There is plenty of press to tell you all the ways Jessica Lea Mayfield has blossomed. Leaving behind her bluegrass roots, the Northeast Ohio-born and Tennessee-raised darling has made it clear that her point of view has been, and with no doubt, shaped by her traveling family-band past, but is in no way attached to her current coming-of-age musical exploratory efforts she so well portrays with Make My Head Sing.
Make My Head Sing is Mayfield’s first go at a fully self-produced piece. With Dan Auerbach – one-half of the Black Keys – providing guidance on her last two releases, Mayfield takes a stand to express a side of her that is based more around sound than songwriting. The result has left critics fumbling for ways to place her into the pigeon holes she is so evidently trying to fly away from. “It’s damaging to the creative process to pay attention to other people’s dissections and I don’t want to think about what other people are going to think about what I am creating as I am creating it,” Mayfield said in a recent interview with Miranda Brooks of IndyMojo.com.
Make was recorded in Nashville at Club Roar, a varietal warehouse/studio creative escape space run by Robin Eaton. Mayfield’s counterpart and bassist, husband Jesse Newport, worked on building the studio and lived there as well. “It just seemed like the right place to come back to,” Mayfield said about the studio which they affectionately dubbed Club Ruff, “…our dog recorded the whole album with us there and helped with the mixing.”
With such a shift in sound, Mayfield summed up the creative process for the album by saying, “Instead of sitting down and expressing myself with words like I’d always done, this time around I took the opportunity to express myself sonically; obsessing over guitar tones and sounds, I was able to build the songs around that.”
When asked about the ever-apparent freedom of the current album, Mayfield said honestly, “In the past there was always a cutoff of time in the studio. I would sing a vocal and want to sing it again because I knew I could do better, but maybe we didn’t have the time, so that was that. But it’s like, shit man, this music is my face and name. This is the first chance I’ve gotten to really flush something out and do the best I could while pushing to do even better than I thought. It really is just me letting go to hear all of the sounds I wanted to hear and to ultimately make the album I have always wanted to make. So, yeah, there’s definitely freedom in that…such an important process for me to go through.”
On the topic of image- with its burden of being both a blessing and a curse- Mayfield admitted to being an overly open person with undertones of uncomfortable shyness. “I have met a lot of people who have already built this idea of who they think I am,” she said quietly, leading the conversation into the obscure realm of being a girl in the music world. “It’s weird; I’ve always wished I wasn’t [a girl]. I am attracted to men, but as a kid I was always really upset I wasn’t born a boy. And I still think that, that all of this would be a lot easier with a lot less questioning and gawking and scrutiny.”
Nonetheless, Mayfield is doing something right to garner such attention.
Along with her sound, her road dog lifestyle has changed as well, and seems to provide solace for the artist. “I don’t party anymore,” she said bluntly, “I like driving a lot. Being on the road, in a sense, is more comfortable because of the schedule and we have things to do. At home – in Ohio – I feel a loss for routine as a touring musician. For me and Jesse, we are always looking forward to getting back out and having some sort of purpose.”
On Tour, Mayfield’s live show features herself on electric guitar, Jesse Newport on bass, and Matt Martin on drums. The band plays music from all three of Mayfield’s albums and despite the difference in sound among them, there is little disconnect. “The live shows are loud, they have always been loud. I’m still doing what I’ve always done, just a little differently.”
Jessica Lea Mayfield will perform at The Hi-Fi (a new venue in The Murphy Building brought to you by Do317) in Indianapolis.