Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Joelton Mayfield brings folksy alt-country to Evanston SPACE

Kara Peeler/Daily Senior Staffer
Though Mayfield has lived in Nashville since 2015, he said he considers himself a Texan first and foremost. He hates Texas-themed bars, though.

Joelton Mayfield adores baseball, loves pickles and is a big “croc enjoyer.” He was raised in Texas, but hates Texas-themed bars. Even after moving from his hometown to country-hub Nashville, he kept his small town charm as he pursues his passion. On tour, he catches baseball games when he can, shows off a giant pickle jar on advertising posters and wears his best kicks onstage. 

The Texas-raised singer-songwriter took to the stage at Evanston SPACE on the evening of July 11, coming all the way from Nashville. The show was one of the first stops of a more than 25-stop tour through the Midwest and Southeast. 

Mayfield showcased work from his EP “I Hope You Make It” and built anticipation for his upcoming album, which is slated to release in early 2024. He also showcased his quirks. Sometimes Mayfield blends songs, and other times, he shares the inspiration behind it, he said. Throughout the evening, Mayfield joked about everything ranging from Taco Bell to how cool Jibbitz are.

Chicago resident and audience member Calla Bordie thought Mayfield’s comments on Crocs, and having Jibbitz available for sale as merch, was “next level.” Their boyfriend was especially interested in the main poster, which featured Mayfield holding a large jar of pickles. Both Bordie and Winnie Penkethman, who also attended the show, said they were drawn to Mayfield’s humor, which spiced up the show. 

“Touring is my favorite thing to do, and I will do it for as long as I can,” Mayfield said. “I love meeting new people in new places and seeing what the art and music scenes are like … or going back to places where I’ve made friends and making new friends along the way.” 

With a sound that stretches across genres, Mayfield said his music falls somewhere between alternative country and indie rock, though his friends have referred to his music as “post-country.” Now, he’s incorporating more noise elements in his recording, as well as controlled moments of chaos during performances. 

His new album is almost finished, Mayfield said, though he might release some singles preceding the album. He recorded the album in 2021 right after a “gnarly breakup.”

“When I sit down to write a song, it’s just trying to write the truth of whatever I’m feeling or whatever image I’m trying to picture is clear and plain smoke and like a folk song,” he said. 

Bordie first discovered Mayfield at a folk festival in Texas they attend each year. They were walking by and heard Mayfield, and the music made them say “holy moly” and sit down to listen.

Bordie had been to a handful of SPACE shows before, so they were pleasantly surprised to see that Mayfield would be performing nearby, they said. But even for those who already followed Mayfield, his Evanston show offered something new. 

“It was cool having seen Joelton play unamplified alone at the festival and then seeing him last night with a full band,” Bordie said. 

Other audience members said they were drawn to the more stripped- down moments of Mayfield’s performance. Penkethman said what stood out to her from Mayfield’s performance was when the band left him alone on stage and he played both his guitar and harmonica alone — she was “blown away.”

Mayfield wore camouflage Crocs onstage and even sold Jibbitz as merch. (Kara Peeler/Daily Senior Staffer)

The Evanston SPACE venue is intimate and homey, with rows of candlelit tables in front of the stage. Bordie said they enjoyed how this closeness made the music feel even more personal. Penkethman appreciated how the venue was “beautifully laid out” with comfortable, relaxing vibes. 

Mayfield performed at this show with Anna Kellam, a singer-songwriter and friend of Mayfield’s. The musician came from Savannah, Georgia and Nashville to sing original songs such as “dog park” and “Run Run Baby.” 

Penkethman came into Evanston for the concert because she met Kellam when they were both studying in Beijing, and it had been about four years since they’d seen each other. And while she was happy to explore Mayfield’s music, she said she cried through Kellam’s whole set. 

“Anna and Joelton are powerhouse talents, and I feel like people should watch out because they’re about to get really famous,” Penkethman said. “It felt like a little secret that I stumbled upon.” 

Email: [email protected]t

Twitter: @karapeeler

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