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Interview at the Grammy Museum

"An Evening With John Mayer"

Working with Don Was on Born and Raised

Don [Was] is like the oracle. You can check it against him. You're checking it against the real thing. 

So you can always go to him and say, Is this the real thing? Did those guys do that? Or, Do you buy this? And if he bought it, it was cool. There was more time with him telling me it was okay when I didn't think it was, than it was him telling me it wasn't when I thought it was. Which for me is really powerful. I need that. I need someone to say, What are you going for? And there were several times when he'd say, What else are you trying to get? And I'd say, I guess I'm not chasing a sound, I'm chasing a feeling. And we already have the sound, and who needs the feeling. Right? That's tricky.

And then there were times, which is the great part about working with another producer, it that I'd go, Let me just keep trying, let me just keep trying. And I would come up with something better. But the point there is you have someone else to hold the rope. You have someone else to let you go a little deeper down into the cave, but they can always pull you out. I think if I were doing it without him, I would have been in many a flat spin, many a night. But having him there to sort just check everything against. Even just having him say, "Give it an hour. Go look for an hour." At least that hour was spent purely exploring, not half exploring half saying, I got to get out—these people just want to go home.

I'm such a people pleaser, I'm trying to make the engineer enjoy the music, you know?


And if I do enough writing that doesn't come out, I go like, This guy probably hates working this job.

"If I Ever Get Around To Living"

This song is called "If I Ever Get Around To Living." And it represents this freaky end of the record thing where I was like, give me another one. I'll write another one. And I was playing a rousing game of Jenga one night listening to "Wooden Ships" by Crosby, Stills & Nash, and there's something about the way these guys used to write suites. Where they'd go from one thing to another thing—these scene changes.

So this song works in three pieces. The first part I had had. It really said something that was very important to me. I thought, Where does this thing go? And the next day I came in and added a second part, and the next day I came in and went, can I really get away with this? And added a third part. I think "Who Says" was the song on Battle Studies that sort of opened up and Born and Raised came out of it. "If I Ever Get Around To Living" is sort of the song on this that's gonna open up and take to the next record.

"Age of Worry"

It's so funny, I was just listening to [Born and Raised] and every measure that goes by, it's like a Soundcloud thing.There are certain wave forms, it has a little thing on it and it goes [demonstrated annotating a waveform], "I remember taking a walk to buy that guitar on Bleecker Street," or something. So there's all these moments that go by that are so lovely. And they disappear, sadly they disappear in a couple of years. I just heard Continuum back on the plane yesterday and I was like, I don't really remember every impetus for this, but all that's left is the music, which is beautiful, but for a moment you remember, like,—those cymbals. Aaron Sterling, who plays the drums on eleven of the twelve tracks, he and I had the experience of he's on one side of the studio and I'm on the other side of the studio, and he's going [sings part of chorus to "Age of Worry" while miming cymbal hits] and we're looking at each other having a blast. And I said going into this record, I just want to cook it with love. I just want everyone in it to be so loving.

I think I started playing the kick drum when I wrote the demo. "Boom. Bam!" That was like maybe the third song I wrote. And those were all just sort of a list of things I wanted to soothe myself and other people with just to—I remember gesturing wildly while I was singing it. Just to sort of like, almost like I was a ring leader at a circus. Just sort of like, everybody it's okay. You didn't go to the gym today, big deal. The big deal was that you told yourself that you had to. That was the big deal, was that somewhere without knowing it you signed a contract that you had to or else. And that's a really weird place to be in where there's so much pressure and it was just like, Give your heart and you're allowed to do it. I can't remember the lyrics unless I think about it in order I guess. But really what it is is a series of permissions. And then also it just became this gigantic sea shanty. This picturesque thing of sea spray coming over. And just telling someone, It's alright.