Jessica Lea Mayfield continued performing and touring while she privately endured pain and trauma from years of domestic violence.

At home in a small apartment she shared with her husband, the alt-rock artist quietly wrote songs on an acoustic baritone guitar as her marriage fell apart.

With their strikingly honest lyrics and emotive melodies, the songs Mayfield crafted revealed glimpses of her harmful relationship and helped her process the hurt and abuse. Music gave her a voice to address her ordeal, perhaps even before she could speak of it. And so began her harrowing path to healing, reclaiming her identity, and rebuilding her life. The collection of 11 tracks became her empowering new album Sorry Is Gone.

“The whole record is about me taking my life back, without really realizing it. I realized I’m the only person that is going to look out for me,” Mayfield said in a statement. “I have to sing about things and write about things that have happened to me as therapy. …This is my inner dialogue and my chance to get the last word.”

Mayfield will perform at the Independent in San Francisco on January 30, 2018 with opening act Sun Seeker.

She strikes a shrewd balance with her lyrics. In the title track, she bravely broaches the weight of a dark subject with an aptly light jab set against a serene mid-tempo melody that is floaty and dreamy.

“It's nice to have a guy around / For lifting heavy things and opening jars / Should we really let them in our beds? / Chain ‘em to a little house outside,” she sings in “Sorry Is Gone.”

The hypnotic, almost monotone, vocals on “Safe 2 Connect 2” break just right to showcase her edgy guitar work and offer a bit of humor as Mayfield sings, “Any tips on how to feel more human? / Or how to un-dehumanize someone / I’m only asking for a friend.”

The echoey “Meadow” is about not being able to trust a person who you would expect to trust completely. “When I think about this song, I was wandering around this meadow with my ex and thinking, ‘Can I believe anything you say?’ And the sky was orange and purple and everything felt weird and wrong,” Mayfield has said. “It is mainly about being in a place you don't want to be in.”

Sorry Is Gone, Mayfield’s fourth solo album, was recorded with producer John Agnello, known for his work with Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, and Dinosaur Jr. It features notable musicians including Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers on backing vocals and keys as well as drummer Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Sun Kil Moon. The LP was released September 29, 2017 on ATO Records.

Originally from Kent, Ohio, Mayfield was 8 years old when she started performing in her family’s bluegrass band One Way Rider. At 15, she recorded the EP White Lies, with her brother David MayfieldDan Auerbach of the Black Keys heard the EP and approached her to record. He produced her acclaimed debut studio album With Blasphemy So Heartfelt in 2008 and Tell Me in 2011.

Her 2014 album Make My Head Sing, which she co-produced with her then-husband/bandmate, was praised for its scorching electric guitar lines and its compelling “raw, minimalist sound.” In 2015 she collaborated with Avett on Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith.

Mayfield, now living in Nashville, said she struggled with whether or not to publicly share her story, but felt it necessary in order to help others who may be in similar threatening situations. In July 2017 she posted a picture on Instagram of herself in a hospital bed and posted the following statement.

“Last week, I had surgery for a broken shoulder related to a domestic violence incident. I had been suffering with this injury (and others that still require surgeries) for three years. This is not uncommon. I want to tell anyone who is protecting their abuser that it’s not worth it. No one who hurts you loves you. … Leave after the first time. It only gets worse. My silence helps no one except the person who did this to me.”

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sun Seeker
The Independent
January 30, 2018
8pm, $15-$18