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Issue Date: November 2008

Bold Soul

Brandon Petitto
Nineteen-year-old Jessica Lea Mayfield makes an assured statement with her full-length debut album, With Blasphemy so Heartfelt, but she’ll be the first to tell you her recent success has been anything but overnight.

Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Mayfield’s album is a soulful mix of indie rock and folk that rests on reverb-laden guitars and grief-stricken vocals reminiscent of Cat Power and Hope Sandoval.

The album features Jessica’s brother, David Mayfield, on bass, while Auerbach pitches in on guitar and other instruments.

We recently spoke with Mayfield, who lives in Kent, as she made her way from Memphis to a gig out west opening for the Black Keys.

Are you surprised by your success?
Not so much. I don’t notice it or make it out to be something like other people do. People will contact me after a year of not talking to me and say, “I see you doing this, and I see you doing that. That must be crazy, and it’s all happening at once.” But it hasn’t all happened at once. It’s been happening slowly. And I’ve been working at this for a long time. I mean, I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Who are your musical influences?
I grew up playing music with my family, so definitely my parents and my brother. He and I have been playing music together since I was a kid. As for bands, I like the Foo Fighters, the Avett Brothers — those are really big ones. I like Modest Mouse. I like a lot of Hank Williams.

What drives you to play music?
It’s something I have an immense love for: writing songs, playing shows, recording, touring. ... I love every single aspect of it. I could never see myself doing anything else, and I’ve never thought about doing anything else.

What’s your take on musicians such as John Mayer or Jack Johnson?
I don’t really like that kind of stuff. It seems fake. I can’t get into those kinds of guys or really anything that comes out on the radio these days. I don’t feel anything heartfelt or real about it. Most of the songs sound like they’re written for teenage girls.

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