Jessica Lea Mayfield: Wise beyond her years

Jessica Lea Mayfield has packed a lot of living into her 22 years.

Though the sprightly singer/songwriter may only be a year past the legal drinking age, she's already released two albums and had one notable collaboration.


As a child, Mayfield toured and played music with One Way Rider, her family's bluegrass band. Her first record, 2008's "With Blasphemy So Heartfelt," got critics buzzing — in part because Mayfield teamed up with Dan Auerbach, guitarist and singer for the Grammy-winning rock duo The Black Keys.

Auerbach and Mayfield immediately hit it off, and Auerbach wound up producing the album. The songs "Kiss Me Again" and "Bible Days," were featured on the TV shows "Gossip Girl" and "CSI: New York," respectively.

Mayfield followed that up with "Tell Me," which was released in February. On Sunday, she'll be at Rams Head On Stage for an early afternoon show.

Mayfield is soft-spoken, heartfelt and quick with a smile — not nearly as wistful and melancholy as some of her music (though an early afternoon glass of white wine may have had something to do with it). Her voice — the centerpiece of her often bare-bones songs — has a Southern lilt, whether she's singing or talking.

Even at 22, Mayfield could pass for a teenager, but given how mature her songwriting sounds, you'd never know it.

Tell me about where you grew up.

I grew up on Bill Monroe's 1956 bus, that my parents had bought, and started touring with them when I was 8 years old. We moved to Nashville, and I spent most of my childhood there.

I was born in Ohio, though, so when people are like, "Where are you from?" I'm like, "Uh, America?" I had a half-and-half thing. I had a bunk instead of a bedroom.


Is it hard for you to put down roots somewhere?

I feel like I relate to everywhere. I feel really comfortable traveling and being on tour. It's part of who I am. I bought a house two years ago in Ohio. I get to be there about four days a month. But if I'm home for any longer than that, I start to miss the road.

You bought a house when you were a teenager?

Yeah. It's a four-bedroom, 1890s farmhouse with about a half-acre of land. It's really cute. It's just what I want, although I still have things in boxes, just because I'm never home.

I'm working on painting the kitchen. I'm trying to make the kitchen look like Barbie's Dream House kitchen from the '70s, so it's going to be pink and lime green.

Nice. Tell me why Auerbach and you work well together.


Well, I met him when I was 16. He sent me a MySpace message after hearing my record — and he said he liked it, and he wanted to get together and try working together.

The day we met, we recorded eight songs together. Since then, I've still yet to meet someone who I could immediately start working with.

He and I have such different minds, and we come from such different places, but we both have sort of the same goal — make something that sounds good. With him liking my music and really having an interest in it, he's really helped me have different ideas and a different mind-set toward my own music.

Do you have a place where you go to write music?

Mainly home is where I write the best. Anywhere I can be alone. I can't write around or with other people. But I can write half a song and then give it to my brother and be like, "Finish this." We'll co-write that way.

I have a really hard time writing when I'm around people. So mainly anywhere where I feel like I'm really alone.

If you go

Jessica Lea Mayfield performs at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rams Head on Stage, 33 West St. in Annapolis. $15. All ages. Call 410-268-4545 or go to ramsheadonstage.com. Artist information: jessicaleamayfield.com