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John Mayer Interview 08/21/01

John puts on an unbelievable show at Butler University in Indianapolis, where John expanded his horizons to old and new fans. After the show, John took out time to speak with me about his family, love life, his fans and many other interesting aspects about his life.

RY: So John, tell me about your family and what's it's like to go home.

John Mayer: My parents live in Connecticut and just recently put a bathroom downstairs so I can shower and wash without waking them up. I have 2 brothers, and I'm the middle child. I love going home. All that wacky family stuff that you wish you could've gotten out of being a teenager you come home to it and it's still there. You're just so happy that things don't change and it's like theres one thing in your life, and that's family. I love coming home to whatever is presented to me when I get there.

RY: So tell me about your religious beliefs.

JM: My mother and father were different religions and decided that they wern't going to push a religion on their kids. I think religion is a necessary set of parameters to live by. Whether someone can have ham on Friday or whatever. It's a framework and it's important to have that in your life. I had a little bit less of that. I have a spiritual side though, but in terms of truly embracing something, I'm not worried that I haven't yet. Everything is on a path. I just happen to be a little bit more abstract about everything.

RY: Are you, John Mayer, surprised with how big you've gotten in a short time.

JM: Nope. I'm not that big. In some ways, I'm surprised that I can come to Indianapolis and even play for 10 people. It always sounds silly for people to ask me if I'm surprised about how big I am. I don't feel like I'm that big yet. I'm fully aware that I can walk down the street and not be bothered by anybody and it's a complete surprise and joy when someone stops me otherwise. I don't feel like I'm famous or a rockstar and these are words that people like to throw out now and I'm just squirm at it.

RY: Take Chicago for example. You openned for Cary Pierce and Glen Philips at Schubas (a small bar) and then months later you're headlining a sold out show at the House Of Blues.

JM: I feel like a rock star on selected days, which is good. Certainly there are days like today that aren't rock star days. The House Of Blues selling out 1400 seats is a rock star day and I let myself enjoy that. For awhile, it's going to be a wet food dry food type thing.

RY: I've heard a lot about your musical tastes and seen musicians that have inspired you, but are there any musicians that inspire you that you don't often speak of?

JM: The sort of easier answer to the question would be more like, what I listen to now. I've gotten back into the Counting Crows in a huge way. That is some of the most brilliant music to have come out in a really long time. It's really amazing and it inspired me last week, consciously, to start working on my next record. Listenning to the Counting Crows from LA on the way to Colorado was a huge moment. This music makes me feel something big, like something really big. Forget the guitar player being out of tune some of the time or forget Adam Duritz always singing about California or not sleeping in the rain. Their music makes me feel great, but at the same time, makes me frustrated b/c it's better than I am and I want to be that good. That's really inspired me to start on my next record. When I go home (back to my hotel room) that's just what I'm going to do. In terms of people I listen to. There are defintely records you can pick up where you can hear me ripping off such as Charlie Hunter. He's one of my favorite musicians and he's a jazz guy. He plays a really innovative guitar, an 8 sting, and he plays guitar and bass at the same time and its very very cool. I'm completely inspired by him. I say Ben Folds a lot. I love Wes Montgomery's guitar playing. There is a record called Boss Guitar. I had not heard it for the longest time. I traded it in or sold it or lost it at some point in time and I just recently got it back. Rufus Wainwright, Martin Sexton, David Mead has a great record, the most recent one.

RY: I've noticted that on average you work in cover(s) at each show whether it be instrumental or with words, are there any songs you'd like to cover or plan to cover anytime soon?

JM: Yes. I will be covering Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" real real soon. Within the next week sometime as a matter of fact. I don't really cover songs unless I can do something with them. I love the Alien Ant Farm cover, I love it. At first site, you're like this is junk. Well it's not junk. Anyone who can take a Michael Jackson melody and make it better, I think is great. I fully believe in doing something with a cover. So, hopefully I'll be doing something really cool with the Bruce Springsteen cover.

RY: Any chance of a Ben Folds cover?

JM: Probably not. See the thing is people voices are so differently suited towards different things. I tried playing Daylight Fading, a Counting Crows tune today in my hotel room and it doesn't sound right. My voice is not conducive to those sort of movements. So to do something like the Bruce Springsteen tune is very much in that realm. For me to sing Daylight Fading is not. If I came up to you and started singing it, you wouldn't like that song at all. It takes Adam Duritz to follow that pattern.

RY: Inside Wants Out, a lot of your newcoming fans want to know if it will be re-released and if so, when?

JM: Yes. I would say within the next year, but probably not until then. I own all the rights to Inside Wants Out. When it came time to put out Room For Squares, it was a mutual decision to not keep Inside Wants Out going, it's interference. When you first start out at a label, you have a lot of ground to cover and you have to prove yourself. To have competition with yourself and with another record seems kind of counterprogressive. It'll definitely come out though and I'll be happy as hell when it does.

RY: All the females want to know, is John Mayer single, and if so, why?

JM: I am single and I am for two reasons. Number 1 b/c I'm picky. I know what kind of sounds I like to hear from my guitar and I know what melodies I like to sing and I know what I want my girlfriend to be like in certain very important respects. In other respects, I'm willing to be surprised. Number 2, it's not fair to anyone. It's less fair to the person that's at home. Whenever you have two people going out, and one person gets to go on a vacation, the person who stays at home, has to situp when they sleep b/c they'll choke on their tears. The person on the vacation, sure I miss you a little bit, but they have this constant stimuli coming at them. For me to be on the road, it would be nothing more than me proving to the person I swear I miss you, and maybe I would. I swear I'm not fooling around. It's not fair to anybody to keep them confined to something that's so far away. There's no time to cultivate any sort of relationship. I'm so ready to be in-love, I'm so ready to be sick to my stomach missing somebody, I'm so ready to say goodbye to my girlfriend when she comes to visit me for 2 days and choke on my tears in the back of the van silently for the first half hour of the ride. I want it. It's just not my time. Right now is very sulf-indulgent. I hope to be out of that phase at some point but right now it's important that I focus on my music.

RY: What about Robecca from the Real World?

JM: Robecca and I had been together. Why not? We wern't really going out, but we spent time together.

RY: Scotty Crowe, how did you guys get together and how did you know he was the one for the job?

JM: Scotty and I had met in an adult bookstore and he was soooo good (kidding). Scotty started off just coming to shows. He would come up after shows and somehow, conducted himself in a way that was just really laid back. Really sort of impervious to any fan boundraries. He seemed very effortlessly like the type that would be able to move into the world of being on the crew. At the same time, my manager told me that my road manager would probably be someone in an audience somewhere. Scotty emailed me shortly after and said that he would love to work for me in any compacity that I'd had. I had already met him and sort of put two and two together and Scotty is amazing. He is incredibly clever and creative guy. He's got this compacity to adapt really quickly and pick things up. He started out not knowing anything about being on the road and he's incredible.

RY: There's been a lot of talk about you touring with a drummer in the fall, any development or updates on that?

JM: Yes. We're going out with a drummer next week. We're going to try people out on the road. It may or may not be fair to the people who come out to watch the shows. We'll be making sure that the drummer only sits in on the songs that it works for. We're going to sort of take the kamakazee approach to finding somebody because it's such a high time to find a drummer. We never thought it would take this long to find a drummer, but at the same time if you don't find the right guy, you're selling yourself short.

RY: Where does John Mayer see himself 10 years from now?

JM: Living in New York city, hopefully having a career as a musician b/c there's so much output. I want a really high output. A high output in terms of records. Bringing a certain constant quality to my records, innovating concepts and melodies and hooks and stuff. Maybe being on the road a little less but when I do shows, it's really organic and pure. I think to be on the road this much is not a career thing, it's a now thing. Hopefully 10 years from now, when I go on the road it's real different. I would certainly not complain if I got as high as to do 3000 seat theatres all around the country for 2 months at a time twice a year. The other time would be spent living my life, writing, producing, and really being immersed in music. To give you a short answer, I won't be acting. I'm a musician.

RY: What would you say is the biggest obstacle you've overcome in your music? Also, what would you say has been your biggest obstacle career wise?

JM: The biggest obstacle musically is not being cheesy and not being cliche. It's always hard, especially now. Every song on Room For Squares is different from another song. I'm still struggling to find songs that are not like any other ones. I think it's kind of natural coming to terms with having a pattern. Everybody's pattern repeats at some point. I'm kind of excited by it, but at the same time I'm still holding out.

Career wise, staying on the road is hard sometimes. There is nothing that is a true struggle. Being professional each night is a challenge at times. On nights when I don't really feel like playing making no one notice that. Other than that, eating well and staying healthy is a struggle.

RY: A lot of your songs have lyrics to them that really hit home with a lot of your fans what inspires your lyrics and are your lyrics specific to you and relationships/experiences you've had or are they just things you think about?

JM: About 75/25 experiences to thoughts, but the emotional experiences are all there. It's 100% something I've felt before. It may not be an encapsulated experience, but they are all certainly feelings I've had. They are pretty specific to me and certainly how I feel.

RY: What do you feel to be your biggest accomplishment thus far in your life?

JM: Room For Squares coming out on Columbia is my biggest accomplishment. It sort of feels like a transition, it's a little piece, but a big piece. I am definitely going to take an evenning out when I get home to celebrate. It's something I'll give myself the freedom to do.

RY: What do you think is the biggest thing about you that nobody knows?

JM: The biggest thing about me that nobody knows....that I'm willing to share (laughs). I'm very panicky. I don't think people can see it b/c I'm very laid back. At certain times during the day though, I flip.

RY: How do you think the taping of your shows has added to your success?

JM: I think by virtue of taping a show, you become an artist. You are already a different musician. That to me is a compliment that people want to tape my shows. It's always what I've wanted to be. The kind of musician who each night has a show that's a little different. You don't hear people wanting to trade tapes of Staind. You don't trade N'Sync tapes and you don't trade a lot of peoples tapes. To be the kind of artist who people feel is playing at such a real time moment that is has to be taped, it's helped me confidence wise. It's also sort of given me that credibility that I've always wanted that people can't buy. If you have it, it's amazing. To see mic stands up in the audience makes me feel that I have that musical integrity that people want to tape.

RY: Is there anything about your life you would change?

JM: I'd be more responsible. I want to be more responsible. I'm the kind of guy that would drop money at a casino that I don't have. I can't wait to buy something to buy it. I think I'm growing up and maturing really well but I have this one immature "I have to have it now or else I'm not happy" type attitude. It's very possessive and very acquisitional. I have to have it and when I don't get it I'll find anyway to get it. It's impossible for me to want something and not have it in terms of material goods. If I don't have money for it, I will find money for it. I am very irresponsible in that way with money. I need to learn how to walk in a store and realize that everything there, even if I bought it, can disappear. I would change that part about me that needs to buy these things. I would change that and I'm definitely trying to.

RY: If there is anything you would say to your fans, what would it be?

JM: Stay tuned. I think to be a fan right now is to be on at a very early point and there is no pretense. You like it because you like it and you listen to it because you like it. You're sort of not only buying into one record and hopefully you want to be in the John Mayer record of the year club in terms of a new record every year or something and you're with me for the rest of your life. I would love to be a fan of myself or someone like myself. It's like you caught on to me really early. I'm twenty-three and people who listen to me are around that age as a whole and I'll issue records like they are magazines. It will change. There will be different issues and different colors. Like Dave Matthews getting chastized so much that he has for his last record. Whether or not I believe it's a great record, which I think it's a pretty cool record. It's just a cd man! You should be proud that there is a guy that is thinking about people in such a way that he wants to change things and try this and try that. He will be around forever. It's just one record. I also want to say to fans, keep an open mind. They are just records. Room For Squares isn't as good as Inside Wants Out in a lot of ways and is 10 times better than it in most ways. I think I have really great fans who are going to be really open-minded in doing stuff that is going to be different from time to time. However, I'm not going to go completely off the deep end and start putting out stuff that is just out of synch with people and what they listen to. I'm really excited about starting an output of music right now. I'll keep writing, if you keep listenning. We'll all go through it together and get pissed off and scared and happy and married together. We'll all grow up together and it's going to be amazing.

Copyright 2001 Richard Young. Any questions, comments, or concerns can be sent to Richard Young directly at RichardYoung@mystupidmouth.com.

Please note that certain parts of this interview have been edited.