Tag Archives: Elliott Smith

Under the Covers with Jessica Lea Mayfield

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Jessica Lea Mayfield knows a thing or two about life on the road. The well-seasoned traveling musician was playing in her family’s band before hitting her ninth birthday.

A nomadic lifestyle was cemented when Black Keys’ front man Dan Auerbach heard Mayfield’s “White Lies” EP – six songs the then-15-year-old recorded in her brother’s bedroom – and agreed to produce her first two full-length albums.

Mayfield, now 25, spread her creative wings with 2014’s “Make My Head Sing,” adding new sonic textures and self-producing with husband/bassist Jesse Newport.

But with tour dates for “Make My Head Sing” winding down, you’d think the perpetually homesick performer would take some time off.

She’s not.

Instead, she’ll head back out on the road to promote her upcoming, long-in-the-works Elliott Smith covers record with The Avett Brothers’ Seth Avett.

“We started it about four years ago,” Mayfield told DiscoverSD from her home in Ohio. “It was one of those things that we did when we could. I went to North Carolina, and Seth came up here, but it’s always hard to find that time — especially for a project where we’re doing it for fun.”

Appropriately titled “Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith,” the project came from very modest beginnings.

“We were on tour together and just hanging around backstage,” Mayfield said. “Seth was playing the song ‘Twilight’ on the piano, so I started singing along. It really was born out of shared love for Elliott Smith’s music. Neither of us have ever done anything like this, but it’s something we definitely have in common.”

Mayfield also shares plenty of parallels with her muse. From guitar playing, songwriting and admission of unease in the spotlight, to the uncompromising, personal and candid lyrics of both artists, they share plenty of ties. But Mayfield admits that with Smith, it runs even deeper.

“I’ve felt a connection to his lyrics since I was a teenager,” she said. “But I meet people and they tell me that they relate to my songs. It always surprises me that people can attach their emotions to them. But Elliott Smith is one of the only songwriters that does that for me.”

After her solo shows wrap in February, Mayfield will hit the road with Avett in March. It’s undetermined whether additional dates will be added, but Mayfield is already working on her next album. And the strange paradox of a shy homebody who spends her life on the road will begin again.

“I can’t pretend to be normal,” Mayfield said. “I’ve made it this far in the real world saying what’s on my mind and I haven’t been locked up yet. Art brings out emotion. It’s embarrassing, interesting and intriguing. But a lot of times I want to hide all of these things inside me. I feel like I’ve given away too much insight and too many puzzle pieces. But I’ve put myself out there for a living. It’s strange, but it’s all I’ve ever done.”

Originally published by DiscoverSD

 

The Burning of Rome is on FIRE

Things are really looking up for Oceanside-bred outfit The Burning of Rome. The wildly eclectic ensemble was just voted Best Alternative Act at the San Diego Music Awards, and the band’s highly anticipated debut, “With Us,” drops Sept. 18, courtesy of Encinitas label Surfdog Records. Frontman and bandleader Adam Traub now lives in Los Angeles, but after a handful of years wowing audiences in America’s Finest City, things are finally starting to pay off.

“This band started as a recording project,” Traub said from his car as he made his way from San Diego to L.A. recently. “I was showing it to a lot of my friends and really wanted to make it happen live. And this generation of the band is actually the second one. There was a bit of a cycling process until I finally settled on the current lineup. And thank God I did, because they’re perfect.”

It was guitarist Joe Aguilar, keyboardist Aimee Jacobs and drummer Lee Williams who helped Traub release a few independent demo CDs, one of which finally caught the attention of multiple labels. And to the band members’ surprise, it not only got them signed, but it gave them options.

“This is the full-fledged effort of everyone in the band,” Traub said. “We kind of had our pick of the litter as far as people to work with. That’s something I never dreamed could have happened. And it ended up with us working with a producer that I have an intense amount of respect for. It was a situation when all of the cards fell into place at the same time. It’s just been incredible.”

The label the band chose was locally run Surfdog Records, and the producer was one-time Fiona Apple and Elliott Smith collaborator Tom Biller. But those choices were informed far more by what was going to happen in the future, instead of what had been accomplished in the past.

“Surfdog fully embraces what the band does,” Traub said. “And they want to do nothing but see us perpetuate it. And I dig that. They’ve never shunned the idea of us being weird, or trying strange things, or our theatrics, or any bizarre idea we’ve had for videos or photo shoots. They’ve always embraced it, and that, to me, is pretty awesome.”

And while the band’s onstage penchant for costumes and props is as diverse as their multitude of divergent musical influences, Traub insists that it’s anything but shtick.

“I never wanted to hit ‘record’ and try to be as quirky as possible,” he said. “It’s been more of a natural process. I love theater and musicals. I grew up on them. But there are times when we try to incorporate it more, and times when we try to pull away because we don’t want to be pigeonholed. But I still love it. I want people to be taken out of their element to a completely different world when they listen. That was the goal of the record. ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ did that for me. I’m not trying to make it complicated or weird. To me, it just makes sense.”

Not everyone will think a band dressed like the solar system playing the glockenspiel over punk rock and white noise makes sense, but it’s hard to deny the entertainment value. And that’s not the point anyway. The band never wants to become predictable or cliche. That’s why the members switch it up, and many times, wear normal clothes and leave the maternity mannequins at home.

“David Bowie wasn’t always ‘Ziggy Stardust’ onstage,” Traub said. “Every now and then, he took the makeup off so people would just listen to him and fall in love with the music, not the theatrics.”

The Burning of Rome presents its vision Sept. 15 at a San Diego Music Thing showcase at Eleven in San Diego. The band plans to keep the focus on music, but Traub doesn’t see a time when costumes, theatrics or an overarching theme to the presentation isn’t welcomed with open arms.

“We want to conceptualize things,” he said. “I want people to be in a different world. The goal of the album is to put people on a different planet. I want to release literature and all kinds of other tidbits with it, so all of it will pull you down the rabbit hole. We’re even trying to synchronize animations from our videos with our live set. We want the outside elements to combine with the music to send a cohesive message out there to people.”

Originally published in the North County Times on September 14, 2012

Joanna Bolme: Jick Chick

“When you’re a Jick, you’re a Jick all the way, from your first cigarette, to your last dying day.” Wait a second. That’s jet. No matter. When it comes to bassist Joanna Bolme, she is a Jick all the way. Ever since indie elder statesmen Pavement went on “hiatus,” Bolme has been playing with frontman Stephen Malkmus in his band the Jicks. Bolme is also a recording engineer who handled the mixing on Elliott Smith’s seminal Either/Or and, until recently, played with ex-Jick Janet Weiss, and her ex-husband/ex-Elliott Smith cohort, Sam Coombs, in indie-rockers Quasi.
I recently spoke with Bolme from her home in Portland. She was about to wrap up the last few tour dates supporting the Jicks’ August-released/Beck-produced Mirror Traffic — including a tour-closing stop at the Belly Up tonight.

Scott McDonald: You’ve been a Jick for more than a decade now.

Joanna Bolme: It’s strange. That’s longer than some of those Pavement guys. It’s a quarter of my life or something. But I usually don’t give it that much thought. I tend to focus on whatever it is that we’re doing next, but I have been there the whole time. John Moen was the first Jick, and I was the second. I’m on every record, for sure. It’s been great.

 

SM: How was working with Beck on this record?

JB: It was pretty awesome. First and foremost, he’s a musician, so there wasn’t any barrier between roles for him. It was just a group of musicians hanging out, and he was the one who was behind the glass a lot of the time. He came up with a lot of great ideas for things, and we trusted him when he said things like, “That was great.” It’s great to have someone that you respect and trust calling the shots in that department. A producer’s producer is probably going to make you do it over and over again until there’s no life left in it, whereas a musician recognizes the life of a song and doesn’t want to ruin that. His style was free-flowing and loose, and it was the thing that kept us all interested.

 

SM: That sounds ideal.

JB: Beck really likes those impromptu, weird things about Steve’s songs, and he really got Steve to keep a lot of lyrics that were stream-of-consciousness. There were songs that didn’t have any lyrics yet, and Steve was just making things up off the top of his head, and some of it was really good. But Steve, of course, was like, “No, no, I’ll come up with something for it later,” but Beck was like, “No way — those were great!” So we kept a lot of them. It was a good match for us.

 

SM: Has Steve moved to Europe?

JB: He and his family moved to Berlin for a change of pace. But so far, it hasn’t really affected anything that we do at all. It’s not like we see each other all that much anyway. Since he’s become a dad, he really has his hands full. It worked out thus far that when he does the band, he’s full-time band, and when he’s off, he’s a full-time dad. It’s just a more expensive plane ticket.

 

SM: Is Quasi still playing?

JB: I don’t play with them anymore, but Quasi is still a band, for sure. Janet’s just pretty busy with Wild Flag. That’s one of the reason’s she’s not playing with us and things have just gotten busy all the way around. But I’m pretty sure they’ll continue as a two-piece and be more of a recording thing than a touring project. I’m not exactly sure what they have planned, but I know everyone is really busy right now.

 

SM: Will you ever go back to guitar?

JB: I still play it in the Shadow Mortons, and I played it in the first band I was in, Calamity Jane. Then my friends wanted a bass player for their band, so I picked it up and actually liked it better. I realized at some point that I didn’t have an interest in becoming a total shredder. I taught myself how to play guitar by playing along with Keith Richards, so rhythm was always what I liked more and really felt. Bass is just more along those lines, and it’s still melodic. It’s more my style than ripping leads, for sure.

 

SM: So, it’s cool we get the last night of the tour.

JB: You are the last day of the tour. Watch out. It might get weird. We’ve already started going off-script. It could really go off the rails. But maybe we’ll be back on track. I’m not sure.

 

SM: What’s next?

JB: We have about 15 or 16 new songs already, and we’re working on them all the time. We actually play about two or three of them at these shows, and some of them are getting really good. We definitely have more up our sleeves.

Source: Originally published by  NBC San Diego on October 20, 2011