“I kinda whistle on my S’s,” Jessica Lea Mayfield warns as she clips her mic on her jacket. Before the camera rolls she goes on about her love for St. Louis, how much she digs The Fortune Teller Bar, and how awesome Native Sound’s David Beeman is at making things sound all glittery when they’re on tour.
Jessica was an MTV kid, influenced by Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. She knew that’s what she wanted to do and realized that her family’s band was where she could learn it. So she joined them performing in Nashville. Between their gigs at The Nashville Palace and the late Gibson Guitar Cafe, the family band was playing four shows every day, seven days of every week. This is where Jessica picked up rhythm guitar and became interested in singing harmonies. Eventually the Mayfields moved back up to Ohio where Jessica started playing solo shows locally under her full name.
Jessica now lives in an old 1890 home in Kent with her husband Jesse Newport, who plays bass while they’re out touring. She opened up about growing up with MTV, old guitar pedals, and Sega Genesis, and then about all that other stuff that made it in the video.
Jessica’s first recorded solo work was the White Lies EP that she recorded at home with her brother David Mayfield. There were other home recorded tracks that weren’t officially released with the EP but were sold online in limited quantities. One such track is a cover of Hank Williams’ “Rockin’ Chair Money” that Jessica recorded with Patrick Sweany. You can hear a clip of their duet in the video.
After hearing White Lies, producer and black key Dan Auerbach contacted her through Myspace and expressed an interest in recording something. This led to Jessica’s next two full-lengths, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt and Tell Me. “For Today” made its way from the White Lies EP to With Blasphemy So Heartfelt. But before “For Today” was dusted off for the Pie Factory, Auerbach’s first attempt at a recording studio, cellist Joe Kwon was performing on the song live when Jessica went on tour with the The Avett Brothers. They felt compelled to record Kwon’s arrangement backstage in the greenroom of the V Club in Hunington, West Virginia, which made the record. Jessica is now long time buds with the Avett Brothers and will release a full-length Elliott Smith tribute album with Seth Avett on March 17th, 2015.
With her latest, Make My Head Sing…, there was a clearer sonic vision for the songs. It’s Jessica’s sound fully realized and uncompromised. As you can see in the video, Jesse is the kind of guy that can get the sound you’re looking for. He brings preamps back to life, sounding better than new. Our video interview delves all kinds of deep into the gear used on that record.
Jessica’s dog Elliott (Smith) even made it into some recordings for Make My Head Sing… but had to be edited out. It’s okay though because you can catch Elliott singing along to Jessica’s cover of Bill Monroe’s “In The Pines” somewhere in there! Once upon a time Bill owned her family band’s old touring bus, The Bluegrass Breakdown, named after an old Bill Monroe song. The wheels on the bus, they go ’round and ’round.