As solo artists, siblings Jessica Lea and David Mayfield are two very different performers on stage.
He’s a comedic acoustic-roots music revelation known for jokey facial expressions, shaking his behind, and sometimes hopping up on the bar.
She’s a more subdued presence. Her haunting, seemingly Southern alto (they’re both from Ohio) and beautiful psychedelic folk vibe transcend eras, as if Patsy Cline were jamming with Led Zeppelin.
Both are backed by stellar bands. His is a rotating cast called the Parade. Hers is a crack quartet big on individual personality that includes her husband of nearly a year on bass. But neither will be part of the equation when brother and sister perform as an acoustic duo at Evening Muse Friday(dec7). The concert is sold out.
“This will be the first time we’ve done anything like this,” says David Mayfield, 30, who played bass in his sister’s band as well as the bluegrass outfit Cadillac Sky before leading the Parade. They also grew up playing in their family’s bluegrass band. She started at 8, he at 12.
“These shows are kind of getting back to our roots and bluegrass-influenced things,” says Jessica Lea Mayfield, 23.
The stripped-down approach will feature duets, new arrangements of solo material, traditional gospel and bluegrass, and maybe a preview of their respective upcoming albums (his features guest spots from Dierks Bentley, Seth Avett, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver).
Despite the seven-year age difference, the siblings – who were isolated by being on tour and home schooled – were “best friends growing up.”
“I taught her her first guitar chord when she was about 11. She asked me to teach her this song ‘Creep’ by Stone Temple Pilots. I was a bluegrass kid who thought anything that didn’t have a banjo was the devil’s music. I was hesitant. She picked it right up and started writing songs,” he recalls.
“Before I moved to Nashville, we had a Monday night gig at a pizza place for five years. We’d get drunk college kids heckling us. It was sort of performing boot camp.”
Echoes Jessica Lea Mayfield: “One of the earliest memories I have of playing music with my brother – he was listening to (and playing along to) Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver cassette tapes. I was pretty sure he’d thought he’d invented overdubbing by putting two cassette players together. I was his guinea pig, singing all the parts he asked me to sing,” she says, laughing.
“We learned to play music together. I can probably guess what he’s going to do before he does it.”
He left Jessica Lea Mayfield’s band in 2009.
“I told him he needs to be a front person. ‘You shouldn’t be the bass player in somebody’s band,’.” she recalls. “It was rough when he quit touring with me.”
It helps to have her husband in her band now.
“It’s nice to have my best friend and the person I’m in love with also be someone that I work with and all that cheesy stuff,” she says.
But musically the harmonies and intuition she shares with her brother on stage are unique.
“You can’t match someone as well as a family member. There’s something about the way people talk (and sing) – that brotherly or sisterly harmony.”
Plus, she adds: “He brings out a more fun side in me when we’re on stage together.”