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Jessica Lea Mayfield

Minimalist singer-songwriter with a country & rock edge

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Sun Seeker

Thu, February 1

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Doug Fir Lounge

Portland, OR

$16.00 - $18.00

This event is 21 and over

Jessica Lea Mayfield
Jessica Lea Mayfield
“The whole record is about me taking my life back, without really realizing it,” she says. “I realized I’m the only person that is going to look out for me. I have to be my main person. No one else.”

Jessica Lea Mayfield might make some people uncomfortable with the level of honesty she projects on her forthcoming LP, Sorry Is Gone, but she’s not going to apologize – for that, or for anything else on her complex, confessional fourth album. Recorded with producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, Phosphorescent and Dinosaur Jr.), Sorry Is Gone is a raw document of a woman in progress; one weathering cruel storms but finally able to blame the rain itself for the flood. Written as the truth of her own poisonous marriage unfolded before her eyes, Sorry Is Gone is a record of permission. Permission to create freely, to escape what is no longer safe and to stop bearing responsibility for things done to her, not by her. As Mayfield sings on the title track, “the sorry is gone.” Indeed, it is; kicked to the curb with every strum of her guitar.

Written in the years since her last solo LP, Make My Head Sing, in 2014, and her 2015 collaboration with Seth Avett, Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, Sorry Is Gone became the soundtrack to a highly personal and traumatic story. The Ohio-born Mayfield was quietly enduring years of domestic abuse, smiling and touring while she hid a brewing tempest – and the bruises, too. But lyrics don’t lie even as bruises fade, and they started to tell the tale of her marriage before she was even able to; songs often dark and dangerous and ready to confront and claim her life. Written primarily on an acoustic baritone guitar – out of necessity at first, in her thin-walled apartment – Mayfield started to process the years of hurt and uncertainty through words and melodies that helped her see the light in the darkness.

Though much of Make My Head Sing was written music-first, Sorry Is Gone began with those lyrics, and, so often, a path forward unfolded itself as the songs formed. “The cold hard truth is you love me too much,” she sings on “Meadow,” a moody, echoey moment about finally realizing someone’s true colors. “The cold hard truth is you couldn’t love me enough.” It’s a brutal line from someone who refuses to be victimized. Evoking the pathos of nineties grunge, the folk confessions of her idol, Smith, and the cool blasé of bands like Luscious Jackson, the tracks that comprise Sorry Is Gone aren’t devised to make anyone comfortable but herself – but they are there to help share an emotional journal and a certain kind of healing that can only come through music.

“I have to sing about things and write about things that have happened to me as therapy,” says Mayfield, who shaped so many of these songs in the isolation of the small apartment she shared with her husband while their marriage fell apart in her hands – in many ways, those songs pointed to the way out before she could get there herself. “That’s what connects me to other music I listen to. I want music to make me feel things. This is my inner dialogue, and my chance to get the last word.”

Recorded with Agnello at Water Music and Electric Lady Studios, Mayfield recruited a stellar group of musicians for Sorry Is Gone, including Avett on backing vocals and keys, drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth, Sun Kil Moon), bassist Emil Amos (Grails, Holy Sons), guitarist Cameron Deyell (Sia, Streets of Laredo) and Patrick Damphier (The Mynabirds, Field Days, who produced and played on “Offa My Hands”). Together, they worked to create an ominous take on love, where hope can exist among heartbreak and the end is only as finite as we make it to be. On songs like the title track and “Bum Me Out,” Mayfield bends the angelic notes of her voice over off-kilter orchestration, building an environment of warrior-style triumph; on “Safe 2 Connect 2,” she takes stock of the digital world to a haunting, acoustic backdrop that gives a subtle ode to her bluegrass roots.

“Been though hell, there’s no telling what might happen in my future,” she sings. “All I can do is be thankful for each moment that’s my own.”

Mayfield has paved an unconventional lifestyle – playing in her family’s bluegrass band since the age of eight, she 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 that mountain sound to the modern garage, Mayfield has been able to come at songwriting from a pure perspective, lead more by her heart than any textbook. It’s what makes the tracks of Sorry Is Gone so striking and visceral – there is no filter on the emotions, no rulebook and certainly no excuses for anything she’s been through or the candor she fires.

“I’m not going to bite my lip on anything,” she says. “If there is one thing I am going to do, it’s talk and sing about what I want to. No one is going to manipulate me.”

The sorry is gone, once and for all – and Sorry Is Gone is a permission slip for anyone who wants to stop apologizing for others, and start living for themselves. ●
Sun Seeker
Sun Seeker
Sun Seeker has drawn applause for their unhurried breed of Cosmic American Music and with BIDDEFORD (Third Man Records), their long awaited debut EP, the Nashville-based band more than affirm their promise. The EP – which follows Sun Seeker’s widely acclaimed Third Man debut single, 2016’s “Georgia Dust” b/w “No One Knows” (TMR322) – sees Alex Benick (guitar, vocals), Asher Horton (bass guitar, vocals), and Ben Parks (drums, vocals) exploring nostalgia, melancholy, and emotional turmoil via laidback psychedelia pollinated with tight harmonies, classic folk songcraft, and country rock spirit, an ageless approach that is simultaneously archetypal and now utterly their own. Songs like “With Nothing (But Our Last Words)” and the yearning “Won’t Keep Me Up At Night” meld Benick’s candid lyricism and stark melodies with creative arrangement and production technique, fashioning a sonic world to match their interior emotional scope.

The “bunch of musical friends” at the core of Sun Seeker have been collaborating in some sense since eighth grade. The trio formed a loose collective of combos, playing together in each other’s bands, with Sun Seeker officially convening in January 2013. The band became fast favorites on the Nashville scene, earning word of mouth and a fervent fan following via an electric live presence and a striking collection of songs. Sun Seeker will celebrate BIDDEFORD with intense national touring, not dissimilar to the approach they took in building a hometown following. The band plan to use the time between runs to record their now eagerly anticipated debut album, still determined to keep venturing forward, developing and expanding the distinctive parameters of their own intrepid sound and vision.

May 2017


SUN SEEKER (full bio)

Alex Benick (guitar, vocals) * Asher Horton (bass guitar, vocals) * Ben Parks (drums, vocals)

Sun Seeker has already drawn attention and acclaim for their unhurried breed of Cosmic American Music and with BIDDEFORD (Third Man Records), their long awaited debut EP, the Nashville-based band more than affirm their protracted promise. Songs like “With Nothing (But Our Last Words)” and the yearning “Won’t Keep Me Up At Night” see the gifted young trio exploring nostalgia, melancholy, and emotional turmoil via laidback psychedelia pollinated with tight harmonies, classic folk songcraft, and country rock spirit, an ageless approach that is simultaneously archetypal and now utterly their own.

The “bunch of musical friends” at the core of Sun Seeker have been collaborating in some sense since eighth grade, united at the outset by a shared passion for live rock ‘n’ roll. Alex Benick (guitar, vocals) together with Nashville School of Arts besties Asher Horton (bass guitar) and Ben Parks (drums) were all enthralled by the then-burgeoning Nashville indie scene, hanging out at DIY house venues like Glenn Danzig’s House and The Other Basement and digging local combos like PUJOL and Lylas.

“We had an immediate connection,” Benick says. “I’d go to shows and see these two kids that were also 14 or 15. Early on we bonded over bands like The Band and Wilco and Buzzcocks. Even now my favorite music tends to circulate through the three of us.”

The teenaged trio made music together the very first time they met up outside of a gig, hitting the streets of Nashville to busk a setlist highlighted by approximately thirty renditions of Camper Van Beethoven’s college rock classic, “Take The Skinheads Bowling.” An aspiring songwriter with a taste for Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst, Benick soon showed his new friends one of his original tunes and a band was born.

“I had been listening to a lot of sad acoustic guitar music,” Benick says. "All of a sudden I had talented musicians interpreting my songs through their experience. The songs became a product of a group and less derivative of songwriters I grew up listening to."

The trio fashioned a loose collective of combos, playing together in each other’s bands, but Sun Seeker “quickly shot up to being the priority” for all. The band officially convened in January 2013 and then spent the rest of the year honing their material before finally playing their first live show in December. Sun Seeker played regularly around Nashville for the next two years, operating under the vanishing paradigm where a band earns word of mouth and a fervent fan following by simply gigging non-stop.

“It turned us into a really tight live band,” Benick says, “which at the time was definitely our focus. There was no record for people to listen to so they had to be impressed live.”

Sun Seeker in due course began recording with Nashville guitarist/producer Buddy Hughen, learning to fuse their electric live presence with sophisticated studio arrangements. Their confidence and craft were growing by leaps and bounds when Third Man Records invited them to join their prestigious roster.

“Third Man only wanted a single but we hit the studio pretty intensely and recorded a whole album’s worth of songs,” Benick says. “We basically gave them the first two that we finished and then kept going.”

Released in early 2016, “Georgia Dust” b/w “No One Knows” (TMR322) received national applause, instantly transforming Sun Seeker from local heroes to potential world-beaters. Though ready with go with close to twenty album-ready songs, the band ultimately decided to rein back and release an EP as their next offering.

“Your debut album is like the Holy Grail,” Benick says. “People are always going to look back at it as this grand introduction to the band and we wanted a little more time to build a foundation to support it when it does come out.”

Never ones to rush, Sun Seeker reunited with Hughen in October 2016 and re-recorded the six songs that make up BIDDEFORD. The EP sees Benick’s deeply reflective songwriting coming into full focus, unveiling intimate and introspective angles on his own upbringing. Written as Benick attended Nashville’s Hume-Fogg and then performed at his own graduation awards ceremony, “Won’t Keep Me Up At Night” expertly captures a teenager’s longing to leave town after high school, while “Biddeford,” the EP’s poignant title track, takes its name from the small industrial town where the young tunesmith spent his time after opting to work on a farm in southern Maine in lieu of college.

“They’re transitional songs,” Benick says. “Going from high school to working on a farm to being in a band. For example, ‘Churchill’ is about my mom getting us a dog so it’s like a window into my own childhood and into the mind of my mom. But at the same time, they’re not literal. I find it much more interesting to write through the eyes of another character.”

Though intricately constructed, songs like “Georgia Dust” and “Biddeford” were born as unaccompanied acoustic tracks, with Benick’s candid lyricism carried by equally stark and straightforward melodies. Like any great band, Sun Seeker takes their lead writer’s bare boned songs and put musical flesh on them, building out a sonic world to match their interior emotional scope.

“I go in thinking they’re these solo songs,” Benick says, “but then we work them out as a band and they just make so much more sense.”

Indeed, Sun Seeker’s musical capacity is growing more unique and adventurous with each passing day. Though the band is undeniably rooted in eternal rock sonics, Benick admits a personal fondness for Arianna Grande and that profoundly contemporaneous influence is surprisingly present in Sun Seeker’s brand of 21st century folk-pop.

“The songs are getting bigger,” he says. “We’re much more open to using technology now. At first we were determined to be very traditional and not use synthesizers or drum pads, things like that. But as we’ve grown, we’ve learned to appreciate how you can use those things for the greater good. That’s been huge for us.”

Sun Seeker will follow BIDDEFORD with intense national touring, not dissimilar to the approach they took in building a hometown following. The band plan to use the time between runs to record their now eagerly anticipated debut album, still determined to catch the on-stage energy of what Benick simply describes as “the sound of four people playing music together.” One thing is certain: Sun Seeker is going to keep venturing forward, developing and expanding the distinctive parameters of their own intrepid sound and vision.

“We don’t want to put out the same sounding record over and over again,” says Benick. “Sun Seeker is going to always grow and change.”