Local Musician AYERS Uses His Skills to Help Others Flourish

Writer / Steven Rutherford
Photographer / Travis Hinkle

Ely Ayers, known professionally as AYERS, is an Indianapolis-based independent artist and so much more. AYERS is a mental health advocate. Hes a dedicated dad to his 4-year-old daughter Natalie. Hes a rehab facility manager and mentor. Hes a survivor. As he explains, Theres not a musician in the world who isnt dealing with something and the only thing getting me through is creating music.” Hes an old friend Im happy to see alive.

His music lives in a starkly introspective blend of genres he calls indie-hip-pop. In literature we call that a metaphor. In hip-hop we call that a bar. It’s a description that so accurately reflects the music industrys obsession with self-medicating artists, pill-popping culture, and the glamorization of mental illness we hear in so much of music today. He hopes that by sharing his story, he’s able to save even just one persons life who may be battling with their own mental health differences.

AYERSAYERS has a past riddled with flashes of brilliance, pain, addiction, and the fallout that comes from struggling with substance abuse. Through every trial and tribulation, music has always been his form of therapy. His mental health challenges, battles with addiction and strained relationships have all been on public display – an open diary presented to the world. Sharing art is an act of courage, and AYERSdedication to telling his full story stands apart as courage of the highest order.

Much of our early conversation is spent as an homage to another Indianapolis artist-producer-engineer, Willis Clark, his long-time friend and collaborator. His musical debut came in 2014 when the two released their joint project, “Summer Break.” The lead single was immediately popular across north Indy, but for AYERS it is only a constant reminder of a dark part of his life.

“‘Peace, Love & College Avenueis my most played song and unfortunately it feels like I cant escape that,” he says.

This is a song I fondly remember being mentioned on. It holds a much different weight for the now-sober AYERS. At the time he reflected on how he was lying and stealing from those closest to him. The singer explains that even through his darkest times, Willis was always there for him. Hes the only one who rode it out,” AYERS says thankfully. The standout single still shines but remains a haunting memory of his past ways. Eventually he recognized the only way he had a chance at survival was to move cities.

AYERS relocated to Chicago where he interned at a recording studio and started his journey into audio engineering. He later moved to Florida, then Los Angeles to continue his music career and audio education. While living on the west coast he still produced and recorded music, which offers further glimpses into his ongoing journey toward better mental health. Thats where he met his partner Aly, who helped him get his life back.

He returned to Indy with his family last year. He makes a point to share how grateful he is to Vicky and Drew Mack for giving him a job opportunity at a rehabilitation facility on the Indys northwest side. Today hes the manager and serves as a mentor for people throughout their recovery journey. To make it through his own recovery, AYERS had to be OK letting go of pride and ego.

You have to risk everything,” AYERS says. People are scared to talk about these things. Im willing to lose face, Im willing to go to the most vulnerable places to help them have a chance.” AYERS speaks with conviction to the idea that you have to allow your ego real silence.

As AYERS outlines his experiences, he wants people to know this about his music.

Its the courage of still being here,” he says. “It would be a waste of talent and life to not do music.”

Im continually floored at how he distills such powerful, complex experiences into wisdom. I realize I had a God-sized hole I tried to fill with everything,” he says.

He and I found ourselves at a point in our conversation, after diving into all the vulnerable and difficult places, where things feel hopeful. He lights up sharing about his performance for the Phoenix Organization, an active sober community with chapters across the nation, that invited him to play and share his story. AYERS has a certain serenity that holds the full complexity and recognition of where he has come from, with an openness for where he can still take his ambition.

Its OK,” he says. “I made it through 100% of the bad days.” That simple truth is one he wants to share with everyone, especially folks who are navigating their own mental health journeys. My purpose is to risk it all so that the guys here have a chance.”AYERS

Andy Warhol was always frustrated that writers never wrote about what a piece means. For AYERS, music means surviving. Creating music means he has a chance to make his mistakes mean something. He has the chance to share his grief. He has a chance to transform all the pain caused from his struggle with his mental health into something that could help save someone else. This piece is about my friend getting his life back and using his new life to help others. His music is just the icing on the cake.

Check out his current releases on all streaming platforms. Catch him live in May for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Comments 5

  1. MC Laughner says:

    What an outstanding article – well written and what an example AYERS is to those who continue to struggle.

    Nice music too.

    • Ely Ayers says:

      Thank you! That means the world. Thank you for the kind words about me.

  2. Cecelia Morris-Walton says:

    Thank you for posting this journey. It will surely motivate others and help them find their chosen paths.

    • Ely Ayers says:

      Thanks for reading about me! I appreciate the kind words.

  3. Jim F says:

    I just ran across this article.

    I think this guy works at Landmark Recovery. He literally saved my life when I was a patient there. Great guy, didn’t know he was a part time musician and journalist. I guess he’s proof that “it works if you work it”. Peace, Sir Ely.

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