A wanderer of the woods always needs a compass and a map. Singer-songwriter Ayla Nereo sings with imagery thick as an old-growth forest and provides direction with her finely syncopated loop pedals and percussive rhythms.
With her childlike wonder of nature and power to command emotions with her voice, Nereo divulges a melodic conversation that dances between the earth and the self.
She fostered her relationship with nature while growing up in the hills of northern California. Nereo and her brother were homeschooled, a part of her upbringing to which she attributes her fire-like curiosity. “I was given the freedom to self-direct in learning, and that’s still in me,” she says. “Now I just want to learn, create.”
Nereo peels open an intimate space for listeners with her emotional prowess. Her songs often start with a shy note of guitar accompanied by a modest beat, but as her songs build she constructs a thick, vivid scene around the audience.
“The way I think of melody is that it feels like the emotional component; the lyrics are the mental component,” Nereo explains. “The words get at a meaning that our brains can understand, but the melody is the part that our heart can understand.”
Her relationship with nature — an undeniable foundation of her music — has an innocent familiarly. “I feel like it is both built into myself and a choice,” she says. “Not in any special way and no different than anyone else, just the way that we are all built to be connected to the Earth. Then there’s the choice part: choosing how much I’m going to be subscribed to a reality that has been imprinted upon us.”
This consciousness has fueled Nereo through six albums, her most recent being The Code of Flowers, released last year. After her current tour of the PNW, Nereo intends on hiding away in nature with a pot of tea, indulging in the solitude necessary to compose her seventh album.
Ayla Nereo performs along with Cornflower, Sounjaneer and Matt Grieger 9 pm Friday, July 21, at WOW Hall; tickets $12 advance, $15 day of. — Kelsey Anne Rankin