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Petaluma, CA |


Named after a town of 19 in the Northern Great Plains, Ismay represents the work of singer/songwriter Avery Hellman. Just as with the name, Ismay seeks to uncover ways in which the place we live changes us, and how the natural world provides deeper meaning. For Ismay, a life lived in rural California connects them with the landscape, providing a freedom to express gender identity, and the space to create music. Mystical lyricism, ethereal vocals, and dynamic fingerpicking on guitar are the defining features of their music. With works covering wild horses to wildfire, Ismay’s sound is unmistakably connected to the landscape in which they live.

Announcing Ismay's debut full-length record, Songs of Sonoma Mountain


Five years spent working and living on the family ranch informs Ismay’s debut full-length record, Songs of Sonoma Mountain. This album was recorded in a 100-year-old sheep barn at the ranch, seeking to immerse the listener in the world of Sonoma Mountain, and to evoke the sense that we aren’t as separate from nature as we may think. Co-produced by Robert Cheek (Engineer: Band of Horses, Chelsea Wolfe) and Avery Hellman, Songs of Sonoma Mountain features live vulnerable performances that bring out the character of the space. These songs tell stories from the perspective of the mountain, the animals upon it, and Ismay themself to examine gender identity, loss, and a search for belonging. The record interweaves field recordings with intricate songwriting and experimental production. Ismay has also compiled a series of narrative documentary stories about Sonoma Mountain to accompany the record, to be released as a podcast entitled Where the World Begins in early 2020.


January 21, 2020

We are so excited that we get to share another song off our debut full-length record via American Songwriter today!

See the Full Article Here, and Listen to the Song

'A Song in Praise of Sonoma Mountain' is the song I chose to start my record, because it centers it on the core intention of this project--to create music about connection to place. For me, Sonoma Mountain is where the world begins. It's where I live and work on a...

November 21, 2019

Back when we released our debut video announcing Songs of Sonoma Mountain, I also wrote a little story for The Vinyl District about my love of vinyl, read below and check out the link!

“I fell in love with vinyl long before I ever used a record player. It was high school in the 2000s, and I clung onto the aesthetic statement of having a record collection to show. Cat Stevens, The Band, Gregory Alan Isakov—it would take years be...

October 25, 2019

As part of our project 'Songs of Sonoma Mountain' we're going to share a series of covers all recorded on Sonoma Mountain!

This first song is by Norma Tanega from her album 'Walkin' my Cat Named Dog' released in 1966

Thanks for watching, keep posted for more songs! Please share with your friends if it strikes your fancy!

Drums: Rob Mills
Bass: Owen Clapp
Vocals & electric guitar: Avery Hellman
Video: Pint of Soul

October 17, 2019

Today I’m going to share something that’s been really difficult for me to feel comfortable talking about, in the world of music and beyond. When I was growing up, I always felt out of place when we’d be split into those two lines in gym class—boys and girls. For so long, I felt a voice deep inside of me telling me that I just wasn’t in either of these categories. And in that time, I knew what I was not.

So, years later, as non-...

October 1, 2019

We are so honored to be named as one of KQED's 10 acts not to miss at this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco!


We've actually got something really exciting to share this weekend, because the set is gonna be a mix of storytelling and music that focuses on the p...

May 24, 2018

Ismay's first short film 'Songs of the Klamath' recounts a story of hope, adventure, and loss, and the songwriting that comes for from it. After leaving college and beginning on the path to become musician, Ismay looked towards horseback travels to find purpose and inspiration. On her journey along the Klamath River, she encountered wild stallions, tragic tales, and remarkable people living and working along the Klamath River....

May 22, 2018

Just out! Our very first podcast appearance with 'Onstage with Jim and Tom' was an amazing experience. We discussed the purpose behind Ismay as a project, and performed 5 songs with a string section. 

May 11, 2018

In late April, we traveled to the historic Phoenix Theater in Petaluma to be part of the Onstage with Jim and Tom Podcast. There, we filmed a live performance featuring string arrangements from the record.

This song, 'The Siren of Montezuma' is all about falling in love with the song someone sings, and later seeing the

person behind it. It's also inspired by the Montezuma Castle in New Mexico, which was once a renowned hotel vi...

April 12, 2018

We couldn't be more excited to return to San Francisco for a very special evening of Bluegrass at SF Jazz!

The evening will center around the music of Hazel Dickens, who was a dear friend of my grandfather Warren Hellman, and a deeply inspiring folk/bluegrass musician. Her music and advocacy changed the world for the better, and we want to pay tribute to her amazing work. 

We will also be inviting the very talented Eli West (vid...

March 27, 2018

We are so excited to share our latest live video with you! It features a song off of our debut EP 'Songs from a River' entitled 'Innisfree'.

This is a song about the ways in which nature hides in unexpected places. In the lyrics, dense city alleyways are likened to canyons and the movement of people to the tides. The song intentionally defies its namesake, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats, proposing an alternative view...

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