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Mayfield spurns music niches

By Jack W. Hill Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published June 26, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Opening act: Dylan LeBlanc

9 p.m. today, White Water Tavern, West Seventh and Thayer streets, Little Rock

Admission: $12

(501) 375-8400

whitewatertavern.com

Bluegrass music shaped the young Jessica Lea Mayfield, but it's rock 'n' roll that has a grip on the now 24-year-old, who is on tour promoting her third album, Make My Head Sing.

"I was in a traveling family bluegrass band and starting singing when I was 8 years old," Mayfield, a native of Kent, Ohio, says. "We traveled around in a tour bus that had once belonged to Bill Monroe. I guess I'd say that the music that makes my head sing has been folks like Elliott Smith and the Stone Temple Pilots, but also Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. I met him in 2008 at the Bean Blossom Festival.

"I even named my cat after Doyle Lawson, who's a major bluegrass guy who's had about 100 different members of Quicksilver. He's known for different lineups, you might say."

Mayfield, on the other hand, is a comparative minimalist, at least so far. She plays the electric guitar on stage, accompanied by drummer Matt Martin and bassist Jesse Newport, who is also her husband. She wrote all the songs on her new album, and then collaborated with her husband on producing the album, which was released by According To Our Records.

Mayfield and Newport have been together for about three years, married for two. They met in July 2011 at a festival in Iowa when both were in different bands. After his tour ended, he caught up with her and since then, in her words, "We have been just about inseparable ever since."

Her debut album, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, came out in September 2008, famously produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who also produced the follow-up album, Tell Me, released in February 2011. In the course of her brief career, Mayfield has opened shows for Ryan Adams, The Avett Brothers, Ray LaMontagne, Jay Farrar, Cake and Band of Horses.

As to the discussion about whether her music began as country rock and evolved into actual rock, Mayfield is amused by those who argue the issue.

"It's so strange to see that people talk about genres and stuff, when all you really need to do is listen to the music and decide whether or not you like it," she says. "Some didn't get the last album. When Jesse and I came up with the new one, it took us nine months, so we're calling it our 'record baby.'

"It's a most beautiful child, and now I'm touring it, or what I call 'breastfeeding it.'"

Weekend on 06/26/2014

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