February 22, 2007

A Rock Star’s Wonderland

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John Mayer will be playing dates in Syracuse Tuesday, Feb 27, New York City on Wednesday, Feb 28, and Toronto Tuesday, April 17. His album Continuum is available in most major music outlets. Visit www.johnmayer.com for more information.

John Mayer is currently on tour to promote his new Continuum album. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk tunes with Daze.

Daze: In the past with your solo work, you’ve catered more to a pop audience while with the John Mayer Trio, in contrast, you emphasized your blues roots. What were your intentions with Continuum and what does the future hold for both aspects of your music?

John Mayer: The Continuum record is kind of the result of having burned off a lot of what I needed to play in the Trio. I’d gone three or four years into a career that I was neglecting a certain side of my playing and thinking and writing, and to go straight into that and to just commit to that, really when I was done with the Trio, I had been successfully play[ing] pop music and really kind of guitar-based rock music. With both of those things under my belt, I could go into the studio and make Continuum in a really genuine way. I had already written the calling card for being a guitar player in the Try! record and it kind of made the Continuum album very genuine. I wasn’t trying to be in any place like, ‘Please know I can play the guitar! Please know I can play the guitar!’ and what the future holds, I think I’m in two bands. I think John Mayer Trio will rise again. I think when you’re playing with great people and everybody’s busy, it’s really difficult to get around each other, but we’ll do a studio record. I’m sure of it.

Daze: How did you get involved with “Music Lessons with John Mayer” in Esquire?

Mayer: That was to the credit of a woman at the record company who mentioned that I would like to write and I wished I could have a column in Esquire, and she got it for me and then it kind of became like two years of homework. You turn your column in and you get about four days and they start asking you to send your next one in. The cycle is pretty crazy.

Daze: Do you plan on continuing that anytime in the future?

Mayer: I don’t know; I could probably pick it up again someday. I just think the blog is so much… I can be so much more reactionary with a blog. I can talk about something that happened yesterday. I can talk about a record that just came out, and I don’t have to worry about whether that record is gonna be old by the time the magazine comes out. I just really like the kind of immediacy of the blog.

Daze: What songs would you consider your most overrated and underrated?
Mayer: That’s a great question. Overrated: people say, ‘I love that tune,’ and you’re going, ‘Do you really?’ Well a lot of the songs that aren’t on my albums that people like to request at shows, they think I don’t put songs on my record because…well actually I don’t know why they think I don’t. They usually don’t go on records because they’re not very good. And I think people like the songs that they don’t hear a lot. And they become kind of like cult favorites people love. But something that’s on the record…I’m trying to think…Oh you know, I don’t totally love “My Stupid Mouth.” It’s for me, it’s always been a little bit, it’s maybe one of the least melodic, one of the least satisfying songs for me, melodically. I wish I could have written that one better. And underrated definitely is a song called “Wheel,” on Heavier Things. The last song on Heavier Things. I think that if that had been saved until Continuum, it would have gone right on Continuum. It probably would have survived the two or three year[s] between Heavier Things and Continuum and still gone on it.

Daze: What do you think the worst stereotype is you’ve received by being a so-called “rock star?”

Mayer: Well, I could use some more rock star stereotypes. It’s the singer-songwriter stereotype. What’s the stereotype, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know that I would even call it a stereotype, just a side effect of the messages that you’re famous for putting across. I put twelve songs across on every record, and there’s only really one or two that are heard by a really wide spread of people. And it wouldn’t be a stereotype but it would be like, ‘Well, you just heard that one song out of twelve.’ You hope people can hear all twelve and hear the full understanding, but I guess the stereotype of sensitive, you know, sensitive bedwetter.

Daze: You and Justin Timberlake actually collaborated on a song called “Done.” What was this experience like and will that song ever see the light of day?

Mayer: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve gotten together with several artists informally, just kind of strumming my guitar and singing around on it. It’s a good chorus. I don’t think it’d be right for it anymore. We’ve gotten together a couple times. That’s the fun thing about music. Sometimes it makes it; sometimes it doesn’t. But you have a bond with other artists. If you work with other artists, it’s really up to them as to how much they’re spurred on by what you’re doing. I bet you’d think that if Justin was dying for it, he’d have said ‘Hey, I’m going to put that on my record.’ But I don’t think that it would fit on the record anymore. It’s part of an older sound for both of us.

Daze: Continuum was going to be a double album. What’s going to go on with all the tracks that didn’t make it? Will they ever be released?

Mayer: There’s a lot of stuff that we have in the vault so to speak. I also realize that its very difficult to maintain a really solid base of quality stuff that’s coming out. With Continuum coming out exactly as I want it to be, I just don’t want another record that I don’t have as much quality control over to be the next record that comes out. Each time you put a piece of work out, you’re indebted to that work by having to put out something as good or better next time. I really believe that. Or at least so dramatically different where you can’t even put the two together. So I just want to be really careful about following up a record like Continuum with an out-of-tune, off-pitch, arrhythmic, live acoustic performance. That worries me. I’m a quality control freak.

Daze: You’ve said that we’re in part of the first emotionally aware generation and how we were never really told we were going to get older. Now that you’re kind of pushing thirty, what kind of changes are you seeing in yourself, musically, personally spiritually?

Mayer: I’m kind of like slowing down in a cool way. I’m kind of simmering down. I remember being really intense about things when I was in my early twenties. Because you’re really kind of experimenting with the information you’ve just learned. When you get into your early twenties, you’re coming into all this knowledge, information, and sense, and you really kind of want to play with your new toy. That’s why you get a lot of college kids being very verbose and I just can’t connect like that anymore. I’ve done that. I’ve experimented with the knowledge that I have. What happens when you get older is it kind of compacts. It gets very crystalline and all of a sudden you just… I’m a little more Zen. Not completely Zen, but I’m a little more Zen. And I don’t think I would have wanted to hang out with myself when I was twenty-two.

Daze: What was your most embarrassing moment onstage?

Mayer: Most embarrassing moment onstage…hmm…thankfully the shows are pretty well drawn-out and I have a lot of crew people making sure that the show goes off well. Well there was the old story when I was touring, and I was opening for Guster at the Tabernacle and I had been putting tea bags inside of my Poland Spring water bottles. I was thinking that even if I couldn’t make hot tea I could put the bag in there and then keep the string out over the top of the bottle. And for whatever reason the string came off the tea bag, and I swallowed it but not all the way. So it was stuck in my throat, and I just had to level with people like, ‘Hey, I gotta cough this thing up right now.’ I was hacking onstage. That was pretty embarrassing. I don’t get embarrassed incredibly easy so that’s why I don’t really have a quick answer for you.

Daze: How did you recover from that?

Mayer: Well, recovery is always the worst part. Like if you forget a lyric, it can take the whole show. One of the first nights I went up onstage, I sang the wrong first line of “Belief,” and it has still affected me to this day, which is about two weeks later where I’m still thinking too much on the cognitive kind of level like, ‘Don’t forget that next line! Don’t forget that next line!’ So when you can be reflexive onstage and have it be second nature, that’s great. When that slips up, for whatever reason, your brain can fry when it’s time to really analyze everything. So recovery sucks.