For our first feature of 2009 we'd like to introduce you to one of the brightest young stars we've come across in quite some time. Last year, a 19-year-old Jessica Lea Mayfield released her haunting alt-Americana debut With Blasphemy So Heartfelt. Produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, the album features Auerbach on various instruments as well Scott McMicken and Frank McElroy of Dr. Dog. Name dropping aside, this is all Mayfield and the album quickly became a Best Of 2008 for this editor. Truth be told, we'd be impressed if this came from a 40-year-old woman who fought off a string of drunken husbands and a lifetime of lost dreams. How a teenager pulled this off is beyond us. Jessica Lea Mayfield is one to watch in 2009. Get to know her.
JamBase: This album is emotionally heavy with a dark mood. What was the inspiration for these songs?
Jessica Lee Mayfield: I always look at things from a dark point of view. I'm an upbeat person when you meet me, but for some reason I cannot write a happy song. I don't like happy songs. When I get upset I write a song about it; it's a way for me to get it out. It's therapeutic. When I'm happy I have a dry spell of writing songs, and when I'm depressed or [going through] a breakup or things aren't going right in my life, then I have a million songs. I write a song a day practically.
JamBase: A lot of these songs evoke images of dying relationships. Were you going through a breakup during this album?
Jessica Lee Mayfield: There was more than one breakup going on during that album, breakups and just bad relationships in general. I started dating at a really young age and I got into the serious relationship aspect way too young. I started dating when I was 15 and had two serious relationships and ended my last one like six months ago. This is the longest I've been single since I started dating. So, I was just going through so much turmoil of being in a situation where I was young and I wanted to go out and do my own thing. And I was also in these serious relationships where the guy I was dating wanted me to settle down and stay home and things like that and it was really difficult.
And you're 19 now, right?
Yes, as of yesterday.
This is very advanced, sophisticated music. Do you feel old for your age?
I do, and there are a lot of different reasons for that. One, I never went to high school. I was home schooled as a kid so I don't have any friends that are my age. I have one friend [my age] and that's it; everyone else is in their late twenties, early thirties. Most of my friends are married, most of my friends have kids and here I am and I don't even know anyone my age. I've been playing music for over ten years with my family and I've been on the road and doing that and then having serious relationships on top of that. I don't really feel like I've gotten to do anything that normal teenagers do.
|Jessica Lea Mayfield by Lydia Chain|
What can you tell me about your family band, One Way Rider?
When I was eight years old my whole family moved to Nashville and lived there for about four years, and we played a lot of bluegrass festivals and a lot of shows; played everyday of the week someplace and just really worked really, really hard. I sang with them until I was eleven and then I started playing rhythm guitar with them, and it was like a bluegrass band.
And was that why you were home schooled?
I had to be because they [my parents] were doing their thing and we were all out playing music and it was really hard to go to school and say, "Hey, I'm gonna be gone for two weeks." We had Bill Monroe's old tour bus – don't make any Partridge Family remarks because they'll get mad – and we did all that and just worked really hard. When I was seven year's old I knew I wanted to be a musician. I always wanted to be a rock star.
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