Bitten by Neyla Pekarek

Bitten by Neyla Pekarek

Rattlesnake is Written.

By Licki Ucroj

Neyla Pekarek began playing cello at age 9 in her native city of Denver, CO. She studied Musical Theatre and after 8 years touring and recording with The Lumineers, Neyla is releasing her debut solo album, Rattlesnake, inspired by the life of Colorado pioneer woman Rattlesnake Kate.

Describe your musical journey (thus far) in 3 words:

Evolving. Cathartic. Inevitable.

Can you tell us a little bit about your playlist?

I had so much fun making this playlist! Some of these artists I know personally, others from afar, but I admire all of them and am so happy to share this music by womxn, GNC and LGBTQIA folks. The one bit of silver lining I could find in the chaos that ensues currently, is that amazing art is being made, and so many songs on this playlist are great examples of that. A few stand outs: “Sisters” by Natalie Prass (my current obsession, btw) is the suave and timely Grrrl Power anthem we need. The incredibly powerful “Pulse” by Melissa Etheridge was written after the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. She donated all proceeds from this song to Equality Florida, which further confirms that she is an absolute legend and an outright goddess.

Photo by Liza Nelson

Photo by Liza Nelson

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from all your years of touring?

Touring can be a really isolating experience, and I think learning to be alone can be really valuable. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years of touring, and finding comfort in being by myself has helped me to know what I kinds of things I need to thrive. I think we could all be a little kinder to ourselves.  

What advice would you give artists who are having trouble deciding if they should make music in a group, or on their own?

Being open to collaboration is such a beneficial skill. We all have amazing talents and a certain skill set, but inviting someone else’s set of skills can more often than not add something your brain would have never thought of. Having said that, it’s so important to collaborate with musicians and producers you trust and where there is mutual respect in the room to feel heard and understood. Finding exactly what you want as a musician is a good first step: are you a song writer? Do you love being up front, or are you more of a support musician? Are you more interested in the gear side of things like pedals and amps and the way things sound? There are no wrong answers, and these things can also evolve with time. There are SO MANY WAYS to be a musician in this industry.

Collaborate with musicians and producers you trust.

What do you do when you need a break from music? (Do you ever need a break from music?!)

YES, I definitely need a break from music sometimes. I think that was one of the bigger learning curves of becoming a professional musician; it gave music a different meaning in my life, because as amazing and wonderful as it is to make a living as a musician, it is indeed a job. I listen to music differently now, and it can feel like work sometimes. However, leaning into a song writing role more recently, I find that as a really productive way to deal with stress and turmoil. But, I tend to spend my free time with friends and family, I love going out to eat and trying new restaurants, and as we are living in a golden age of television, binge watching TV shows.

What are the signs a musician is due for a transformation or reinvention?

Boredom, complacency, apathy! I heard Kristen Wiig in an interview talking about the moment she got comfortable at SNL was when she knew it was time to move on. As grateful as I was for the opportunity I had playing with The Lumineers, I began to feel very complacent, very checked out and detached at times. I knew it was time for me to move onto a project where I had more of a creative outlet, more of my identity in the music, and more opportunities to utilize the the skills I had spent so much time crafting.

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

Talk about the influence your home state of Colorado has had on you as a musician:

Colorado has been extremely influential in my new record, as it all centers around a Colorado pioneer woman named Rattlesnake Kate who became infamous for a death defying encounter with a rattlesnake migration in the 1920s. In order to protect herself, as well as her 3 year old son, who was just mere feet away on horseback, she proceeded to bludgeon the rattlesnakes to death for two hours, until she had killed 140 snakes. Beyond these gruesome details of the snake battle, Kate was wildly independent, spoke her mind, and had little concern for what others thought of her. As I researched her life and read letters she wrote and articles people wrote about her, I was so inspired by her bravery, quirkiness, and related to her feelings of being marginalized and misunderstood. I hope by writing a record about these feelings, listeners can feel more understood the way I did when I learned Kate’s story.

Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?

As I mentioned above, Natalie Prass is someone I just can’t stop listening to these days. I saw her play in Denver, and she’s just magnetic on stage, her voice is irresistible, her lyrics are straight from the heart, and it’s all set to the funkiest beats that I just can’t get over.


Neyla’s Latest Release