Maybe it’s from growing up in McLean Virginia, or maybe he’s just a cool guy, but solo guitarist Chris Ayer has a low key vibe that also emanates from his music. For Ayer, growing up outside of D.C. meant having the best of both worlds — the music and culture of the city combined with the charms of the country.
“There was a good amount of open space,” he said about his childhood home, “and it felt kind of like we were out the country — plenty of creeks to get muddy in, and trees to climb.”
By the time Ayers was a teenager, he’d been playing music for years. However, the musician took up the guitar relatively recently, at 18-years-old. “I took a month and made it a project to learn guitar and try to write some songs,” said Ayer. “Pretty quickly I was writing a lot, and playing open mics and coffeehouses.”
Yet, it wasn’t until until a few years afterward that he decided to make music his career. “I felt like I owed it to myself to work hard at something I was passionate about, so I just went for it. I haven’t really looked back, and definitely have never questioned that choice. The more I do it, the more glad I am that I took the plunge.”
Between writing music and mastering the guitar, Ayer studied music and philosophy at the prestigious Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. At Stanford, he sang in an a cappella group called the Mendicants, Stanford’s oldest, all-male a cappella group.
After graduating, he began his career, releasing a few EPs on his own and in 2006, his full-length album, This is the Place. In 2006, Ayer also won the John Lennon Song Writing contest for his song, “Evaporate.”
To learn more about Chris Ayer, check out some of his tracks, photos and our exclusive interview with him below.
Lost + Found
Where are you from and what was it like growing up there?
Chris Ayer: "I'm from McLean Virginia, just outside Washington DC. I really loved growing up there! It was close to DC so we I would get to spend a lot of time around music & activities in the city, but there was a good amount of open space, and it felt kind of like we were out the country... plenty of creeks to get muddy in, and trees to climb."
When did you first know that you wanted to be a musician and how did you get started?
Chris Ayer: "I was singing and playing music since I was a little kid, so I always knew I loved to do it. But it wasn't until high school, when I took a month and made it a project to learn guitar and try to write some songs, that I got started with songwriting.
Pretty quickly I was writing a lot, and playing open mics & coffeehouses. And after a couple years of that, I realized it was what I most loved to do. I felt like I owed it to myself to work hard at something I was passionate about, so I just went for it. Haven't really looked back, and definitely have never questioned that choice. The more I do it, the more glad I am that I took the plunge."
If you could tour with any two musicians or bands in the world, which ones would you choose?
Chris Ayer: "First, I would love to tour with Paul Simon or Gillian Welch. Paul Simon is a real hero of mine, how he's written so many great songs, in so many different styles, and really developed his work over the course of his life. It would be amazing to play shows with him, and hopefully get to play some songs together."
Gillian Welch would be an amazing tour to be part of.. she's got such a timeless sound, and somehow makes an old style of americana music feel very current and unique. It would rock to get to see that every night, and I also think her audience would be really smart and receptive, and generally awesome to play for. Do you have any special pre-performance rituals?
Chris Ayer: "I write my setlist out, on my arm usually, so i don't lose it. Seriously, I lose the paper so often. And I like to do a little breathing exercise, where I focus all my attention on the stage, and really picture the show, and how I can be as present as possible for the songs. It may sound silly, but it really makes a big difference in getting into the songs and having the best show I can."
What’s your favorite candy?
Chris Ayer:"M&Ms! so simple, so good." What do you do for fun?
Chris Ayer:"I play music! I also am really into photography. Between driving around on tour and living New York City, I get a lot of opportunities to do a lot of photo stuff. Also really love hiking and being outside, whenever I can."
What's next for you?
Chris Ayer: "I've been on tour all year, so I'm going to take December to spend some time at home in New York, write a lot, soak in the holiday vibe around here, and maybe record an EP of covers.. songs by other artists that I like to play. Then starting in January, I'm gonna head out and tour around the states some more, and head to the UK for some shows in the early spring. "