Kent-based singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield says it took nine months for her to record her new album, Make My Head Sing… The album, which comes out today, shows off her ability to play guitar as she plays lead on all 10 songs. On songs such as the dreamy opening number “Oblivious,” she evokes the dream pop of Mazzy Star and the somber “Party Drugs” sounds like an alt-country answer to Cocteau Twins. It’s her best effort to date. We met up with Mayfield at Mike’s Place, a Kent restaurant and bar that’s right around the corner from where she lives, so that she could break the new disc down track by track. She and her collaborator, bassist and husband Jesse Newport produced the album, which they recorded at Nashville’s Club Roar studio. Their tour starts next week in Pittsburgh and Mayfield will perform at the Beachland Ballroom on May 10.
It is mainly about the whole situation of starting to date someone and there’s always that one person who can’t be around and doesn’t want to be your friend and just wants to get in your pants. There’s always one person like that. It’s about the dominance and about trying to shoo away the leftovers. It’s about being smarter than some dumb bitch. The guitars are loud as fuck. The cool thing about the warehouse where we recorded is that we can chain other amps to my amp and make it louder.
2. “I Wanna Love You”
It’s just about this dude. It’s really literal. I’m trying to write from his perspective. He sent me a lot of stuff in the mail and it freaked me out. It’s weird when you don’t know somebody and they feel like they connected with you. They fabricate all these things. I’m the kind of person who’s just me. I don’t give a shit about anybody’s money or personal problems. When I put myself out there, sometimes it attracts the wrong kind of attention.
3. “Standing in the Sun”
It’s about me from a friend of mine’s perspective and the kind of conversations I’ve had about not wanting to get depressed. It’s about when you’re in a bad way and you have a friend calling you and trying to pull you out of a hole. It’s about taking the positive things. I played a 12-strong Electro on that. I had a white Gretsch hollow body that I like to use too.
4. “Pure Stuff”
That is one of my favorite tracks. It’s the most fun for me to play. It has harmonic distortion, which is what I really like. If I pick up the guitar at home, I’ll pick up a guitar and play that one. It feels like a relief.
5. “Do I Have the Time”
This one is another 12-string guitar song. It’s about a housewife wondering if she can get everything she wants to get done and do a bunch of nice shit before she kills herself. It’s just something that popped into my head. It’s about when you get those moments. I bounce all around with how I feel. It’s easy to get depressed with what I do.
6. “Party Drugs”
That was one of the first songs I wrote for the record. It started the guitar rabbit hole for me. All my favorite bands are three-piece bands. For me, I want to be the only guitar player. It’s more challenging. When you’re a three-piece band, the guitar is what carries everything. Before everything else was held up behind me and I floated over the top. I wanted to change things so I could hold down the fort. My main guitar is this Gretsch and I found one at the Guitar Emporium [in Louisville] and was going through this period where I didn’t know if I wanted to play music at all. I was so fucking bored. I was tried of the stress. I felt like I had to be more in charge. I met that guitar and took it home and played Louisville and then headed home. That was the first melody line that I had come up and from there, I hadn’t played a whole lot of electric. I wanted to get some pedals and I got an electro-harmonics memory board. That’s what provides the fucked-up tape sound.
7. “Unknown Big Secret”
It’s about wondering what you don’t know about yourself and what do you ignore and what do you hide. Maybe you’re downplaying something that is a bigger deal. It’s about having different feelings like that and figuring out who you are. Do you address certain things mentally or do you push some things back? Some people go to therapy and talk about all that stuff. I often think, “Am I racking up some kind of mental debt?” But then you go to a therapist and they tell you things are wrong that you didn’t know about.
8. “Anything You Want”
A lot of these songs are about the bad things that happen in a marriage or the unpleasant interactions. You have to get through them as you’re adjusting to one another. I’m not the problem. It’s a play on an argument. [My husband and I] can get in a fight and then I can write a song and I can say I was right even though I wasn’t.
9. “No Fun”
It was one of the first songs we worked on. It was also one of the last songs that we worked on. We touched up some parts and I had a lot of fun playing that one. It’s about wondering if you’ve been out of the loop. I was feeling like I was introverted and not paying attention to what was going around me. I would just listen to video game music and left Sega Genesis on. It’s about the feeling of finally poking your head out of the water.
10. “Seein’ Starz”
That was the first song I ever wrote about [bassist and husband] Jesse [Newport] and us meeting. Toward the beginning of our relationship, we said if we were both touring, we would never get to see each other. It was about trying to meet up with him. We made the decision for him to tour with me. We just can’t work for other people and we do what we want. We want to spend all our time together. People give us shit for it. So it’s rebellious in a sense. We play pinball and tour and screw and do what we want. It’s a poppier song. I’m into the irony of that kind of stuff. Whenever I do anything that’s remotely poppy, it’s more fun. That was the main thing with this song — it was fun coming up with the cutesy parts.