Rollo & Grady Interview :: Jessica Lea Mayfield

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Jessica Lea Mayfield


Jessica Lea Mayfield
is wise beyond her years. At the age of 19 she has already released two albums (White Lies, 2005 & With Blasphemy So Heartfelt in September, 2008) in her own distinct folk-indie-country rock style and is set to record more.

Mayfield was home-schooled in her native Kent, Ohio and started playing in her family’s band, One Way Rider, at the age of 8. She’ sings her sad, dark songs about love and heartbreak with an unmistakable drawl. I listen to Mayfield almost daily, it’s hard to believe that she started writing the tracks on With Blasphemy So Heartfelt at 15 and 16 years old. But, her voice is so beautiful it makes you look past it all. I haven’t been this excited about a musician in a long time.

Jessica Lea spent two years producing With Blasphemy So Heartfelt with Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the Black Keys, who also played guitar, piano, organ, drums and lent vocals to some of the tracks; also a signal of Auerbach’s own rise as a talented producer. Mayfield was the first guest to appear on a Black Keys album (Attack & Release) on the “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” track.

As Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers said “With the edge and attitude that Kurt Cobain possessed coupled with a rich musical family history similar to Maybelle Carter’s, Jessica Lea Mayfield is the most exciting new artist on the scene today.”

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R&G: Your songs are extremely personal. Have you always been comfortable singing in front of strangers?

Jessica Lea:
It is what it is. I used to feel uncomfortable. Now, it’s something that I kind of got over. It’s a good thing. It’s a way to lift some weights off my chest and get out there and bare my soul.

R&G: How old were you when you wrote the lyrics to the songs on With Blasphemy So Heartfelt.

Jessica Lea: I wrote most of the songs when I was 15 and 16.

R&G: You’re 19 now. Why did it take you so long to record the album with Dan?

Jessica Lea: We were both just busy, and it started with just recording for fun. We had met and just started recording some of his songs, then some of my songs. We’d meet up and hang out and try out new stuff and some covers. One day he was like, “Hey, I think we should make you an album.”

R&G: Do you still speak to the guy or guys that you sang about on the album?

Jessica Lea: I’ve had a few boyfriends. Some of them I do talk to; some of them I don’t. I’m usually the one who cuts things off. No one has ever broken up with me, so a lot of times they will IM me or send me a MySpace message like, “Hey! How are you doing? Do you want to hang out?” They’re always still trying to hang out with me, and I’m just, “No thanks, but how are you doing? How’s life?” I probably only have one boyfriend out of the history of my boyfriends that I don’t talk to at all.

R&G: What have you learned touring on the road?

Jessica Lea: It’s just really hard. The most taxing thing about it is the constant routine. It drives you crazy when you’re on the road and you can’t wait to get off. But as soon as you’re home, you don’t know what to do with yourself. Its sound checks for the shows and hotels. Sound check, show, hotel; I was just on the road for five weeks, and that’s the routine. When you get home for two weeks, you spend 30 minutes trying to figure out what to make for dinner. You have all this free time. You don’t know what to do with it.

R&G: So you’re ready to get back on the road?

Jessica Lea: Yeah, I’m ready. As always, it’s the only thing that I really know how to do, and it’s what I’m used to. It’s my life, and I love it. I love getting to see tons of different places and venues, making friends and discovering new bands. That’s how I get half the new music I listen to, by touring with a band.

R&G: You cite the Foo Fighters as a musical influence. Do have plans to put out a rock ‘n’ roll album?

Jessica Lea: They were a huge influence on me. When I was a kid, I saw the music video of “My Hero” and I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” That’s what got me into music. My family played bluegrass, so I played with them just because I really wanted to play music. I write rock songs first and then they turn into what they are. I play them acoustically, but a lot of times when I write songs I hear big huge rock drums and electric guitar. I hear all these things for it, and then I end up scaling it down and shifting it down. It turns out to be really cool. I will probably release some upbeat rock stuff in the future for sure.

R&G: Rock ‘n’ roll would have taken away from your flow on your recent album
.

Jessica Lea: Yeah, it would have. That has a lot to do with Dan. He’s got that real laid back vibe in his style. He’s great to work with.

R&G: Did you get to meet Danger Mouse?

Jessica Lea:
Yeah. Brian is a really nice guy. I love what he did with the Black Keys album. It’s my favorite album of theirs. I like everything they’ve done, but it’s such a good album. It’s different from their previous work, and I like that.

R&G: Your songs are dark and haunting. It seems like everything’s going well in your life, so is it hard to continue writing dark songs when you are happy?

Jessica Lea: I think that I’m naturally in a dark place. I’m just one of those people who have a dry mindset. I look at everything from the rawest point of view possible. I always see the bad sides of things. I guess you could say I’m a realist. I’m not really that much of a daydreamer. I don’t get my hopes up about things until I’m doing them. If someone’s like, “Oh, you’re going to get to do this,” I’m not excited about it until I’m doing it. I’m that kind of person. I think a lot of people think that because I’m friendly and nice then I must always be happy.

R&G: You’re friendly and outgoing?

Jessica Lea
: I’m a very open person. I love meeting people, but I’m not always happy. I try to be. When I meet people and they hear my music, and I’m upbeat, they’re like, “Wow, you sound so happy, so upbeat!” I say, “I’m having a conversation right now with someone I don’t know. Oh yeah, life sucks.”

R&G: Did you catch the CSI episode that featured “Bible Days”?

Jessica Lea: No, I didn’t. Most people I know accidentally saw it, but I don’t even watch TV. There’s no chance in me accidentally watching it.

R&G: I’ve never seen the program, but it’s apparently popular.

Jessica Lea: It’s my best friend’s favorite TV show. I just got this text message that was like, “CSI?” and then “WTF?” I was like, “I forgot to tell you!”

R&G: It’s mind-blowing to think that 15 million or more people watch that show.

Jessica Lea: When stuff like that happens, you don’t really notice it. Other people think that I’m having this great success. Everything is just going slow, on my side of it.

R&G: Have you written any new songs?

Jessica Lea: I write all the time. I have some new material that I’m excited about.

R&G: When do you think you’ll record your next album?

Jessica Lea: Sometime in the next few months. I’ve got enough songs for a few albums, so when I have the free time I’ll probably record with Dan. So when Dan has the free time, we’ll lay down some tracks.