Ayla Nereo couldn't find the courage to sing for many years. By her senior year of college the songs were forcing an escape and now she is on her first headlining North American …
Ayla Nereo couldn't find the courage to sing for many years. By her senior year of college the songs were forcing an escape and now she is on her first headlining North American tour.
This Friday (March 29), Nereo will be performing in familiar landscapes of the Northern New Mexico land we know as Taos. Her show is at 8 p.m. at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
Growing up in Sonoma County, California, Nereo said she feared singing. She had the constant paranoia she was tone deaf and no one would admit it to her. It wasn't until receiving the support of her friends and discovering Bob Dylan late in her university years that she conquered her apprehension. She is now a full-time musician - on Jumpsuit Records she has released her newest album "By the Light of the Dark Moon," this spring.
"Something about Bob Dylan unlocked the words, my love of words and poetry and putting that to music," said Nereo, nearly 1,200 miles away the night before her big tour in Nevada City, California. "I feel like that's really shaped my music actually, being so afraid and moving through it and still moving through it," she said.
She first learned the piano by ear, then the guitar; however, her main instrument is her voice. Nereo creates vocal layering, using a loop pedal, backing tracks and creates harmonies. She possesses the beautifully haunting qualities of Imogen Heap, with the folk dialect of K.T. Tunstall and one can clearly hear the influence of Cat Stevens in her lyricism. She adds a modern combination of piano, strings and percussion reminiscent of Florence and the Machine. However, Nereo has mastered the understanding of one's creation for their own destiny.
Her song "Take it Slow," from the new album, was written about her experience comparing herself to other artists. "It came at a time when I felt like I was comparing myself to others especially other musicians and their past and what my path should look like and how I thought it should unfold," Nereo said. "This song came to me as a reminder that we can never compare ourselves to anyone else and our journey. Each of us is so unique and actually if we compare ourselves to anyone else then our truest and brightest purpose can't come through - it's important to be true."
Formerly Nereo had a desire to be a filmmaker. You can detect the cinematic influence in many of her tracks, featuring a symphonic feel.
"I have been doing more and more orchestral arrangements on these newer albums because I love that cinematic or really emotional quality of strings, twelves and where that takes us vibrationally," said Nereo.
Also featured on the newest album is the track "Star." This song came to Nereo after her first tour in Europe last summer. "It's an anthem for love, but for a more universal kind of love that is just being connected to everything in existence," Nereo said. "I felt such love bringing my music to Europe last summer, it was such an overwhelming response," she said. "By the Light of the Dark Moon" features the song of love, including self-love, the most underlooked, according to Nereo, who recorded both a studio track and an acoustic piano version.
"By the Light of the Dark Moon," the 11-track album from Nereo, represents a sense of wonder, overcoming hardships and finding hope and mysticism. The opening track "Beacon" starts with, "We the shining forest … to the darkness bring song." Nereo has stated the album "speaks to what becomes visible when times get darker, whether it be inside us, as a culture, or in our cosmos." The album contains special instrument accompaniments such as the washboard, guests vocals, violin and cello, as well as traditional Irish bodhran and guitar.
Although from California, in the midst of her tour she has an especially strong desire to return to Taos. She has played the Jumpsuit Family Gathering and has spent several summers here. She is eager to return for her headlining show to reconnect with the community, the mountain and nature, "who I'm working for," said Nereo.
"When it's my headlining show it's a different experience, not just for me but the audience," said Nereo. "There's an environment that we create together over the course of the night and a journey that we all go on and I'm so excited to share that with so many communities."
Her show in Taos will feature other solo touring artists Elijah Ray, Amber Lily as well as guests singers and musicians. "There's going to be a strong and powerful, joyful love field created from all of us through the night," Nereo said. "It's a powerful frequency transmitted in addition to the music, we will all be sharing in that together."
Nereo has released five solo albums and is planning to release self-directed music videos in the near future for songs from the latest album. She is an experienced dancer and will be bringing the moves to the stage as well as her acoustic Seagull guitar and lucid musical style. The Huffington Post has called Nereo "a poet, musician, visionary and mystic, an otherworldly artist who shares the fruits of her soul."
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