Interview With Jessica Lea Mayfield

Published on
January 22, 2021 at 11:06:19 AM PST January 22, 2021 at 11:06:19 AM PSTnd, January 22, 2021 at 11:06:19 AM PST
Playing in her family’s bluegrass band since the age of eight, Jessica Lea Mayfield didn’t have any traditional schooling and released her first album at the age of fifteen when she was discovered by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Influenced by everything from traditional “mountain sound,” to modern garage, Mayfield has been able to come at songwriting from a pure perspective, lead more by her heart than any textbook. Notably, in 2015, she made an album of Elliott Smith covers with her friend Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers. She released her most recent studio album in 2017 titled, “Sorry is Gone,” a record documenting the process of taking her life back as her own. She is currently in the process of recording her sixth studio album.

This past week, we caught up with Jessica Lea Mayfield to talk gear.  Here's what happened:

Mojotone: From touring with your family’s bluegrass band, 'One Way Rider' at age 8, to your latest grunge era alt. rock L.P., 'Sorry Is Gone', your musical style has been through quite an evolution. What has been one thing that has stayed consistent in your music and writing throughout your career? 

Mayfield: Without a doubt it’s been the therapeutic aspect of music; I was the kid always in headphones, I would fall asleep listening to music and pick my favorite songs apart. I’d play one song on repeat and focus on one instrument, with lyrics and with instruments I’m able to express and let go of a lot of feelings. 

Mojotone: Your first full length album was recorded and produced by one of the modern masters of guitar tone, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and you two have worked together on several albums since. Can you pass along any tone secrets that you have learned from him over the years? What were your major takeaways from working with such a big name?

Mayfield: I first worked with him when I was 15, he was setting up his first studio in a place called the pie factory I believe...he was always trying and testing out new “old” gear. The recording process was very impromptu and playful, he wasn’t a, “let’s do 20 takes" kinda guy, you just did it and recorded it, captured the moment and performance. That’s a style of recording I have always respected. 

Mojotone: Dreadknot Martins, Jazzmasters, glittery Gretschs and 60’s Silvertones… What inspires you to choose your gear? Is there anything you’re consistently drawn to?

Mayfield: Well for me, playability plays a huge roll regardless of what it is I need to feel comfortable. For the longest time, I had one guitar and it didn’t even dawn on me that I would need or enjoy other ones. When I fell into the black hole that is guitars and gear, so did my wallet. 

Mojotone: You are currently playing the Mojotone Custom Blackout British. How does this amp help you achieve the varied sounds that you create live?

Mayfield: For starters, it’s very loud which is important to me, lol! It has that 70’s-ish tone that I’m looking for, but it’s definitely more of its own thing. I’m currently using it quite a bit while working on my next record and it has a lot of versatility. It takes my 90’s pedals like a champ and also sounds great on its own, you can really get a lot of different tones out of it. 

Mojotone: Is there anything outstanding about the Blackout British that captured your attention in the first place?  

Mayfield: Before I even heard what it sounded like, the appearance stood out to me. Once I read about and heard clips of it, I fell in love! 

Mojotone: How does your gear repertoire influence the sound of your music at any given point? And does new gear give you any fresh perspective on older songs?

Mayfield: Gear is another instrument for me. Each piece brings a different personality to the table depending on the mood I’m displaying on a song. Each pedal, amp, guitar, etc., is vitally important in my opinion. As far as older songs, sometimes I end up taking them and incorporating new tones live, it helps everything mesh better and also keeps me from getting bored. 

Mojotone: How are you staying creatively motivated during this quarantine period? Are there any daily exercises/practices/rituals you can recommend to our followers to help stay proactive musically?

Mayfield: I was actually meant to be in the studio in April of this year and that was canceled, so in a sort of fortunate turn of events I’ve been working on the songs at home. And fortunately, at least I have a “quarantine project ." I am definitely going easy on myself during this time though, fear of the unknown is stressful, especially for us musicians, so I feel music should be cathartic first; meaningful to yourself. Pretend that no one else will ever listen to it and make something you like. Music like this will end up being the most relatable. It’s important not to self impose deadlines or beat yourself up for not being productive enough. Do what feels good!

In addition to creating and performing music, Mayfield also has a gear review series on Instagram.  Clink the link below to check out her gear reviews!

Jessica Lea Mayfield On Instagram