Jessica Lea Mayfield has released three albums to date and although each has earned her critical acclaim it’s her live shows that arguably remain most impressive. She began performing and touring with her parents in their new grass band before she was 10. She says that even after roughly 20 years in the spotlight sometimes being on stage can still be a strange experience.
“Sometimes I’ll be on stage and wonder, ‘Why is everyone looking at me,’ and realize, ‘Because they paid to.’ Sometimes I have these nights where I think, ‘Oh, this is weird.’ I guess it took me 25 years to realize that because it was the only thing that was normal and consistent in my life, being on stage,” Mayfield says.
Today, Mayfield tours and performs with her husband, Jesse Newport as part of her band. They met several years ago at a music festival in Iowa and fell in love quickly. They also quickly realized that there was one easy way to keep their relationship afloat.
“We realized that if he didn’t go on tour with me that we would never get to see each other," she says. "I wrote the song about a conversation we had about that. That was in 2011, and I would say that since then we’ve spent a total of two weeks apart.”
Mayfield’s life has been anything but conventional. Because of the traveling she did with her family, she didn’t attend high school. When her time with her parents’ band ended, she was already making albums of her own and taking to the road opening for acts such as Ryan Adams and the Black Keys.
“Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I don’t have in common with other people," Mayfield says. “But if there’s one thing I know really well, it’s traveling and this lifestyle.”
But one person she does have something in common with is musician Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers. She recently teamed up with him to record a tribute to the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. That record will be out in March, and its spark came from an unlikely source.
“I think we both traced it back to when I adopted my dog," Mayfield says. "I said, ‘I adopted a dog and named him Elliott.’ He said, ‘After Elliott Smith?’ We talked a lot about favorite songs, and we’re both really big fans of his album From A Basement on a Hill. From there we just kind of started working on Elliott Smith songs without really knowing what would happen.”
Mayfield will return to the studio later this year to record an album of her own material following her current tour, which stops at Rock Island Live on Friday. Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is out March 17.