Ayer grew up in McLean, Virginia, and got his start singing along to old cassette tapes of Elvis and Paul Simon on car rides. When his dad got him his first guitar as a teen, he started writing songs that same day. After moving to northern California, he started sharing his songs locally, while studying philosophy and music at Stanford University.
Though his songwriting started as a hobby, it quickly became his main focus. "Honestly, I started school thinking I'd study physics, but that changed real fast. And while people around me were playing music and writing songs here and there as a break, playing and writing became all I wanted to do." Though studies in music theory & history at first informed his songwriting, the dry academics of a regimented music department became increasingly uninspiring for him. It was Ayer's interest in philosophy and his affinity to the lyrical elements of poetry that ultimately gave voice to his writing. The works of writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, and Rumi, as well as songwriters such as Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen make a significant impact on Ayer's own lyrics.