An Interview With Long-Time Musician, David Mayfield
Posted On 09 Jul 2014
Tag: Andy Griggs, Asheville, Avett Brothers, Black Keys, Bonnaroo, Breath Of Love, Cadillac Sky, Christian Lee Hutson, Dan Auerbach, David Mayfield, Grey Eagle, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Langhorne Slim, Mumford & Sons, Nashville, NC, Rain On My Parade, Ralph Stanley, Randy Newman, Roger Miller, Ron Jeremy, Seth Avett, Shovel's & Rope, Simon & Garfunkel, The National, Trapped Under The Ice
Singer-songwriter, David Mayfield’s life is made of up some pretty incredible musical moments. From the days he played in his family’s band to playing alongside popular groups like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, this charismatic and eccentric musician finds musical nourishment in each opportunity that comes his way.
I recently talked to Mayfield to explore some of these moments.
Can you describe how your career as a musician has brought you to where you are today?
I grew up in a family band, then moved to Nashville in my early 20’s and became a sideman with country artist Andy Griggs. From there I went on to tour with the Avett Brothers & my sister Jessica Lea Mayfield. Then I joined a band called Cadillac Sky. We made one record produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. It was at this time that I was getting more confident as a songwriter and performer. I never had any aspirations to be a front man, but it was Seth Avett who encouraged me to do my own thing after I played him my song “Breath Of Love”.
When was the first moment that you realized that you wanted to be a performer?
I think I just always knew. It’s not hard when you grow up with a full PA system in your living room in lieu of furniture, and your parents are full time musicians.
Who are some of your musical influences? Who are some of the newer artists who inspire you?
Simon & Garfunkel, Randy Newman, Roger Miller, Doyle Lawson, New Grass Revival and Peter Rowan. As far as new artists, I really like Shovel’s & Rope, The National and Christian Lee Hutson.
How are you using social media networks and sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to interact with your fans?
I think the best way to interact with fans online is to just treat them like friends. I just happen to have over 10,000 friends. I try to post personal photo’s like funny things I see or me getting dressed up backstage. I like to tweet puns and jokes or just dumb stuff I say to my girlfriend that makes her laugh. I think thats what they wanna see. If it’s always just “I’m playing at the boom boom room on may 15th $15 cover” than its impersonal, and annoying and you won’t have their attention.
What is your approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes?
I need a deadline to be truly inspired. I’m always writing, and collecting fragments, but I don’t really start perfecting things until I know it’s gonna be time to start recording soon. I’m just too busy with touring and producing and going on walks at the lake with my girl, to sit down and really work on songs. Until it’s almost too late, then I scramble. I think some of my best songs were written days or even hours before they were recorded.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
I do have a Ron Jeremy story!
I played at Bonnaroo a few years ago, and was on the side of the stage watching Mumford & Sons. I had just done a month long tour with them and I always came out and sang on this one particular song. I was assuming they would ask me to, but I didn’t want to just walk out. They started the song, and Ron Jeremy walks up beside me and says “I love these guys, I saw them on Conan”. Then Winston from M&S started motioning for me to come onstage, Ron thought they were motioning for him. It became this comical “You. Yes you. No, not you” moment until he finally got the idea. I went out and sang, and before I left they said, make sure that porno guy doesn’t come onstage!
Where has been your favorite place to perform? Favorite venue?
That’s like picking a favorite step-child! I would have to say I love the Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC. It’s a fun room and everyone there is awesome. Plus it’s in Asheville so there is lots of cool fun stuff to do before soundcheck.
What is your favorite song to perform and why?
I think that changes so often, just depending on what mood I’m in. “Trapped Under the Ice” is a very fun one. The crowd gets into it and its very punk in nature so we get to go nuts a little. There is a song on the new album that I wrote with Langhorne Slim called “Rain On My Parade”. It’s sooo much fun!
If you all had the opportunity to work with any artist/band from the past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Living: My dream would be to write, perform, & produce an album with Randy Newman. He’s my idol. Maybe he’ll read this, Rand? Dead: I would love to hang out with Roger Miller and pick his sad clever brain for a while.
You come from a very musical family. How has that upbringing affected your music? What was it like touring with your sister?
Growing up in a homeschool family bluegrass band isn’t as unique as I thought it was. I meet so many people who say they were home schooled and then its just like Oh yeah what did you play in the bluegrass band? For me it was very unique because its what my family did for a living. My parents didn’t have any other jobs, so we supported ourselves solely on music. That made me an equal bread winner at age 15 and my parents knew that and they respected me. They felt more like close friends than parents.
Because that was our only income, my parents instilled in us a blue collar way of thinking about music. That we were service providers like a plumber or an electrician. We were hired to entertain. I think it’s that mindset that fueled my performance style. I don’t want to be some group of musicians standing there playing a song, looking cool and serving out egos. I’m not there for myself, I’m there for the people.
As for touring with my sister, Jessica, it was fun because we are super close and the best of friends. It was also tough at times because she was only 17 or 18 at the time and I was in big brother protector mode.
Why is this lifestyle (recording, traveling) one that you’re willing to follow now?
It’s partly because its all I’ve ever known, and I have no other skills! Seriously, I have only had a couple day jobs in my life and I was horrible at them. I was a telemarketer for a while selling Catholic Digest Magazine. That did help me to handle hecklers I guess.
I can’t imagine I will tour forever, its too physically taxing. I believe some day I’ll transition more into full time recording and production. I already do that now. I’ve produced dozens of records and was nominated for a Grammy for an album I worked on. You can’t really plan that kinda stuff anyway. I say this now but I’ll probably be up there when I’m in my 80’s like Ralph Stanley. Except I’ll be shaking my ass.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
I just hope that they are entertained. In the end, thats the real reason I do this. I don’t have some big message I’m trying to teach folks, I just try to be honest with them, and share an experience and hopefully take their minds off whatever has been stressing them out.