There She Is, Jessica Lea Mayfield's Van, Miss America.
Behind every great band is a great van. And when these former church vans, daycare buses and plumber's work vehicles have racked up enough miles on the road, they eventually start being thought of by the band as another member of the team. Hey, we get it: It's hard to spend so many hours with bandmates (both human and machine) without a few things getting broken, a few good fights taking place and lots of great memories being made. We hope that, by exploring these stories, we might get to know some bands from both North Texas and beyond on a more personal level. Check out this feature's archives here.
Jessica Lea Mayfield's new album, Make My Head Sing…, puts a slight twist on the performer's previous work: Whereas those earlier albums placed Mayfield's sweet, enticing voice on a pedestal and let her lyrics shine through unfazed, this third album starts off with a biting guitar riff that's undoubtedly meant to raise eyebrows from longtime fans of the Ohio-launched artist.
And it does: Mayfield's voice is still present here, but it takes somewhat of a backseat to the lead guitars on the new LP.
The ploy works, too. When her lyrics hit this time through, they do so with greater impact.
Last week, Mayfield came to town for a gig at Dada to promote the new disc, which was co-produced by her husband and bass player Jesse Newport, who joined Mayfield at the gig alongside drummer Matt Martin.
Before the band's show, we caught up with Mayfield to chat some. Not about her new sound and her new album, though. Rather, we talked to the artist about her old van and the memories they've shared.
Artist Name: Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Van Name: “Miss America.”
Year/Make/Model: “2006 Ford E350 Super Duty.”
Tell me about the van's name.
Jesse: “She's the best.”
Jessica: “She drives all over America. She's on her second transmission, so she's a real trooper.”
Jesse: “She's Miss America, two times over.”
Jessica: “Her predecessor was the Miracle Machine. She's dead.”
Where did your van come from? How did you acquire it?
Jessica: “Wooster, Ohio. It was used before. It was used to take Amish people to the grocery store.”
Jesse: “Which is commonly known as a Yoder Toter in Ohio. I think that might be a derogatory term, but that's what the girl at the car dealership called it.”
Jessica: “It was very clean — not like it is now.”
What makes your van special?
Jessica: “It's like this magical draw. We both have cars but…”
Jesse: “We have to ween ourselves off of driving it around town.”
Jessica: “Everyone has these little habits that they create on tour that they can't get rid of, and we get home and we go out even though we have all the stuff at home to make breakfast and get in the van. Then we go get breakfast sandwiches and we eat them in the van because we usually have to eat in the van because we're in a hurry on tour, but we just sit in the parking lot. We're like, 'Let's get Starbucks and sit in the Target parking lot and eat these sandwiches!'”
What's the worst feature of the van?
Jesse: “The rear air conditioning doesn't work and, if you turn it on, it spits out hot air.”
Jessica: “It's been kind of a warm tour. We just went through Arizona.”
Jesse: “The A/C only works in the front, so you gotta run it kinda hard.”
Jessica: “Whoever's in the front is usually way too cold and whoever's in the back is usually way too hot.”
Who usually does the driving?
Jessica: “Me and [Jesse] for the most part. We kinda like to be up front — and we like to be in control, I guess.”
Jesse: “We like to drive. We trade off captain and co-pilot between the two of us.”
Any breakdown stories?
Jessica: “Yeah! When we were down in Austin for South by Southwest, we were driving home and that's about a 20-hour drive, which was our first big trip on the new transmission. We get about 90 miles away from home and the alternator goes out. We were two miles away from the next exit, and she just died — 90 miles away. The tow truck driver picks us up then drops us off at a McDonald's to go deal with another person.”
Jesse: “Yeah, so he left our van at a shop then left us at a shop waiting at McDonald's for five hours.”
Jessica: “We could've been home in less than two. Then they finally pick us up and we have to ride home with this guy in the front of his truck and we get home, he drops us off, van is dead, Jesse's car battery is dead and my car battery's dead.”
Jesse: “I called a pizza shop and tried to get pizza and beer — beer, specifically — and they said it was too late to order so we were just stuck at home.”
Jessica: “There was no food in the house, and all the vehicles were dead. Miss America let us down, but we love her.”
What are the best memories in the van?
Jessica: “Jesse used to record bands backstage at Bonnaroo in a hay bale studio. And they had a hotel room for him and his other buddy who worked at the studio and his girlfriend. So we just put an air mattress in the back of the van and we just camped out in the van for a few days.”
Jesse: “Jessica put curtains and sheets in there.”
Jessica:“It was pretty romantic! It turned into a little love den.”
Are there any modifications you've made to the van?
Jessica: “There's a big dent in the side door that's the shape of Jesse's butt.”
Jesse: “Yeah. I tried to close it with my butt because it wouldn't close, and it shifted the door. So now it hangs on the front quarter panel. It makes this weird noise. It goes, 'Pop! Pop!'”
Jessica: “It's a modification because it makes noise.”
Anything else you'd like to add about Miss America?
Jessica: “It's got some good smells going on in there. You can go ask her some questions, if you want. I have this image of you holding the microphone up to the van and it's like, 'Honk, honk! Beep, beep!'”
Jesse: “Long story short: She's doing well. She's had a little bit of plastic surgery…”
Jessica: “This could be the last year with her, and we're loving on her and treating her right, but we know we're gonna have to find something else.”
She might have to give up the crown?
Jessica: “Yeah, she's gonna have to hand it over.”