Shelter from the storm
Jessica Lea Mayfield steps out of the rain
She wasn’t at all what I expected. All the articles I read about her, all her songs that I listened to, the stone-faced glare with a dangerous hint of wild in some of her promo photos; they all pointed to Jessica Lea Mayfield being dark, moody and possibly a difficult interview. What I got was a happy, conversational and kind Midwestern girl whose almost bubbly personality didn’t match the razor-sharp scorn she relentlessly casts at former flames through her music. But something has changed since she released her second album, Tell Me, last year. She fell in love and this time it led to marriage.
“Me and my husband, when I met him, we were both just these two crazy, do-anything kind of people and we had this wild night, in, of all places, Des Moines, Iowa,” Mayfield says, in our phone conversation, the day before she left on tour. “And once I met him we kind of became inseparable and when you have important things in your life, you don’t really want to...ya know, be found dead in a bathroom. I want to have a life and take care of the people around me.”
But, a normal life isn’t the goal. She likes the road and the hectic schedule of back-to-back dates — last year she only had four days at home per month — and it’s readily apparent that rambling is in her blood. “I absolutely wish my house was a hotel room, but it’s not. If I puke on the floor and then leave the room and come back two hours later, somebody hasn’t cleaned it up,” says Mayfield.
Jessica started touring with the Mayfield family band, One Way Rider, as a pre-teen. And at 22 she’s a songwriting veteran, having released her 2006 debut EP White Lies — a charming and intelligent twang-fueled series of coming-of-age tunes — when she was just 15.
The Kent, Ohio native recorded the entire thing in her brother David’s bedroom, only printing a handful of copies — luckily one fell into the right hands. Those happened to belong to Black Keys guitar player Dan Auerbach, who was about to record Attack & Release (which Mayfield sings on), an album that changed the duo’s status from kings of Akron to coolest rock band on the planet. He contacted Mayfield through Myspace, and ended up producing her first full-length, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt — rounding out her country roots with layers of ominous guitar work that matched her dark, straightforward style of songwriting.
Then came last year’s brilliant Tell Me, her fearless tour de force that laughs in the face of the genre constraints set for a minimalist songwriter and flashes the middle finger to failed relationships. It was definitely apparent Mayfield was changing: she wasn’t as innocent and she was proud of it. But, at the same time, she became more reflective. “When I was younger I was writing a lot of songs about first experiences, now, in the last album and currently, I write about a whole well of experiences,” she says. Most people record their youth through a series of photos, using a scrapbook to remember who they used to be — Mayfield has her songs.
“I’ve definitely been writing differently. I’m a different person than I was [when I recorded] the last record. And same with the one before that. I can look back three years ago and say, ‘Who the hell is that chick.’ I had all my teenage years and the embarrassing coming-of-age sort of thing as part of my career.” Jessica Lea Mayfield plays at Mickey Finns on Friday, August 24. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
For more information, call 419-246-3466 or visit www.innovationconcerts.com.