In April Jessica Lea Mayfield released the most surprising album of the year: Make My Head Sing…. The Ohio native’s third effort mixes guitar wail and plaintive, angelic vocals for an effect that’s darkly attractive, making Mayfield’s appearance on Stubb’s indoor stage tonight one not to be missed. We caught up with the Mayfield before her show.
Austin Chronicle: What’s your favorite part of touring?
Jessica Lea Mayfield: It’s more comfortable than being at home. I like to drive a lot. My husband and I do the bulk of the driving. I like staying in hotels that don’t have mice and spiders and bees. All that shit just lives in our house.
AC: You spent some time living in Nashville.
JLM: I live in Ohio now. I own a house there. I was born in Ohio. I was raised in Tennessee. When I was 19, I bought a house because I had the money at the time and I thought “at least I’m not going to be homeless.” I absolutely would be at this point had I not bought a house because you don’t make no money doing this shit. If you make any money doing this you’re lucky. You get by. But unless you have a lot of money in the first place, like a lot of people do, then it’s just hand to mouth. But the industry is changing, you know?
AC: Let’s talk about the new record. People are saying that it’s different from your other records. But I pulled out your last record, Tell Me, to do an A/B listening test. I hear hints in what you were doing before in what the new record sounds like. Do you agree that it’s not that big a jump?
JLM: I think people are distracted by trying to pin a genre the record instead of listening to it. They haven’t been talking about the songs. I’ve never been good with genres anyway. Someone asked me what another band sounded like, and I was like, “Shit man, it’s really good. Listen to it.”
AC: I don’t know if there is a genre for what you are doing. It kind of reminded me of some of the music used by David Lynch in his films. Are you familiar with Twin Peaks?
JLM: My husband and I are David Lynch fans, so that’s cool.
AC: It has that eerie, off centered style, especially in the guitar playing which I think is phenomenal. Would you have been able to make this record if you were still working with Dan Auerbach?
JLM: No. I think that it’s something that I had to do on my own. Mainly because if I was working with Dan or anybody under the same circumstances that we were on Tell Me, there was always a time cramp on your creativity. After the first two records, I just wanted to work on things a little bit longer. I never felt like I could do things for as long as I wanted. I’d say “I can do that vocal better,” and be told “Yeah but I don’t have time.” This time it was all day and all night. I could stay in the studio for 20 hours at a time if I wanted to.
AC: Where does the darkness in the record come from? You seem like a cheerful, normally adjusted person.
JLM: You have to have an outlet for all the terrible things inside you in order live and not kill yourself. You have to find, at least for me, I find ways to express myself. Without music, I don’t know where I’d be. I use songwriting to express things that I can’t talk about.
AC: Sonically, it’s very different. Where did that come from?
JLM: It’s just the way that I felt when I was writing. The guitar sounds were just another way of expressing myself. I had to find the right tones. I just felt that this was the record that I always wanted to make and hear every sound I wanted to hear and try every idea that I had and say yes to one.
AC: So the songs sound the way you heard them in your head.
JLM: Yes, definitely and for the first time. I felt like I have the canvas to myself, I don’t want to share.
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