A folk-influenced songwriter from Kent, Ohio, Jessica Lea Mayfield began performing with her family's bluegrass band, One Way Rider, at the age of eight. She started writing her own music three years later, often accompanying her older brother at open-mike performances in the Ohio area before landing a weekly solo gig at a local bar. At 15 years old, Mayfield took to her brother's bedroom to record a batch of her own acoustic songs, which ran the gamut from raw, aggressive folk tunes to world-weary country ballads. The recordings made up the track list of White Lies, her independent debut, which she released under the name Chittlin'.
Only 100 copies of White Lies were printed, one of which wound up in the hands of Dan Auerbach, frontman of the Ohio-based blues outfit the Black Keys. With Auerbach's help, Mayfield began attracting a wider audience. She made a guest appearance on the Black Keys' 2008 album Attack & Release, singing backup vocals on the track "Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be," and spent a pair of years recording her official debut album, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, in Auerbach's home studio. Released in September 2008 by Polymer Sounds, the album was a critical success. Mayfield supported its release by going on tour, serving as an opening act for bands like the Avett Brothers, Cake, Lucero, and the Black Keys.
Mayfield's touring commitments stretched into 2009, when she opened 11 concerts for Ray Lamontagne and performed at the annual Bonnaroo Festival that summer. Continuing her association with Dan Auerbach, she also appeared on the frontman's first solo record, Keep It Hid, and enlisted his help in recording her second album. Tell Me, which doubled as her first release for Nonesuch Records, was released in early 2011.
Mayfield's follow-up, Make My Head Sing, was a complete musical switch. Recorded at Nashville's Club Roar Studio with drummer/engineer Matt Martin and co-produced by husband Jesse Newport, the album was a scorching, electric rock & roll set. It was issued by ATO in April of 2014. She then returned to her more acoustic roots to record an appropriately solemn cover album of Elliott Smith songs with Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers titled Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith. The album was released in early 2015 and was accompanied by a tour on which the duo performed songs by Smith and shared influences including the Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as their own material. ~ Andrew Leahey