Interview by Scott Preston
Photo credits: Joshua Black Wilkins
Jessica Lea Mayfield is an American singer-songwriter, from Kent, Ohio. She is known for writing dark, sad songs, with a plaintive minimalist style. She started performing live with her family’s band One Way Rider at the age of 8. Jessica released her debut EP White Lies in 2005 and appears on The Black Keys album Attack & Release. Her latest album, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was released on September 16, 2008, and was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Jessica right before she starts a lengthy tour on Jan 15.
Cincy Groove: What was the recording process like for your record “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt”?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: When Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and I went into the studio, we didn’t go in with the idea of lets make a record. It really was just Dan and myself hanging out. I would come over to his studio and we would record a couple of my songs, then a couple of his songs. We just came to the conclusion that we should take some of the songs we recorded for fun and record some new ones and make my solo album.
Cincy Groove: How did you end of meeting Dan from The Black Keys?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Well I’m from Kent, OH and he is from Akron. His dad got a copy of my cd from my old guitar player who at the time was my 1st boyfriends guitar teacher. My 1st boyfriend gave a copy of my cd “White Lies” to Mike, who gave a copy to Dan’s dad Chuck Auerbach, who then gave it Dan. Dan sent me a myspace message. He said “Hey my name is Dan, I play in a band called The Black Keys.” At the time I had no idea who they were. I didn’t realize how popular they were.
Cincy Groove: I know that your family is very musical, do you still get to play with your brother from time to time?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Yes, he is also in a band right now called Cadillac Sky. They don’t tour quite as much as I do. Sometimes they will go out for a week or a weekend. They will do 3 or 4 shows at a time. With this tour coming up that I’m doing with The Annuals, the dates in January I’ll be playing without him. Then he is coming on board to play with the band all of February. I can play without him, but I prefer to have him there.
Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: I’m romancing the idea of doing some recording in April. I’m writing a lot and I’m hoping to find the time to record all of this creative energy. My record “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt” that came out in the U.S. this past September doesn’t come out in Europe until next month. So I will be getting ready to do some European shows to promote it. It can be a little rough, I usually end up doing about 5 interviews a day with people who are speaking English as a second language. I mean my personality is kind of dry so all I have to work with is my sarcasm (laughing). So its hard for them to translate that I’m joking sometimes.
Cincy Groove: Have you toured Europe before?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Yes, just this past October I did a tour of Europe and the UK. I did France, Holland, Belgium, and the UK. The UK tour was with The Black Keys and the dates in Europe was with Tony Joe White.
Cincy Groove: Do you and your brother play much with your parents anymore in your family band One Way Rider?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Not too much anymore, my parents are settling down, getting older. They understand that my brother and I are trying to establish our own careers. Although, I did get to play a show with my family this past December. Every once in a while we’ll book a show if we are all around, usually around the holidays.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of your inspirations?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Its really hard to describe my influences because I have so many. I love the Foo Fighters, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams. I grew up listening to bluegrass, Weezer, Metallica. Its just this whole cluster fuck of music (laughing).
Cincy Groove: You have a very unique and beautiful singing voice, how would you describe it?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Well with my voice I have a much lower range that I sing in and no high range at all. My brother can sing much higher than I can. I think it has something to do with me growing up and singing with mostly guys. I never was really into a lot of female singers growing up.
Cincy Groove: You seem to be getting a lot of attention for somebody that is only 19, which I’m sure is a question you are asked a lot. Why do you think that is?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: I do get asked that question a lot, people wonder why I am getting so much recognition, either for being a girl or because of my age. I just tell people I’m out there touring as much as I can and just being myself. I’m not trying to be like anyone else.
I’m also in a unique situation in that I started playing out with my parents at the age of 8. We toured as a family, had a bus. We were playing this cool Blue grass / New Grass type of music and I was really into it. I really wanted to be involved in music since the moment I had rational thought. Music was really the only choice for me. There was never a time when I wanted to do something else.
Cincy Groove: What was the first instrument that you played?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: It was guitar. I really wanted to play drums, but we didn’t have a drum kit but had everything else. The fiddle seemed too hard for me. My sister played the banjo, my mom and brother played the mandolin. So I picked up the guitar and it was easy for me.
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Kiss Me Again
Upcoming Jessica Lea Mayfield tour dates:
For show details visit http://www.myspace.com/jlmayfield
Jan 15 2009 AKRON ART MUSEUM Akron, Ohio
Jan 20 2009 THE VARSITY w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jan 21 2009 MAINTENANCE SHOP w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Ames, Iowa
Jan 22 2009 EMPTY BOTTLE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Chicago, Illinois
Jan 23 2009 GROG SHOP w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Cleveland, Ohio
Jan 24 2009 EL MOCAMBO w/ Annuals Toronto, Ontario
Jan 25 2009 LA SALA ROSSA w/ Annuals Montreal, Quebec
Jan 27 2009 PARADISE ROCK CLUB w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Boston, Massachusetts
Jan 28 2009 BOWERY BALLROOM w/ Annuals and What Laura Says New York, New York
Jan 30 2009 JOHNNY BRENDA’S w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jan 31 2009 CAT’S CRADLE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Carrboro, North Carolina
Feb 1 2009 MOUNTAIN STAGE @ CULTURAL CENTER THEATER w/ Dierks Bentley Charleston, West Virginia
Feb 6 2009 VISULITE THEATRE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Charlotte, North Carolina
Feb 7 2009 THE ORANGE PEEL w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Asheville, North Carolina
Feb 8 2009 REG’S COFFEEHOUSE 100.5 FM on-air Birmingham, Alabama
Feb 8 2009 BOTTLETREE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Birmingham, Alabama
Feb 10 2009 WTUL 91.5 FM on-air New Orleans, Louisiana
Feb 10 2009 THE PARISH @ HOB w/ Annuals and What Laura Says New Orleans, Louisiana
Feb 11 2009 SPANISH MOON w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Feb 12 2009 CACTUS MUSIC in-store Houston, Texas
Feb 12 2009 WALTER’S ON WASHINGTON w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Houston, Texas
Feb 13 2009 THE PARISH w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Austin, Texas
Feb 14 2009 PONTIAC GARAGE @ HOB w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Dallas, Texas
Feb 17 2009 THE RHYTHM ROOM w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Phoenix, Arizona
Feb 18 2009 THE CASBAH w/ Annuals and What Laura Says San Diego, California
Feb 19 2009 TROUBADOUR w/ Annuals and What Laura Says West Hollywood, California
Feb 21 2009 SLIM’S w/ Annuals and What Laura Says San Francisco, California
Feb 23 2009 DOUR FIR LOUNGE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Portland, Oregon
Feb 24 2009 PIT PUB @ UBC w/ Annuals Vancouver, British Columbia
Feb 25 2009 KEXP 90.3 FM on-air Seattle, Washington
Feb 25 2009 CHOP SUEY w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Seattle, Washington
Feb 27 2009 KRCL 90.9 FM on-air Salt Lake City, Utah
Feb 27 2009 KILBY COURT w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Salt Lake City, Utah
Feb 28 2009 HI-DIVE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Denver, Colorado
Mar 2 2009 THE RECORD BAR w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Kansas City, Missouri
Mar 3 2009 THE GARGOYLE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says St. Louis, Missouri
Mar 4 2009 SOUTHGATE HOUSE w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Newport, Kentucky
Mar 6 2009 EXIT/IN w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Nashville, Tennessee
Mar 7 2009 THE EARL w/ Annuals and What Laura Says Atlanta, Georgia