Enthusiasm is contagious and that's why songwriters with a genuine, obvious
passion for their craft can't help but attract an audience. John Mayer has
earned a legion of devoted fans in and around his adopted hometown of Atlanta,
where he moved in 1998 after a stint at Boston's Berklee College of Music. His
creative songwriting and warm stage presence establish him as a formidable
musical force, and the smoky swagger of his voice at once evokes Sting, Dave
Matthews and Jakob Dylan.
Mayer grew up in Connecticut listening to pop radio until, at age 13, he
discovered blues music when a neighbor gave him a Stevie Ray Vaughan tape. Mayer
picked up a guitar, and within two years he was performing at local blues bars
stunning audiences with his mature playing. But he soon realized that the world
of guitar virtuosity was not for him.
"There's this really distracting glory in wanting to be the best guitar player
because all that really is, is copying somebody, seeing who can play 'Sky Is
Crying' better than the next guy," Mayer says. "I wanted to be listenable and
play tunes that other people could play but not the way I play them."
Mayer dedicated himself to developing his songwriting skills, toning down the
guitar pyrotechnics in favor of memorable melodies and distinctive rhythmic
textures. At 19 he enrolled at Berklee but realized in a matter of months that
he was more interested in playing music than studying it. "It was a great
learning experience, but not because of class," he laughs. A friend from Atlanta
convinced him to head south, and Mayer soon became a regular at such Atlanta
songwriters' nightspots as Eddie's Attic. In 1999 he released Inside Wants Out,
an album consisting mostly of solo acoustic renditions of his energetic, earnest
songs, as well as several tracks recorded with a full band.
The local press soon discovered Mayer and sang his praises. "This young man
knows how to captivate a crowd with his six-string guitar and honest lyrics,"
wrote Atlanta CitySearch. The Atlanta Journal Constitution saw all the makings
of a star as they described Mayer's qualities, "sophisticated, accessible folk
rock sound dominated by striking acoustic guitar playing, video-ready looks and
a sizable grass-roots following born in clubs across the South."
Mayer's passion for songwriting is immediately evident. "The very nature of
standing in front of a mic with a guitar that's in tune, the millions of songs
that could happen at that moment - I love that!" he says. "The best feeling that
I will ever have in my life is just walking, just being, the night that I finish
In March 2000 Mayer headed to Austin, Texas, to perform at the prestigious South
By Southwest music conference and afterwards was courted by several record
labels, eventually signing with Aware/Columbia Records. He began recording his
major label debut in the fall with producer John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, Ben
Folds Five). The new album, entitled Room For Squares, is a full-band electric
effort. Mayer was joined in the studio by bassist David LaBruyere, (who also
accompanies him on the road), as well as drummer Nir Zidkiyahu (Genesis, Alana
Davis). Mayer recently met with legendary producer Jack Joseph Puig (Eric
Clapton, Weezer, The Black Crowes) at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles. They
remixed seven songs, including the single, "No Such Thing." Also included on the
re-released CD is a brand new track which was recorded with producer John Alagia
entitled "3 x 5."
It's the dedication to his songs that inspires Mayer to keep writing. "When you
hear a great song, you trace it back to who the singer is," he says. "When you
can offer people that piece of you, that's what keeps them listening to you."