I first heard John Mayer's singing from a mix CD given to me by a man I had not yet met IRL, Bob Rhodes, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I had found his website in 1999 and we began talking through e-mail. We had a fair amount in common, being both English majors, but he was seemingly reluctant to meet (we would not end up meeting until February of 2001, when I was in Atlanta for a noder gathering
. Shortly after we began talking in 99, he sent me a mix CD, with one song on it by a local singer, John Mayer.
I was hooked. I dug up everything he's done from his mp3.com site (http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/23/john_mayer.html, which has complete downloadable songs on it, unlike the official site) and looked for more. At this point, the only release to buy was Inside Wants Out, but since I could get most of his songs for free, I waited until something bigger happened for John.
His lyrics have well positioned rhythm, and his range could hit the high notes and the bass. Not to mention that for my taste, he was adorable as hell. He groans and sighs and softly sings you to sleep, even when the subject matter is sad and regretful (see lyrics for comfortable and download the song from the mp3.com site)
He now has a second site, johnmayer.com, and has begun touring throughout the US
within the last year or so. As a one man acoustic and electric guitarist, he has picked up a bassist, drummer, and occasional keyboardist for his shows, but the sound and style come invaribly from him. On this second site you can watch a video giving background info from John about the songs on his new release, Room For Squares, which is produced by John Alagia, who has also produced albums for Ben Folds Five and Dave Matthews Band . I suggest that anyone interested in checking John out view that first, as it gives some insight to his personality, meanings behind the lyrics, and song soundclips as background music.
In October of this year, I was planning to see him play live for the first time at Voodoo Music Festival, which is a yearly deal here in New Orleans. This was also the weekend I had my first gathering as host. I had known about the show months in advance and I had gotten my ticket to the festival just to see John Mayer. However, due the combination of higher security at the gates with running around to pick up noders, I missed the whole set. You can imagine my delight, 3 weeks later, when Ted invited me to come up this last weekend and see John Mayer perform on his home turf.
When Ted and I arrived at The Tabernacle last Saturday, I had expected that he would be drooled over by girls (but I had no idea they would sing along so loudly and annoyingly), and I was pleased at such a turn out for this local talent. The thing that is completely unknown to those who listen to his studio cuts is just how talented John is as a guitarist. During the set, just as he was beginning a new song, a string on the acoustic broke, and while it was being changed out, he simply jammed along on his electric guitar. For being 23 and white, the boy has a hold on blues riffs that is quite impressive. He was also completely in control, both of the variation of his songs and in the inclusion of other artists' songs in the mix. He started on one song of his, worked in a few bars from a Radiohead song, then ended that and played a great version of The Wind Cries Mary.
But there was one moment that really caught my attention, that cemented me as a fan. John started talking just before starting up the song Love Song For No One (which is about writing a song for someone not yet met but yearned for and hoped for). He said, "You know, there's certain parts of the body that need a little more attention than others." Hoots and woo hoos from the crowd. Then John gestured to the inside of his elbow. "See this little area, right here? This part has been lonely. You know how you'll go out to a party or whatever and you hold it like this (gestures walking arm in arm with someone), then a little later on, you hold it like this (hangs his arm by his side as though walking hand in hand with someone). Then when you leave the party and you go home, you hold like this again (back to arm in arm gesture). That's what I've really been missing lately."
He could have been full of shit or beer or anything, but it didn't matter. That little monologue was something every person, male or female, single or coupled, could relate to, and you could feel it in the crowd. The chorus to the song follows like this:
I'm so tired of being alone
So hurry up and get here
So tired of being alone
So hurry up and get here
You'll be so good
You'll be so good to me
John's songs aren't all about love, but those that are inspire a sort of maturity about love, a realization that things seldom work out, but without much malice or anger or rage in his words. His songs about growing up, living in Georgia, and being on the road share the stage with this sort of feeling, and you realize that so many things in life deal with love. We just neglect to believe it.
There are few bands or artists that I support the way I support John Mayer, and in this turn of events I have gotten, for the first time, to see a musician start from somewhere small and show such promise and determination in such a short life span. On top of all the promotional shoots and signings, the rigorous touring and playing, John genuinely seems to be enjoying himself in his choices. As he said at the show this weekend, he derives much of his identity through connection with his fans, and as he appreciates us, we appreciate him that much more.
To read more about the show I saw, look for the 11/24/01 entry in the road journal on johnmayer.com.
Another hidden nugget: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/86/studio_737.html (download that song too)