Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
South By Southwest is sort of like the wild west sometimes, and it's sort of like the most depressing pool of opportunists other times, depending on the time of day and who you're looking at or listening to. You're always listening to something and usually takes you to a feeling of spastic overload, where the ears can just rebel off the sides of your head and whimper away, wheezing and hacking up a storm, sickened by an overwhelming piece of exposure, a drowning. Everything's different and everything's the same so the experiences that stand out are the ones that occur so deep into the night that the body can no longer stand (regardless of the bottles of wine or the Tecate binge drinking that started before the noon bells blew) and you don't even know where you are anymore. The truly memorable experiences happen in the middle of open fields or in this case, a wooden shack three miles east of the downtown in the middle of the woods, where a bonfire is raging just down the hill and the beer that's available requires you to supply your own holding container - you might as well just lay your lips right on the tapper's mouth and bring it in the old-fashioned, backyard way. Jessica Lea Mayfield was there that night, the Friday evening (really early Saturday morning), a point in the week when everyone's already blasted, wilting under the hot skies pure exhaustion, but still mining the days for whatever they're worth. The gathering involved a secret show played by Dan Auerbach, backed by the magnificent Hacienda, all close buddies of Mayfield. So she was there, tugging an acquaintance down to the bonfire as the perfect setting for the backroads folksy blues really set in and made everyone in attendance silently stammer and grin. No night could have been more perfect than the night that this was, so of course Mayfield would have been in attendance, for these are the kinds of drunken nights full of sober beauty that she specializes. Here she was, with Auerbach - the Black Keys front man who "discovered" the Kent, Ohio songstress - on stage and the kinds of surroundings, the smoke in the leaves and a night that's not been drawn or premeditated, laid out before her as a setting that couldn't be overstated and yet it's familiar to her, the 19-year-old with a boundless ability to reign in pain and sorrow and make it a lovely sort of pill. She almost demands to be called feisty, with the horseshoe-like nose ring, and her tendency to cover her fingernails with cotton candied pink nail polish and those princess of the trailer park skirts that she so often sports. Heaven help the boys who wrong her, for there will be a grudge and there will be consequences, but those don't necessarily play into the fuzzy and absolutely memorable writing she does in her songs. The songs are explosive examples what happens to an emotional being when life's abstractions and blemishes sometimes get in the way, when things don't go as planned and there's a choice to be made - to throw a fit or to do the opposite and take those lumps. Mayfield has such skill in her songwriting craft at such a frighteningly young age that it's all the more remarkable - the pace and the voice and the tone of her words, like a forest whispering throughout the night - that she already can make unforgettable music seem so easy. _Blasphemy So Heartfelt_ is a gorgeous piece of art that breaks your heart so suddenly and so cleanly that you're able to keeping operating in that state longer than you should. It holds you, cradles you when it is what needs cradling. It needs the warmth of a bonfire and the security of being in the same place with all of your friends, the beer just around the corner and a night that only feels scary because it's bound to end sometime before you want it to and all those people will disappear.
Jessica Lea Mayfield Official Site