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. ●

Field Medic

“Any song that’s true is a good song in my mind,” says Kevin Patrick, the lo-fi bedroom folk artist better known as Field Medic. “That’s why I never find it necessary to add too much stuff to my recordings. I’m just into songs themselves.”

That principle is the guiding light behind Field Medic’s hypnotically beautiful and fearlessly honest new record, ‘fade into the dawn.’ Patrick’s first proper full-length release for Run For Cover and his first since making the leap to full-time musician, the collection features ten sparse, acoustic tracks that reckon with our perceptions of success and self as they face down the inevitable complications that arise from realizing any hard-won dream. Patrick has always written candidly about doubt and darkness and anxiety, but he digs deeper than ever before here, blending black humor and bold introspection as he weighs fantasy against reality and searches for meaning in the mundane. “I used to be a romantic / Now I'm a dude in a laminate,” he sings of life on perpetual tour, encapsulating at once both the tantalizing allure and endless tedium of the road.

“You always expect that in having some portion of your dreams fulfilled, your life will get better on a day to day basis,” reflects Patrick. “But I discovered that in the process of getting here, my desire to drink ramped up and my own internal self was actually a lot darker than I thought. That felt like something I wanted to work on.”

At the time, Patrick found himself going through a number of tumultuous changes: he relocated to Los Angeles from San Francisco, where he’d lived and recorded on and off for several years; he left the world of day jobs behind in order to tour year-round; and he decided to quit drinking, only to return to it halfway through a particularly grueling run of shows. It was the sort of emotional rollercoaster that he would normally work through in song, but even the simple act of writing seemed profoundly more complicated than ever before.

“I struggled after I got signed because every time I started writing something, I’d get nervous about whether it was good enough, and that went against my entire initial philosophy, which was to record and release absolutely everything,” says Patrick. “I had to learn to let go again, because the best songs are the ones that happen inexplicably, that feel like they come out of me almost against my will.”

While Patrick decided to record this album digitally for the first time (his self-released 2015 debut, ‘light is gone,’ and the 2017 Run For Cover-issued collection ‘Songs from the Sunroom’ were both recorded straight to a four-track), he managed to faithfully preserve his DIY ethos, recording each song in a maximum of three live takes. The result is a collection that feels higher definition and more ambitious than ever before (live drums and lead guitar appear on this record for the first time), but still maintains the raw, spontaneous character that’s defined Field Medic from the start.

“Back in the beginning, I’d record a song a few times, walk away, and then just choose a take and be done with it,” says Patrick. “I tried to take that same approach this time around even though I was recording digitally and didn’t have the same restrictions as I did with the four-track. I just find that if I dwell too much on any recording, it loses the feeling. You have to accept it for what it is in that moment.”

Patrick’s ability to capture specific moments in all their messy, complicated ambiguity is a large part of what’s earned him both his devoted cult following and his widespread critical acclaim. Philadelphia NPR station WXPN hailed Field Medic as a “West Coast freak-folk poet who will capture your heart,” while the San Francisco Chronicle praised his “intensely emotional” voice as a “melodic quiet storm,” and the Chicago Reader swooned for his “charming, unvarnished acoustic bedroom songs.” Patrick’s tracks racked up well over a million collective streams on Spotify, and his captivating live performances (in which he’s accompanied by nothing more than his guitar and an old school boombox) landed him dates with everyone from The Neighbourhood and Wallows to HEALTH and Girlpool.

“With the boombox, I have a few different cassettes with beats for songs on them to back me up live,” he explains. “I played in a band for a long time, but I was always more into lyrics than anything else, so when I started Field Medic, I wanted to find a way to give my songs some rhythm without taking any focus off the words. Now when I’m out on the road, the boombox is my bandmate.”

The road is precisely where “fade into the dawn” picks up, with Patrick recounting a particularly brutal night on tour in the infectious album opener “clam chatter in the heart of brooklyn.” “I swore that I’d quit / But I need a drink tonight,” he sings, setting up the album’s central struggle between restraint and release, moderation and obsession, sobriety and surrender. The woozy “hello moon” calls to mind Jose Gonzalez as Patrick meditates on the nightly loss of control he felt when using alcohol to temper his anxiety, while the waltzing, Neil Young-esque “the bottle’s my lover, she’s just my friend” confronts the ways in which escape can seem helpful even when it’s destructive, and the tender “it helps me forget…” (recorded in a single take into an iPhone’s voice memo app) searches for relief from the pressures we impose upon and the walls we build around ourselves.

“It seemed like alcohol was popping up in every aspect of my life,” says Patrick, “whether it be during my career, which is touring, or during my love life, when I felt like I’d rather be drinking than chilling with a girlfriend, or just in the day-to-day, when I was trying to forget all these things I felt anxious about.”

Rather than succumb to the siren song of oblivion, though, Patrick finds resolve and redemption in human connection. The banjo-driven “tournament horseshoe” draws strength from devotion to a lover, while the charming “henna tattoo” (recorded once again on the trusty four-track and backed by a simple drum machine) throws worry to the wind for a chance at real love, and the dreamy “songs r worthless now” spins a romantic fantasy about baring your soul at the end of the world.

“I had this thought recently that in my songs, I feel like I’m this super version of myself,” Patrick reflects. “In my day to day life I’m reserved and quiet and do my own thing, but in my songs, I can share how I really feel and say all the things that I’ve always wanted to say.”

In that sense, Field Medic isn’t just a stage name for Patrick, it’s a permission slip, an invitation to shed his self-consciousness and become his truest self. And truth is what it’s all about, after all. It’s where love and satisfaction and all the best songs come from. ‘fade into the dawn’ is proof positive of that.

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