Bonnaroo 2011 Spotlights: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sharon Van Etten, Abigail Washburn

Oh hi there. Are you going to Bonnaroo this year? Our editors Laneia and Sarah F*cking P*lmer are there as we speak, and so I’m gonna shelve my jealousy for a moment and tell you about a few of the talented, slightly lesser known female artists that’ll be shining on the Bonnaroo stages this weekend.

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield is a 21 year old singer/songwriter from Ohio who has a smokin’ hot drawl that I could listen to forever and just might. It’s difficult to lump Jessica Lea Mayfield’s sound into one, or even three, genres ― it’s a little folky, a little bluesy, a little country and a little indie pop/rock. Have a listen.

Earlier this year JLM released her sophomore album, Tell Me, which is filled with simple hooky songs about love that all sorts of people with all sorts of feelings can relate to. Also it’s produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, which makes it even more special. You can buy it here.

Fact: researching Jessica Lea Mayfield is as enjoyable as listening to Jessica Lea Mayfield. The opening sentence on her Wikipedia page states that Jessica Lea Mayfield is best known for writing dark, sad songs, and if you suggest otherwise then she’s gonna cut you. According to this interview, Jessica Lea Mayfield will never write upbeat songs like Katy Perry, nor will she ever tell you that she feels like a plastic bag drifting in the wind. And to the haters who think she needs to turn that frown upside-down, she says “suck it”.

Sharon Van Etten

Somehow I’ve only recently discovered Sharon Van Etten. Her Bonnaroo biography states that “[Sharon has] had some bad experiences in relationships. OK, more than some,” which compelled me to download all of her music immediately.

There’s something so incredibly alluring about this artist. It’s largely her music, which is stunning in ways that I’ve spent hours trying (and failing) to describe. But also partly because she doesn’t  promote herself with the same level of intensity as other singer-songwriters. Her most recent album, Epic, is (self)described as “laying a romantic melancholy lining over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak, without one honest thought or feeling,”  which is funny because it’s not quite true.

Epic is a short but stellar record, I’ve fallen in love with it and you might too. Get it here.

If you need more Sharon Van Etten in your life, I recommend checking out NPR’s tiny desktop concert or Autostraddle’s anticipatory Bonnaroo 2011 playlist.

Abigail Washburn

This Illinois-born, Nashville-based artist plays upbeat folk tunes on her banjo that’ll put a swing in your step and sunshine in your heart.

The New York Times once described Abigail Washburn as “Appalachia and folk-rock, with tinges of Asia and Bruce Springsteen”, which is fascinating and appealing in equal parts, I mean really who can resist a beautiful clawhammer banjo player who sometimes sings in Mandarin. Not me.

You can download Abigail’s latest album, City of Refuge, here.

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Jessica Lea Michelle is pretty awesome and I had no idea she’s from Ohio. That’s exciting I love it when artists are from where I’m from.

  2. Sharon Van Etten’s first album is one of my favorite albums of all time, SO GOOD. No idea how to describe it though

  3. I just lost my entire music library (I don’t know how I’m still alive either) so some new input is brilliant. This looks great!

  4. Woo! I KNOW SOMEONE ON THIS LIST! I feel less shallow. iTunes gave me one of Jessica Lea Mayfield’s songs for free.

  5. I <3 Jessica Lea Mayfield, her songs are melancholy and beautiful. There are too many Katy Perrys in this world…

  6. Pingback: Daily Update! – Week of June 6th | BA DA BING

  7. Jessica Lea Mayfield is playing the Belleayre Music Festival in the Catskill Mountains on Aug. 27. Should be the highlight of the summer.

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