Pop Shop Podcast: John Mayer Talks 'Aware-itocracy' of Pop Music, Going to the 'Moon' With Dead & Company
Welcome to the new episode of the Billboard.com Pop Shop Podcast, Billboard's weekly audio breakdown of the Billboard charts, hottest music news and year's biggest musical events. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard co-director of charts Keith Caulfield and Billboard.com senior editor Katie Atkinson every Tuesday on the Pop Shop Podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in iTunes (click here to listen to the previous Tuesday’s edition of the show on Billboard.com).
Today on the show, we have a ridiculously fun conversation with John Mayer, who sat down with the Pop Shop Podcast before last week's Bud Light Dive Bar Tour stop at L.A.'s 500-capacity Echoplex venue (read all about that concert here). The intimate show was sandwiched between dates of his current Search for Everything tour, in support of his latest album of the same name. In our chat, we discussed his unique rollout of the new music, which began with Wave One and Wave Two EPs before the full project arrived in April. (Listen to our chat, below!)
"There were pros and cons to doing it, for sure. But the pros outweigh the cons," he said. "It definitely made [fans] more familiar with [the new music] once I got on the tour at the very beginning, so what we gained from doing it was that. ... I didn’t want the record to show up for a week and disappear, so it is elongated, which is good. The downside of it being elongated is that the messaging is a little wonky."
Part of that messaging: Something as simple as the album cover. "You know how people use the album cover in articles sometimes? It’s not even the album cover," he said of some social-media messaging gone wrong. "It’s a picture I put up on Instagram with, like, the nine panels. And in one of them, my forehead’s too big -- will you please put this on your website?" (You've got it, John.) "I want people to see this really bad photo that people think is my album cover. ... Someone took it and made the forehead too big and everyone was like, 'This is his album cover.' So you lose control of the messaging, but you gain a little bit of the blast of making sure people find out about it.
"It is a meritocracy -- like, yeah, good stuff gets listened to -- but it’s also an aware-itocracy, right?"
Before the Search for Everything Tour resumed last month, Mayer was on the road with Dead & Company for a handful of summer dates, and he admitted in the interview that it's not always an easy transition to go from the Grateful Dead spin-off band to his own solo jaunt. "I sorta look at myself as having to do brain surgery on myself for these things, and it’s sort of non-invasive neural retracing of my brainwaves. ... I go, 'OK, you’ve gotta unplug from this and re-plug into that.' And the time between unplugging from the spirit of Dead & Company and plugging back into the spirit of what I do is very difficult. And it’s very emotional. And it’s very depressing. Because we went to the moon, man, we went to the moon. That band this summer went to the moon. And then you gotta go home. And then you go to Disneyland [his solo tour], and you’re like, ‘Hey, we’re at Disneyland!’ And I’m like, ‘Still not the moon.’ But I’ll forget the moon at some point and remember that Disneyland is magical, so bring on the Electric Light Parade! But it’s still no moon. And so you just have to forget. It’s like a wonderful love that you have to get over and go, like, ‘Look, we have to give other people a chance.’ Until you go back."
There's so much to dig into in this interview -- like an epic story of the Grateful Dead's music getting Mayer through a recent MRI, why Paramore's After Laughter is "the best rock record of the year," and an ad-libbed country song to end the chat -- so make sure to check it out.
Also on the show, we dive into this week's chart chat, including a brand-new No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 from Lana Del Rey, a record-setting feat for Sam Hunt on the Hot Country Songs chart, and Niall Horan's first solo top 10 single on the Pop Songs airplay tally.
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