Musician, painter, writer, and activist are just a few things that define Galen Ayers. This New York based artist not only learned Spanish as her first language on the Spanish island of Majorca and now speaks British English, but holds undergraduate degrees in religion and ethnomusicology and M.A.s in Psychology of Religion and Buddhism which largely shaped the ways she views the world. Galen has worked with various organizations and charities including helping trauma victims with psychology in London, being an ambassador to Friends of the Earth and writing for The Huffington Post. This multitalented artist is the daughter of famed psychedelic rock pioneer Kevin Ayers from Soft Machine, and after his passing in 2013, Galen spent the following two years writing her new album Monument on the Grecian island Hydra to help her with her loss. Monument has no real set genre and cannot be defined, other than it being musically healing and connecting. We caught up with Galen to learn more about her creative mind and her brilliant album Monument that was just released today!
TH: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
GA: The thing about myself is that I have experimented a lot with what myself is. Today I am super excited with this journey I’ve had with music and sound via making this album.
TH: What are you currently Listening to?
GA: I have always been into singer-songwriters and I am obsessed with narrative songs, especially from musical master lyricists such as Bob Dylan, and music has always taken second place-It’s always been the word first. If you gave me a song and the music was terrible but the lyric was amazing I would still listen to it. But lately I am turning more towards pure music.
TH: So when it starts with the lyrics, and you said you’re also now obsessed with sound, what is the process in the lyrics…. do you look for the motion within the story?
GA: Yes, normally I do focus on lyrics to guide me and tell me a story, but now I’m listening to much more classical music and jazz. I have been playing with harmonics and pure sound and pure tone. That’s some kind of evolution for me. I think it ties in with identity. I have always seen my life as chapters and narratives so I have always equated that with storytelling. I think that your biggest asset is to learn how to reframe change in your life and use it to positively manipulate your life’s narrative. This awareness allows you to see what attitudes and lifestyle choices need upgrading. That’s what I’m really into right now, and using Psychotherapy and Buddhism and the interconnectivity these ways of looking at the world promote to guide me. It’s about being in the room.
TH: For me it’s not words that make me cry, it’s sounds.
GA: There’s a word for it- I think it’s prosody. The marriage of the emotion of the word and music. The majors and minor tones mirror how we relate to the qualities of happy or sad emotions. It’s interesting musically because we all come from different cultures with different musical scales and emotional landscapes that translate into different uses of sound, and now with global internet communities we are creating a whole new world of sound… this fusion we have never seen before.
Recently I visited the David Bowie exhibit, and it is an incredible example of an artist being born in a time where there was still a music industry willing to take risks with an artist. You see all the people who helped him. I also became very emotional as it reminded me of my dad growing up in the UK around the same time as David. There were plans for them to work together but somehow they did not materialize. The exhibit also made me sad for musicians and artists… I think the internet has its positive roles to play for artists but it also seems to take away the time and ability for an artist to marinate creatively and develop because there’s so much constant access and demand for new material.
I have been revisiting the author Joseph Campbell and how he looks at the whole world. He is a genius at explaining all our collective myths and stories and helping us see the patterns, the archetypes within them. One of the things he said is that the interviewer asks him “what are the new myths now?” and he says “there are none, there is no time to make myths” it’s becoming harder and harder to become mythologized. Myths naturally need time for the stories to be meaningfully passed down generationally. When you look at this idea and see the people that are being mythologized these days, it makes me rather depressed. The Kardashians comes to mind. I’m sure they’re fantastic people. But, I don’t get it. I hear they’re powerful and wealthy and charge 1 million dollars for 1 second on Instagram. Where’s the room for the teachers and healers? We need to give them equal internet space because they play an essential part of our universal consciousness expanding.
One of the most important things to do now is to create space. Your platform Talenthouse creates an important space for artists. You are part of the internet- the new myth maker. It’s not the Iliad anymore, it is the internet. You’re combining artists of all mediums and giving us a place to show our work - artistic expression is one of our biggest tools to stay human-we must nourish it. There was a time where I only heard Lady Gaga on the radio. And I thought why does my whole experience this month have to be of one artist? Music is one of the ways I travel the world. I want to be exposed and given equal access to all different genres of music. My grandfather was a producer for Old Grey Whistle Test and Late Night Line Up, a big platform on TV for upcoming artists in the 60s. He ended up leaving BBC early because record labels started paying the show’s producers to put their artists on the shows based on their own economic interest and not on musical merit.
TH: What’s your creative process like? Is it different for each song?
GA: I’ve always been around musicians my whole life. I’ve seen all aspects of ‘musicianship’. I’ve been the daughter of, the girlfriend of, the musician, and now the music teacher in Tune In.
Tune In is my new company focused on helping people with their own singing and performing skills. It was born out of me being here in America and meeting these incredible artists who like me where feeling blocked due to mental gremlins such as stage fright. We have created a vocal program where you come to beautiful retreat week somewhere beautiful such as Greece and you learn how to connect your body, mind and spirit to your voice again. I work together with a Vocal Master teacher called Heather Lyle and whilst she focuses on vocal techniques and her own patented method of Vocal Yoga, I work with people’s emotional and mental needs (Life coaching, NLP, psychology, hypnotherapy, Buddhist meditation). We end up with a really tight-knit community because by the end of the week they’ve been through big breakthroughs and tears together. In fact the last group of participants all came to my house for a soiree last night. One of the participants had booked a gig and to support her we did a pre-gig warm up at my house. And out of that night 3 people said they would join her at her actual gig-That’s what I wanted, to create a sense of support, of community. Artists have a specific type of brain that needs nourishing in a very sensitive and empathic way. We need to support all sensitive artistic brains and help them express the healing creative energies they are so desperate to share-It’s interactivism.
My artistic approach to writing is like that, it is about searching your inner world and giving it resonance through words and music. The more detailed and personal you are, the more universal you are. It’s the most amazing thing. We all want to be loved.
TH: Is there a bigger strategy of why you’re doing what you’re doing? What’s driving you?
GA: I’m yet to decide whether this is a job or career! I know I’m a communicator with a lot of resources and that I’ve chosen song now, but maybe it will be painting the following year. It doesn’t have to be music, it is the intention of what you do that matters.
TH: Do you have a message for our community… a life lesson?
GA: There are so many! One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s not about fulfilling your dreams; it’s about having one. There are scientific studies that one way to be mentally healthy is to have a dream… and make it as big as possible! even seemingly impossible to reach! The science says that the benefits lie in having the dream in the first place not in actually achieving it.
Another thing, when I started this album is that I knew realistically the small number of people I was going to reach with my small budget, but that did not matter as I did not focus on the outcome of making an album, but on the process and the people I met along the way because of it. Every musician I met, I tried to learn about and get to know. The journey is so important for your mental and emotional health. Lately I am amazed by how many tools are out there for mental well-being. I have been helped by really left-field things. I see a lot of mental health communities that focus on the wellbeing of startup CEOs. You’re a CEO as a musician, and you need to take care of yourself also.
TH: Where is your album available?
GA: My album is streamed today on every online platform and you can also find out where to order a physical cd or vinyl on my website www.galenayers.com. The vinyl’s and Cd’s are also available gigs. I’d like to see a future where I can collaborate with other artists and continue collaborating with NGOS and charities.
TH: What 5 words would you use to describe your new album Monument?
GA: Where this album is really different for anything I have done is that this comes 100% from my heart after my father’s death. It’s the journey of a father and daughter’s relationship. It’s a vulnerable record.
TH: Are you saying its love letters to your dad?
GA: Yeah, I guess so, and also hate letters… and what the fuck letters? The next album is going to be me being more extroverted and opening up a new independent chapter. This is very much a pivot album with me saying this is now and asking what is next? I see a lot more Spanish in the future. I am bilingual, a lot of people don’t know that about me. Currently, I am hoping to use my language skills to help immigrant families that have been torn apart by our current horrific immigration policies.
It takes lots of discipline to be an artist. Sometimes I lose discipline. I need to work on that. Most artists that we love spend a lot of time alone. There’s a reason for that. Sometimes it is easier to hear your own voice that way. We need authentic voices now. We need people that are in their own quiet bodies and have alone time now.
TH: Do you have any last words for up-and-coming musicians and artists?
GA: Create communities online and offline. Even just your friends, ask them to be your anchors when you are doing something challenging. I get my beautiful girlfriends to smile at me at gigs and they also know the words, which makes me smile inside.
The struggle of being focused and true to myself is a lot of what I work with. When you’re an artist, you’re asking for a connection, and although I get stage fright and nerves, I am working through it all because sharing my music gives me meaning, and it’s one of the magical parts of being human-to be part of something bigger than yourself. Everybody has a different way of performing their art, and it is not always comfortable, so find your way and find how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For me, I always have to ground myself in the now, and start from there.