During the past couple of years, John Mayer says, he’s learned “to grow as a person, with a guitar out of my hands.”
In other words, the singer/ songwriter/guitarist/heartthrob spent time “doing things as a guy, doing things as a person. Real life — yes. And I find that I’m a better musician if I can bring the real life with me on stage.”
And considering Mayer’s life, if you put stock in the gossip rags, includes a new relationship with Jessica Simpson, things must be pretty good indeed.
Mayer, whose third studio album, the soul-infl uenced “Continuum,” comes out Tuesday, has little to say about the Simpson rumors; he recently made a subtle comment by posting a photo of Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype” on his Web site blog with a note that reads “really enjoying this song.” But he says taking a little time for himself, including moving from New York to Los Angeles, has been rewarding.
“It’s a really beautiful thing to say that putting this guitar down is not going to mean that I lose my ability or my credentials,” Mayer, 28, explains. “Learning how to do other stuff, some of it was healthy, some of it was, ‘Let’s not do that again.’ But all of it was really beautiful.”
Of course, you can be forgiven if you haven’t exactly noticed Mayer taking time off from music.
The Connecticut native has been ubiquitous since his 2001 album “Room For Squares” went triple platinum. He topped the charts with its successor, 2003’s “Heavy Things,” and won Grammy Awards for his hits “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” Revered guitar elders such as Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy sang his praises, rapper Kanye West used him on his “Late Registration” and Mayer stretched his own six-string chops last year by forming the John Mayer Trio and releasing the live album “Try!”
“It’s no surprise to me that I was gonna play different music each time out,” says Mayer, who studied briefl y at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. “Even before I made a record I was playing two different styles of music; I was playing pop music and I was playing blues music, and I interchangeably ripped down the Pearl Jam posters and put up the Stevie Ray Vaughan posters.
“I’m here by way of my entire life. If it’s music, it’s music. And it’s one thing — it’s not eight different things. It’s my music. That’s the category.”
Mayer contends that “Continuum” is “absolutely not a soul album”; he prefers to call it “a pop album with certain ingredients of soul music.” But he was pleased to explore an influence that was only hinted at on his other releases.
“All the music in my iTunes folder and the stuff I always wanted to hear was R&B,” he explains. “The stuff that never got old was R&B. Ray Charles never wore me down; ‘All right Ray Charles — enough! All right, Sam Cooke, you made your point. She’s lovely. I get it.’
“They’ve always been there. And I like the idea of making music that can be applied to any decade.”
The album’s fi rst single, “Waiting on the World to Change,” also takes Mayer in a more political, socially conscious direction than he’s previously pursued — though he says “the hook of the song came to me before the real impetus for it, lyrically.”
“I don’t know that it’s the world’s most responsible rally cry,” Mayer notes, “but it doesn’t have to be. All it has to do is make you wonder. If you wonder whether you’re right or wrong, you’re doing more with a pop song these days than most any other song.”
After working with the Trio, Mayer is presenting “Continuum” with an eightpiece band that he says is an adjustment and “a little bit of a challenge to remember that this is not (a step) backwards” but rather incorporates what he learned from playing with the Trio and his other collaborations.
He’s also happy to be breaking it in on the road with Sheryl Crow, who Mayer considers a perfect tour mate.
“Sheryl and I have these concentrated, quick moments of friendship,” says Mayer, who’s been joining Crow on stage for a song each night. “She’s been the sweetest, coolest person to me in terms of supporting me as an artist. She’s been on the scene longer than me and has really extended her arm for me to get up to where she is.
“It’s selfless and cool. She really is just one of the coolest girls around.”
John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and Mat [cq] Kearney perform at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (September 6th) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $66 and $56 pavilion, $30.50 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit
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