John Mayer Gets Heavy
Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.When John Mayer accepted the Grammy Award for best male pop vocal performance in February, besting such veteran singer/songwriters as Sting and James Taylor, he declared, "This is very, very fast and I promise to catch up."
He moves one step closer to fulfilling that promise with "Heavier Things," Due tomorrow (Sept. 9) on Aware/Columbia.
"I'd say 'Heavier Things' is catching up to the kind of attention I'd gotten from making [Aware/Columbia debut] 'Room for Squares,'" Mayer says. "When something takes off like that, it becomes your calling card for your life, but it's just one piece from one period of my life. Let's just think of that album as 12 songs; with my opportunity to make another 10, I think it's going to equalize everything out a little."
Instead of fear while making the new album, Mayer says he felt liberation because of the success of "Squares," which has sold 3 million copies since its 2001 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"There's an intellect with that first album that you have when you're young and dumb and confident," he says. "There's a certain swing-for-the-fences feel and a hurried nature that I think you have when you're making your first record and have much to prove.
"Now that I'm in a higher gear, I don't have to press so hard on the gas, and I'm loving it," he continues. "I'm loving not having to scrutinize every lyric. With the first album, every lyric was designed to say, 'Hey, this kid doesn't suck.'"
With "Heavier Things," lyrics are designed to tackle emotional issues in an unfiltered way, despite Mayer's rising fame. "I tend to write confessionally," he says. "What would be most detrimental would be for me to change the way I write. I'll continue to write from the heart and then figure out how to deal with [the personal questions] when I talk to radio DJs."
In additional to Mayer's stellar guitar work, the album, produced by Jack Joseph Puig, also features a number of loops and horns. "I am not the acoustic troubadour, handkerchief-on-a-stick guy that you think I was," he says. "If you think I'm part of the movement, I'm not. That's what you're not supposed to say in interviews, but that's the truth. This is not a movement that I'm part of -- this is my thing."
Time spent recording the album in an apartment Mayer rented in New York was virtually the only time he has been off the road during the past few years, in which he estimates he's played as many as 500 shows. He wrapped his summer tour with co-headliners the Counting Crows Sept. 4; it included many multiple arena dates.
Mayer will be quite visible on television in the coming weeks. He'll be featured in with a segment on ABC's "Prime Time" Sept. 18, followed by performances on the season opener of "Saturday Night Live" Oct. 4. Also scheduled are appearances on "Last Call With Carson Daly," "The Tonight Show," "The Late, Late Show With Craig Kilborn," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "Austin City Limits" between late October and the end of the year. He'll also be on NPR's "All Things Considered" Sept. 9.
The artist will be in Europe for much of this month prepping for the album's October release on the continent.
No matter how big his listening audience gets -- live or on record -- Mayer says his goal will remain the same: "I have a deep-seated need inside myself that I'll always have to always be understood. I feel better when I can get the idea in my head into someone else's head and then can say, 'Gotcha!' "
Ultimately, Mayer says, "what I'm really going for is when you flip through the Mayer section [in a record store], and someone says, 'Which one should I get?' and the other person says, 'I can't decide. You need them all.'"
Excerpted from the Sept. 13, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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