Standing in hell isn’t as hot and depressing as many may think. At the Masquerade, Hell, a level of the music venue, holds about 600 people. Red light cascades down the stone walls, and white, purple, and blue light beams on the stage as cool air flows throughout the room. In the center of the stage is red spotlight where 26-year-old Alternative R&B artist, Nylo, looks out into the crowd, closes her eyes and sings her recent single “Sirens,” as the crowd listens with attentive ears.
Hailing from anywhere and nowhere at all, independent music artist Nylo has taken the music industry into her own hands. Her music is a convergence of electronic and R&B, a genre made popular by The Weekend and Banks, and has been influenced by many artists such as Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah. Nylo’s voice is rich and feathery and floats over music that she writes and produces herself. She just finished touring with Malaysian singer-songwriter, Yuna, released two collaborative works with English singer-songwriter and producer SOHN and Los Angeles-based production duo Ojivolta, and is also working on her latest project. This all didn’t come easy. It took hard work and dedication.
Her story starts in Chicago where she was raised. Attending church inspired her to pursue music. Singing in choir influenced her art and taught her the fundamentals of singing and spirituality.
“Music was my idea of God for a while,” Nylo said. “This is the best thing there is, so surely this must be God.”
As she got older, she performed at open mics around the city in a series of crappy bands, hoping for her big break. Nylo, her older brother, and their mom moved to Texas when her parents divorced. They moved a lot and the kids in school were mean to her and she often felt out of place.
“I went from having friends and a normal life, to having no friends and not being able to make a friend to save my life, so I learned to produce and I made music and wrote songs,” Nylo said. “I learned how to record and that same year I was playing open mics around the town using music that I created.”
Even though she had straight A’s, she dropped out when she was 17 because high school was miserable and all she wanted to do was perform. She got her GED online and still wrote and recorded music when she could.
Her gateway into studio life came when she met a studio owner at an open mic night. He let her hangout in the studio space and in the end, he taught her how to record there.
“Before, I was using a recording program called Reason to record on my laptop, but the studio owner gave me a chance to learn more and I learned everything there is to know about recording in a studio,” she said.
Recording in a studio was a completely different world inside of Texas that she didn’t have much exposure to. A few months later, Nylo flew out to Los Angeles with her equipment and her love for music.
“I think everybody knew I was trying to get out of Texas, but my mom was like ‘If you leave right now, I will legally bring you back.’,”she said. “I don’t even remember asking if I could go. I just booked the flight and she didn’t fight me.”
She stayed with friends, sung at open mics and worked. Even though this life wasn’t as stable as she’d hoped, she felt a sense of relief and belonging.
“It was like an oasis,” she said. “For the first time in two years I could do anything I wanted and no one’s going to question me.”
Nylo learned the ropes in writing sessions around the city, and she never went back to Texas. She began working as a songwriter and wrote for other artists. She even had a few songs make the cut. Soon, she was engulfed into the industry grind and it was tiring. She was writing songs for people who had nothing to say and with people she didn’t like. Eventually, she quit all of her industry gigs and focused only on herself and music. She listened to her favorites including James Blake and Diana Ross, and wrote what soon became Memories Speak, an EP born out of anger, love and passion for the music industry.
“I needed to get shit off my chest,” she said. “I didn’t see the future, I just saw the moment and I needed that moment. Making the album was a process of me growing as a human being; learning to accept, and love, and forgive.”
Memories Speak received internet buzz from all over including an endorsement from Nas. “Someone Like You” was even sampled by Mac Miller. Soon, every major record label had gotten in contact with her.
Now on tour with SOHN, Nylo is working hard on new music and putting it out as quickly as she finishes it.
“I made a deal with myself, I’m releasing everything that I’ve created because the longer I wait, I won’t release it and that’s not fair,” she said. “I feel like when you tell yourself exactly what you’re going to do, sometimes you eliminate the possibilities of things that you didn’t know you wanted. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m going into it blind and that’s exciting.”