91.5 HD2: WUNC Music is curated locally with songs that inspire, energize and bring joy to listeners across North Carolina. It’s a place for music discovery and a home to old favorites.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nabil Ayers explores the music that has informed his 'Life In The Sunshine'

Gabriela Bhaskar
Nabil Ayers

In his critically acclaimed memoir ‘My Life In The Sunshine,’ author and record executive Nabil Ayers shares his journey of trying to connect with a father that he didn’t know growing up. That father is famous jazz musician Roy Ayers, who made a pact with Nabil’s mother to help bring a child into the world even though he couldn’t agree to help raise them.

Music has been at the center of Ayers' life since he was a kid. He spent years in touring bands and is now the U.S. president of Beggar’s Group where he has released albums by bands, such as The National, Big Thief and many others.

Ayers recently chatted with WUNC Music's Brian Burns about the music that informed his life and the book.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.

On Everybody Loves The Sunshine by Roy Ayers: My father is Roy Ayers, the jazz musician who wrote and performed that song in 1976, but I've never known him. The very short version is that my mother, when she was 21 years old, was loosely dating him, but they didn't have a real relationship. And she said, I want to have your child, I want you to be the father, you don't need to be part of our lives. And he agreed. And I've always known that story.

So I had this really great childhood, where he wasn't part of it. And he was never really framed in the negative, he was always this positive force who helped bring me into the world. It's sort of been a roller coaster ride, and we still don't have a relationship. But that song is very much a parallel for how I feel about him. And right now, it makes me really happy to hear that song.

On Shout It Out Loud by Kiss: I grew up in the 70s, so KISS was hugely important to me. My mother and my uncle, who was really my father got me into music at such a young age and I was really into jazz and a lot of you know, “good music.”

And then when I was five, I discovered KISS and just completely went down that road and all I wanted to do was play drums. I wanted to be in a rock band and I would dress up and wear the makeup and it was just a really important formative band for me. My mother took me to see them at Madison Square Garden when I was seven years old which still stands out as one of the best shows in my life.

Nabil Ayers will be in conversation with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University on Wednesday, October 25 as part of the Left of Black Presents: Small Talk at FHI series.

Brian Burns is the Music Director for WUNC Music, WUNC's AAA music discovery station. He has been working within the local music scene for over a decade. On the weekends you might see him DJing at various spots around the Triangle, or digging through boxes of records. He's also the host of Future Shock on WUNC Music and a contributor to NPR Music. He graduated from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science with an MSLS in 2015.
More Stories