I love John Mayer. Most of you know that. I’ve seen him several times live and every concert I go to reminds me of why he remains my favorite. He’s the real thing.
So many mainstream artists have huge teams of people behind them who write their songs, produce their records and promote their albums. The “artist” gets famous because they sell the music. They sing someone else’s songs in front of millions of people.
John Mayer is different. He writes his lyrics. He writes his music. He can tear it up on the guitar like no one else. Seriously. The best stuff I’ve ever heard him play is during the encore of his shows when he unplugs his guitar, goes totally acoustic and improvises. My favorite album of his is called The Village Sessions, and it’s him on an acoustic guitar alone in a studio. It’s John Mayer raw. The guy is amazing.
So I was excited to read one of his latest blog entries:
It’s been a long time since the days of my playing small acoustic club dates, and though I’m more than happy (and extremely lucky) to be where I am these days, one thing I’ve missed is the creative spirit of working without a net. Some of my best songs were written because I had a show nearing and needed more original songs to take the place of covers. It was creation by way of necessity.
It’s been my stance for years that I don’t want to work out new songs on stage for fear of them getting out in their raw form. I’ve always believed that in music, the first impression is the most lasting, and I wanted to have the say as to when a song would be heard and in what incarnation.
I’m ready to change that stance now. I’ve realized that there’s a new level of access into my life, one that I accept as a by-product of both lifestyle and technology. And if there’s going to remain such a large window into my life off-stage, I feel like I need to open the window to my music equally as wide. I am still as devoted to music as I’ve ever been, and I won’t let anything redefine that against my will.
I’m going to return to that firefight, taking small late night gigs around New York City and Los Angeles, writing songs and playing them when they’re still fresh. The date of the gig is my self-imposed finish line and I will play a new song with each set I perform.
Lat night I played a set at Mercury Lounge, where I tested a new song called “Let a Man Be Lost”, and it was amazing to be back in that place of staring at my feet to read lyrics that I wrote that afternoon.
One of the side-effects of this process is that these works-in-progress will probably be available to you in one way or another. It’s your decision to listen to them if you like but it’s my decision to rework them, strip them down to just their title and re-write from the ground up, or just burn them down completely, never to play them again.
I’m also ready to accept the fact that some people will try and read into the lyrics and make gossip out of them, but I can’t worry about that. Trying to avoid that would be the worst thing for my songwriting. I won’t let the success I’ve had make me comfortable, or the media exposure make me fearful of expressing myself.
Stand-up comedians like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have it right. They get to the top with their act, only to deconstruct it and start from scratch in a brick basement. That’s the only way I can see staying vital as a musician; picking fights with all the hundreds of excuses that curb creativity.
See you on the street.
I doubt he’ll ever come play a club in Colorado. We’re sorely lacking in the arts department in this state. I think Boulder’s our best hope. But if he ever does, count on me being in the audience.
P.S. For any other fans out there, here’s his his new duet with Alicia Keys. You’re welcome.