Local artist Ayla Nereo graces the Cover of the 2022 Backstage Magazine and performs on September 30

With an uncanny ability to crack open the heart, Ayla Nereo’s songs are an ode to the wonder of being human, inviting us deeper into the beauty of simple existence. In an attempt to categorize her unique sound, there are elements of electronica, folk ballads, celtic melodies and elvin loop-pedal mantras, with lyrical meditations and riddles of language that dance into wondrous tapestries of sound and story. Her music is richly layered electronic soundscapes, with vocalizations that build harmoniously while integrating string arrangements, percussion and guitar melodies, creating a musical genre that is uniquely its own. 

In person, Ayla projects pure warmth and joy with a subtle confidence underneath her youthful innocence. When asked about her childhood, the distant look in her eye suggests pleasant memories of rural Sonoma County’s hills and a purity of being raised rural, close to the earth, surrounded by plenty of music and art. Nevada City is now her home of 9 years and she loves that it is an intimate community, still close to the woods that inspire her. It’s beautiful to her that with such a wide spectrum of beliefs, that the community still unifies to care for one another and bond over the love of the Yuba River, and that despite the differences – “we choose something bigger, together.” 

The woman you see today, exudes a depth of self-awareness and thoughtful assertiveness, yet when Ayla first discovered her voice while in college studying psychology, she was content at being a studio musician, writing off singing to be done by all the others. In college she started to learn other peoples’ songs on guitar, singing timidly and then suddenly, different songs started to come through, with her voice as the only way to express them. It was her college co-op friends who urged her to get over her fear of performing publicly, after witnessing her first song performance in a backyard fire circle, which later became “Twirl Me” – a Wildlight song she recorded with David Sugalski aka The Polish Ambassador. Hundreds of songs, six solo studio albums, and 5 collaborative albums later, it’s a true blessing her music is now able to be appreciated on a larger scale. Ayla is a voice, a singer, a dancer and filmmaker, a steward of the earth, and a professional songwriter and producer whose songs have reached millions of hearts across the globe. She has toured extensively throughout the US, Canada, and beyond, gaining a deep understanding of the energetics of performing live and the relationship that forms from connecting with the audience through her music.

Ayla draws inspiration from the dynamic human experience of learning who we are and what we are capable of, and believes everyone has incredible limitless potential to travel through the darkness and use inner strength to find the light. Songwriting is cathartic for her and serves as an expression of devotion to Mother earth and the balance between elements. Some of her muses are Celtic music, ABBA, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and the legendary composer John Williams of Star Wars fame. Ayla learns a lot about herself during the songwriting process as songs come to her from a place of surrendering, asking her to simply get out of her own way, requiring a deep presence and listening to be able to catch the inspiration as it comes. 

The Covid pandemic allowed Ayla a much needed respite from touring to create and learn new things. She’s taught herself to play the harp for example, and is currently working on a new series of albums, releasing singles as she goes. A Zoom songwriting group formed with her fellow songwriters: Leah and Chloe from Rising Appalachia, Tina Malia, and Marya Stark – and was so prolific that they are releasing a full length album this winter under the band name Starling Arrow entitled Cradle. She has also recently launched a powerful new online membership and community entitled “the Living Song,” empowering hundreds of people nationally and internationally in freeing their voice, overcoming fears of being seen and heard, and profoundly opening to their most inspired and aligned creative expression.

There is a huge amount of love that fills the room when Ayla performs live and patrons will be treated to that warmth with an acoustic, intimate set from her, with possibly a spontaneous sing-along or two. Ayla Nereo’s first performance at The Center on September 30 will surely be an unforgettable evening of richly layered harmonies, pulsing positivity and all the feels one gets from a performance that is soul lifting and affirming. With supporting artist Marya Stark, and special guest Tina Malia.