So sings the luminous singer, songwriter, poet and producer Ayla Nereo, who is spearheading a revolution within the new-folk and indie-electronic music communities, opening the hearts and minds of devoted audiences around the world with the clarion call of her powerful voice.
Every live performance with Ayla is its own inspired journey. Sometimes alone with an acoustic guitar and minimalist electronic accompaniment, other times armed with an array of loop-pedals and bandmates, Nereo is known for building layers upon layers of intricate vocal melodies into fierce, sweeping harmonies, weaving in syncopated threads of guitar, kalimba, piano, percussion, strings, celtic beats, even hip-hop wordplay.
Her timeless, genre-melding lyrical imagery is both authentic and anthemic. Mantras of hope and self-acceptance, odes to nature, healing and of course, love, her songs call us to listen deeper, to connect to ourselves, each other and the planet. Often compared vocally and lyrically to Joni Mitchell, her arrangements and stage presence are something more modern and fierce, a realness, energy and innocence closer to Aurora or Imogen Heap.
Raised with a spirit of wonder and a connection to magic, Nereo was "unschooled" by her music-loving parents in northwest Sonoma County, California until the age of 13. "My imagination was kept safely intact," Nereo says. Exposed to a wide variety of musical influences -- from Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to ABBA to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, at age 9 she was already a proficient Suzuki method pianist and taught herself classical songs on piano by ear.
"I fantasized about making songs and singing," Nereo says, "but I had a strange paranoia I was tone-deaf, so I wrote it off as impossible, and stuck to dancing, filmmaking, and writing poetry and stories."
The nature-based experiential learning of her youth fostered her childlike wonder and creativity, but when she entered the school system, the former free-spirit found herself grappling with the stress of grades, body image issues and mental health. Ultimately that led her to study psychology at Stanford, from which she graduated with her BA in 2006.
After 8 years in the standard school system, Nereo had almost forgotten about her creative pursuits. Then she discovered Bob Dylan, listened to his lyrics "for hours and hours on end," and her poetry and songwriting were awoken. "Songs began to simply pour through," she says.
Terrified of singing for much of her life, "I had such a journey through fear and self-doubt about being seen and heard by others," says Nereo, "I know now this is a very deep pattern in most women, that fear of being hurt or killed for being powerful, because of the incredible trauma in our history when millions of women were burned for being healers and leaders." Luckily, those around her kept begging her to sing. "So I kept singing," she explains. "My voice emerged from hiding ... and slowly the fear was released."
A decade later, she's performed at festivals across the nation and internationally, including Symbiosis (OR), Lightning in a Bottle (CA), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Beloved Festival (OR), ARISE (CO), Blessed Coast (Canada), Envision (Costa Rica), Unifier (MA), What The Festival (OR), Enchanted Forest Gathering (CA), Unify (NM), Imagine (WA), Sonic Bloom (CO), Lucidity (CA), Serenity Gathering (CA), and at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
She's also released ten albums: five solo albums, two Wildlight albums (the collaboration project of Ayla and The Polish Ambassador), one collaboration album with Mr Lif and The Polish Ambassador, and two albums with sibling project Beatbeat Whisper.
"Many of my songs are about trusting ourselves, allowing our innate power and beaming brightness to shine through," Nereo explains. Her songs also touch deeply on human beings' connection to -- and sometimes tragic disconnection from -- the natural world. A devoted ally of the planet, Nereo considers herself an earth guardian and "voice for the voiceless -- trees, animals and creatures, children, women who are silenced, the elements, and the unseen realms." Her most recent album, The Code of the Flowers, came in a vision, and is a spellbinding dedication to the plants and waters of the earth.
"I'm here to receive these songs and share them into the world," she says, "to be the vehicle for them to ignite the hope, wonder and fierce love needed to evolve in these times."
Ayla collaborates in music and life with her partner of 5 years, electronic music composer David Sugalski, aka The Polish Ambassador. They live off-grid on land in the mountains of northwest California, with their dog and two cats. She is currently working on two music videos and a new full-length album.
"A poet, musician, visionary and mystic, Ayla Nereo is an otherworldly artist who shares the fruits of her soul." ~ The Huffington Post
"[Ayla's] relationship with the earth is imprinted in her music ... thickly layered tracks where expansive and intriguing instrumentals serve as an intricate backdrop for her delicate and soft-spoken vocals." ~ Billboard