heard Layne speak of Scientology. Not even mentioning the name. Are you sure he didn’t mistake it for “Christian Science”??? (Which is NOTHING like Scientology even though the name sounds similar) And in order to join that “religion”, you need to pay A LOT of money. Which I don’t believe they had considering they were a normal working class family.

      • halcyon

        I was just quoting Ken and that’s what he wrote (probably by mistake). I wouldn’t read much into it. I guess he knew it was Christian Science or he might have found it similar for some reason (Nancy’s level of dedication (?) which is quite obvious even in this interview), hence the confusion.

      • Kari Reyes

        Christian Science is definitely NOT Scientology!! (Thank God!! Lol)
        But anyone raised in a ‘religious’ background will rebel against it!! That’s just how it is… I do hope that Layne reached out to God as he lay dying…most people do when at Death’s Door.

    • Amy-lynn

      lol, ya ..I assumed from the song “God Am”, he didn’t seem very religious too

      “Dear God, how have you been then?
      I’m not fine, fuck pretending
      All of this death your sending
      Best throw some free heart mending
      Invite you in my heart, then
      When done, my sins forgiven?
      This God of mine relaxes
      World dies I still pay taxes”

      ..”So Lord, I see you grinnin
      Must be grand always winning
      How proud are you being able
      To gather faith from fable”

      ..”All the respect I’m giving
      Shared strength acquired by living
      All blooming life you’re feeding
      Can’t hide sick ones you’re weeding”

      • halcyon

        Ironically (or maybe not), Layne’s lyrics are actually full of references to God (or the concept of the Christian God) and religion and he (and Jerry) used Christian symbolism a lot. He obviously reflected on the concept of God but I don’t think it’s safe to assume that he believed in God (he might have at some point) – just as it cannot be assumed with absolute certainty that he did not (but I would tend to assume that this was the case considering his own words). On the other hand, he definitely had strong opinions about organized religion (which is not necessarily the same thing as faith). So, Nancy might be right. I just wanted to point out the obvious discrepancy between Nancy’s and Layne’s (or Ken’s) statements regarding his church-going and his opinions about religion. Euphemistically speaking, he was apparently not as happy about being raised in the church as Nancy suggests he was.

        • Hendrix

          Layne believed in reincarnation, which I gather from the get born again song that he is currently repeating a couple lives.

          • Joe Costigan

            Pretty sure get born again was about confession and organized religion and all of your sins being absolved and how ridiculous he thought it was – “clear all your sins, get born again, just repeat a couple lines”

          • halcyon

            I’m fairly certain you’re right. It might not have been the only theme of the song but the fact is that Layne commented on it as follows: “[It’s about] just hypocrisy I guess. Religious hypocrisy. From whom to whom? That doesn’t need to be said, it’s kind of personal.”
            It makes you wonder…

            Anyway, I’ve always thought that the song has something of a prayer-like quality to it (especially Jerry’s vocals).

          • dakotablue

            I heard that song was about his dad, who found religion and kicked drugs.

          • Amy-lynn

            What I thought of the song was it could be about drugs. Like much of his music is ..”get born again” as in how drugs can make you feel like another person, “repeat a couple lines” as in coke or heroin. And talking about death in the song which drugs lead to.. just a different perspective I guess.

          • Kari Reyes

            Yeah, that sounds more accurate considering his lifestyle…most musicians write cryptic lyrics…only he knows for sure.

    • Kytana Martell

      Nancy seems to be a hard core christian, so of course she wants to believe that layne believed in god, but i don’t think that he did.

      • halcyon

        Yes, that was my point, basically. I think her religious beliefs massively influence the way she sees Layne and how she talks about him and how she describes his way of thinking and motivations. Ultimately, it says more about her than him.

      • kris08

        Yeah, I agree. But if it makes her feel better, so be it. But listening to Layne’s lyrics (“God Am” comes to mind), I don’t think he followed her path.

      • dakotablue

        I think he did at one point and then turned his back–“Now the loss of your god won’t make me bleed.”

    • dakotablue

      Yes, but Layne had a large painting of Jesus in his home (that he perhaps painted?) and also said he didn’t want to die by his own hand because God said it is wrong (words to that effect). Yet at a certain point he must have realized he was killing himself, although “slow suicide’s no way to go.”

      • halcyon

        I read that too but I’m not sure whether it was true. There were some people on the discussion boards who had some information concerning Layne’s reclusive years claiming to have known him, they admitted to have talked with Nancy via e-mail over an extended period of time and were sent personal photos and probably were in his apartment (thus they could get all the knowledge) but they probably also made some or a lot of things up and were called liars by other people (I don’t know whether they really were) so it is hard to determine which of the information is true. Apparently, some of them were girls fantasizing about having an affair with Layne, so it really didn’t add much credibility to what they were saying but who knows…? But certain information seems to be based on facts and this one might be true.
        He also stylized himself into a Jesus-like figure in his paintings and some of the photographs (e.g. Pandemonium! magazine cover). I even think he identified with Jesus in a way.
        The exact quote is (I’m really annoying with those quotes, sorry :-): “I’m scared of death, especially death by my own hand. I’m scared of where I would go.”
        He didn’t speak specifically about God but it’s certain that Layne was far from thinking like an actual atheist. I don’t think you have to believe in God or in heaven or hell to consider suicide as something unacceptable but you definitely must believe that by taking your own life you do something wrong (for whatever reason). He actually made the above statement based on his own attempts to commit suicide (which was totally heartbreaking to read) and it was a horrible experience for him: “I experienced what I guess could have been hell or, you know, purgatory or whatever. It was freezing cold, and I was spinning like I was drunk and trying desperately to take a breath. There was chest pain like I was gonna explode. If you gotta feel pain here, you gotta feel it somewhere else. I believe that there’s a wonderful place to go to after this life, and I don’t believe there’s eternal damnation for anyone. I’m not into religion, but I have a good grasp on my spirituality.”
        I also think that deliberate (“active”) suicide is not the same thing as self-destructive behavior eventually leading to death (or suicide, depending on the perspective). Some people might have a moral problem with the former, but not so much with the latter. Sometimes they just can’t help themselves but they don’t want to die even if they understand that they probably will.

        • dakotablue

          Thanks for the exact quote. I guess I remembered it having to do with God because of the “where I would go” part (suicides condemned to hell by Catholics, I believe). I don’t think I’ve ever read about Layne trying to commit suicide–where can I find that?
          Yes, I was also going to mention his Jesus-like art, especially the two self-portraits in the Mad Season notes. And wasn’t the robed, eyes-sewn-shut figure carrying a cross in the MITB video?

        • Katrina

          Absolutely. I feel the same way about this subject.

        • Kari Reyes

          Yes, I agree too…

  • Eddie Yarler

    Wow what a powerful interview. This is the horrible underbelly we don’t see when it comes to the music we love. The ones who love these people, grew up with them, and are essentially watching their world destroy itself. I almost feel guilty for loving all these songs with amazing lyrics knowing they came from such a dark place in a real person’s life. They may be celebrities but its real easy to forget (both, relating to creativity and behavior) that they are real people like you and I. They struggle, fear, and cry just like us. They also have people (not fans) who really love them, pray for them, and want them to get better. Idk many artists who are still in the throes of addiction currently (most who did not pass away seemed to get everything together) besides Scott Weiland, Scott Stapp, and Travis Meeks but I sincerely hope everyone struggling with quitting an illicit substance can leave it behind. Even if it means giving up music, do it for the ones you love.

  • S H

    Great interview, thank you!

  • Amanda Bustos

    WOW! Just wow… This is one interview that needed to be done. Thank you so much. Layne has a very special place in my heart. This was amazing.

  • Remixlab

    Not a bad article all in all, but I take exception with Nancy’s statement, “Don’t you suppose that after 13 years if there was something valuable, it would’ve been heard by now?” Nancy, who I call a friend (we used to have weekly check-in calls), has been wishy-washy in allowing my brother (Ron) and I to release the 8 tracks we have with Layne singing on them. It’s been a sore spot for me for a long time now, and continues to be. I’ve spent a lot of time and money getting the songs ready to be shopped, but Nancy and her attorney (mostly him) have stopped us at every turn. I think there are three songs which have mass appeal and so do those who have heard them. I think Nancy is wrong on this matter, there IS something valuable ready for release and I hope she comes to her senses one day. Layne’s fan would love this shit. One last thing–no offence to TIm–Tim knows about the unreleased tracks that Ron and I have in our possession, so I think it’s a little disingenuous to frame the question to Nancy the way he did. ?#?LayneStaley? ?#?AliceInChains? ?#?Friends?

    • Camden

      Wow, really? Nancy is his mom and she has a right to say what will be released and what wont! In fact, you should be ordered to turn over the tracks to his estate. Your a family friend trying to profit off of Layne? My opinion is that if Layne never released these so called tracks you have, then he didn’t want them released. Geeze who needs enemies when they have friends like you? You need to show your respect to Layne’s mom and honor her wishes whatever they are and definitely YOU should not profit off of Layne’s voice. I hate it that people go through life, they think they have a trusted friend, someone they can trust to be in their lives and then tragedy happens and that friend (someone like yourself) goes and tries to profit off of the death. Hasn’t Nancy and Layne’s sisters had enough pain of losing him, do they really need the stress of some scumbag (you) profiting off of their deceased son / brother?

      This is just my objective opinion as an outside neutral party. Would I love to hear more of Layne’s intense and one of kind voice? Yes. But only if it was something he would want / stand behind. We all create and do things through our lives that we later on say hey that wasnt so great was it? For example, when I was a kid, I painted my dad an oil painting, I thought it was really good, but would I want the world to later see that oil painting and have that painting represent me and all that I stand for? No. Absolutely not. If Layne wanted things released, he had 6 or so years while he was in seclusion alone to think about it and from what I have read, he talked to his mother, clearly if he wanted ANYTHING that he had created to be seen by the masses in the future, I would think he would have told his manager, or his mom. I just think you are way overstepping boundaries and violating privacy rights to a deceased man. And if I were Nancy or his estate, I would sue the pants off of you and make sure you paid for violating Layne’s privacy. I don’t know if since you own the tapes if you are have a copyright to them, I would think that you don’t because Layne and anything pertaining to Layne should have its own copyright, therefore, its technically not yours to distribute.

      If I were you (then again Im a good person) I would turn over the tapes and apologize to Nancy for any stress you have caused her. I would also give her something in writing agreeing that there are no other copies made of the tapes and that you will never release any such tapes. But I doubt you will do that, I am guessing you had $ signs in mind in the first place when you made such tapes of her son singing. Now your chomping at the bit to capitalize on such tapes. People like you make me untrusting of others.

    • Kari Reyes

      Dude, isn’t there some way of releasing those songs under your name/band name?? People release things all the time-there must be a way!!?? Good luck with all of that! I hope to hear those songs soon!! 🙂

      • Remixlab

        It’s tricky, Kari. Without the use of Layne’s name the project couldn’t legally be promoted with any kind of effectiveness. I’ve had a few ideas on how to get them released, but the last time I spoke with the estate I was informed that until they settle the pending lawsuit with the band (Alice In Chains), the estate wasn’t going to be granting any rights regarding Layne’s likeness. With that said, the project gets put in a shoebox and pushed to the back of the closet.

  • Raj

    Really great interview, very sad and heartbreaking regarding Layne’s ending. Wish he was still with us making great music.

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  • Gina

    Thank you both for the interview. I was crushed for weeks after the news of Layne’s death hit the media. I was glued to the AIC message board helping and receiving help from all the friends there. There were people from Music Bank there sharing stories, along with many others who claimed to know Layne at least one point in his life. It was very lonely being in Wisconsin with no memorial to attend and no way to get to Seattle. Luckily people posted many pics of the candles and flowers at the fountain. It was tough when that message board closed, some moved to MySpace, but there was no safe place anymore. I still drive with a memorial sticker in my car window all these years later. His death affected me deeply, and I don’t think anyone I know in person could ever understand that. For about a year I had the great honor of sharing the stage with my now-husband’s band singing “Man in the Box.” Not only a dream come true for me – singing on stage to crowded venues, but to do a tribute to Layne as well. <3

  • Thelonious Funk

    Great interview, but so sad. He was such an original talent. I don’t think the criticism William Duvall gets for filling his spot in the band is warranted, but I guess I can understand it.

    I’m just glad they’re not milking his name by releasing shitty home demos and snippets of recordings that disservice his legacy. He gave us a wealth of music during Alice’s first run. Let the man rest in peace.

    • Ben

      I totally agree! I think William Duvall is an excellent singer, I’m just disappointed that his full potential is not showcased with the new AIC. I was extremely excited about new AIC prior to BGWTB, especially having heard Williams vocals in his band… however I have lost interest in the new music especially with the horrible ear bleeding compression, but also because his vocals are hardly even there! I hope the next album (mastering) will give some justice to the music and William will get a chance to really shine!

    • Hendrix

      I’ll second that. So true, I applaud Nancy for not exploiting faint shreds of Layne just to bank.

  • Rizz

    Bravo, Tim.

  • Drivingtheview

    Excellent interview. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m a parent and I was moved by her thoughts when she discovered Layne was gone. I cannot imagine her inner strength at that moment to confront the death of her son. I often think of the darkness Layne was in before his final heart beat. How sad and lonely those final days must have been. Nancy’s story about discovering Layne’s body and her insistence to go to his side is remarkable.

    I also found it interesting she failed to mention/acknowledge Jerry and the success of AIC 2.0 (no that she was directly asked)

    • Tim Branom

      I wanted to make this interview all about her and Layne 🙂

  • Amy-lynn

    wow.. so she went to Layne’s place and there was no answer, had no idea his lifeless body was inside and left for a couple days, before she got the cops to go in and found him on the 19th?
    That’s just horrible.. while his body was in there for around a week already, she was there, right on the other side of the door with no clue.
    My anxiety is so high just reading that. I couldn’t imagine how horrible that must have been finding out her son had been gone all that time and being there but not knowing.
    at the same time, ..I’d think I would have been trying to ram down the door if I had a son not responding the first time and knew he was a severe addict.
    I always thought it was aweful that he was left for so long, rotting away & no one knew he was gone ..especially being a famous rock star. Even if he was reclusive, everyone knew he was a severe addict and not in good shape, why did they leave him be for so long and not check on him? Why did it take so long for them to wonder about him?
    Makes me really wonder about the people in his life, how selfish they must have been to stay away for so long and not worry when they knew he was sick.

    • Hendrix

      Do you not understand that when you are reclusive you cut everyone off because you make a subconscious decision to not to be close to anyone, communicate with anyone, or risk untrustworthy people sniffing in your business and shut off emotionally? None of those closest to him were selfish, especially not Nancy, she did everything she could, he was a grown man who could have saved himself if he’d opened up the door in the three years prior and all the other times people pleaded with him to stop throwing himself away like that.

    • penyunne

      He was reclusive, he cut himself off, yes, you have to understand his point of view; he was a drug addict who was destroying himself, of course he didn’t want people to see the state he was in, especially those that loved him dearly. It makes you want to isolate yourself and not bother anyone with your own inner demons, or as the person before me stated, “risk untrustworthy people sniffing in your business”. But that doesn’t mean people didn’t try to contact him. That wasn’t the one and only time he didn’t respond to a call or a knock on the door. Nancy knew what was going on with him, but she also knew that when neither his friends, his family nor most importantly she herself couldn’t help him, who else could other than Layne himself? He was an adult and she respected his privacy and decisions, and just because he didn’t pick up the phone or open the door didn’t mean she was forcefully going to barge inside. Sean was also calling him every now and then, went to his place to try and check on him, but didn’t get a response. People understood that, they got used to it over the time, that doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t hurt and that they didn’t care about him.

      • Amy-lynn

        Thank you, I do understand.. I’ve lived with an addict most of my life, my own father.. I do understand how reclusive people are & that is no excuse to leave them be and allow them to hide away. Especially family.
        They knew he was having substance problems and how bad shape he was in, there is much more they could have done to help him than just try ringing him once in a while and giving up when there is no answer, not think anything of it. Like ..”oh well, I’ll just try again in a couple days”
        It doesn’t matter what his point of view was ..His condition and that point of view was exactly the reason to monitor him more closely and check on him more often. Not leave him be. You need to do what ever it takes when someone is like that.
        They could have even called the cops, since those drugs he was using are illegal. Any little thing to make sure they are still alive.
        You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, but you can take care of them and make sure they are okay. At least they wouldn’t be alone and left for weeks before anyone knew they died. You can’t just leave an addict like that, it’s no different than supporting their addiction.

      • Camden

        I just don’t understand why Nancy did not go to a court and get legal guardianship over him, as we have seen done before with Amanda Bynes and Brittany Spears. Nancy could have and should have, taken full legal control over Layne, she could have had him involuntarily committed to a rehab center even if it lasted a few years.

    • dakotablue

      I hear what you’re saying. If my child was a severe addict and wasting away to a skeleton, I would have someone live at his home with him and try to take care of him. Fix some food and clean the place up, at least. Not necessarily family, if he didn’t want that, but perhaps a close friend who loved him. I know it would be hard to be around someone you love, watching him kill himself, but leaving him alone ended in tragedy, as we know. Layne didn’t want people to see him, but I think a lot of that was his crippling depression plus the drugs, a vicious circle. This is something like the right to die movement–can you stand by and let a loved one suffering from depression kill himself because that’s what he says he wants?

  • biorneitfnp

    RIP Layne

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  • Kytana Martell

    Great interview, too bad nancy and jerry have already said that there’s no “new” music left to be release.

  • kris08

    Nancy is a class act. I have e-mailed her before and did receive a response. She is just a sweet woman with a gentle, kind heart (just like her son). I find it so admirable that she keeps her son’s memory alive through all her philanthropy and work. It’s too bad that Layne was too far gone into his addiction to see that he was loved by so many people, especially his mother. Nancy rocks and a special “shout out” to Nancy for bringing her son into this world who showed us such talent. R.I.P. Layne and Mike and thank you to Nancy … you are a very special mother indeed.

  • Donny

    Sometimes, there’s nothing to square up…it’s really a matter of perspective. At any rate, you do what you think is right in life…that’s all you can do…

  • dakotablue

    Tim, this is a real coup–I don’t think Nancy has spoken to anyone on the record for a long time.
    But I know some of the why–and I lay that right at the door of Layne’s dad, also a heroin addict. Now Phil Staley lives on and both his sons are dead, Layne and his half-brother Chris.
    It breaks my heart to read about his mom finding him, how he was so tiny. I can’t imagine what she has gone through. Still, she has tried to help other addicts.
    So, so sad. Shout to God to bring my sunny day.

    • Tim Branom

      I was surprised as well that she agreed to the interview. But I made a promise to her that I would not change her words.

  • Katrina

    Welcome to the wonderful world of sarcasm~Stone Gossard.
    Which leads me to my next question. During an interview with Layne and Sean, for MTV, Layne was asked what his songs were about. Layne’s response was, “whatever you think it’s about, is what the song is about” .. It very well could have been a sarcastic statement or it was simple….However we, as individual’s, related to the lyrics. Isn’t that what art is about? Whether it be a painting or lyrics. We view it how it makes us feel. Unless the artist shares his specific views with us. For instance, “We die young” is about street violence as Layne explained in a former interview. All I know is when I listen to Layne’s lyrics. It breaks my heart. His song’s touched me toy core. He was a poet. Rest well beautiful spirit.

  • halcyon

    As regards the possible poetry book (maybe even including Layne’s other art) – if the publishing costs are the main problem, I wonder if Nancy has ever considered crowdfunding. I think a lot of people would love to read Layne’s poetry and would be more than willing to make a contribution to make it happen.

  • deestrattamente .

    About Demri’s brother: I read Layne told his mother that he had dreams about the car accident, Layne was looking in the woods (the accident place) for Derek but he cant find him and he was upset about this. So layne knew about the death. For the rest: I don’t trust Nancy, she changes her words way too often.

  • Kris

    I’m always amazed by how much in denial this woman is and always been. And for the records Layne knew about Demri’s brother accident, he had nightmares about it And talked about it with Nancy. I only hope someday i’ll read an interview with someone that knew him for real and that can speaks about him without pink tinted lens.

  • Mama_Boog

    Well. I sat here weeping. Probably due to hormones, bit nonetheless. Thanks for this!

    I didn’t name either of my children after the man, but they both resemble him a lot; their dad is eerily similar in facial features to Layne. Anyway, they love Alice in Chains and keep squawking at me to play, “Pleed the Bleet.” (My eldest has a speech impediment.)

    Thanks again for the interview!