Home  /  All posts

Interview with Mihir Joshi

For eMusicPost.com

Mihir Joshi: How was it winning your first Grammy a few years ago, and then the next few? Does it change you as an artist a lot?

John Mayer: Change, no. Educate, yes! When you attach yourself to something that is already tried and true, that sounds great, and feels great, and you know what people’s reaction is to it. It’s very easy because it’s comfortable. Cause you can play other people’s stuff and it’s already been fought for by somebody else. But my advice is get off them cover songs and write your own stuff and fight for it. Cause when you win the fight, they are unbelievable gifts, to have those songs to your name.

MJ: You worked with a whole lot of different artists before Continuum and after Heavier Things. Everything from hip hop to blues to jazz. How was it working with Buddy Guy or Clapton or other greats like them?

JM: I’ve been unbelievable lucky to have support from everybody that I admire. Anytime I walk into the studio, and I’m on someone else’s turf, and I’ve got my away uniform on, that’s always really fun for me, to be in the studio and hear my guitar playing on a different song. That's almost free experimenting for me. Like, I did a John Scofield record ["I Don't Need No Doctor"] where I was singing in a kind of Ray Charles register, and I was like, wow, I can do that. So I brought that into Continuum with me in “Waiting On The World To Change.” Or playing with Eric [Clapton], learning as a guitar player, there is a way to solo through a whole tune without really soloing. You can be melodic. So, I learned everything from everybody, and it’s like any job you have, whether it’s in music or not, you can learn from that job. I’ve been really, really welcomed and supported into the music industry by these guys, so I’m really lucky. I have a lot to live up to.

MJ: Then came the John Mayer Trio! Holy cow, man! That was fabulous. It's good to see that Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan are still with you on Continuum. How was the Trio experience? Is a comeback on the charts? Is the rumor of a studio album legit?

JM: Triofinder.com. It’s actually the power Trio resource on the internet. You put in your specs and they break it down into thirty-five different facets and stuff, and we all came up as each other's… actually, the first one, the bass player died. Something I guess happened on match.com that he got involved in. But it was me and Steve and Pino and we ended up in the studio together. We actually started playing together for the Tsunami telethon, and just hearing the three of us play, I knew there was going to have to be more opportunities made for us to play music together. And it changed the way I wrote music, actually. When I started playing with Steve and Pino it just changed. I knew I had a different mouthpiece that I could write for. And so, like with any composer, if you have a different orchestra, a different band, you can compose differently. That really changed the way I compose songs and some of them are on this record.

MJ: Continuum! Now that’s an incredible new album. What was going through your head before you began this album?

JM: "Continuum." For whatever reason the word is kind of untouched by a lot of people. It’s not a word you hear all the time, but it’s a word that has a lot of meaning in it.

MJ: You also partly produced this album, right? How was that experience?

JM: I learned not to produce my own records anymore. No, Continuum is a record that I had to make on a certain term, mine. You know, like a certain type of my term. I had never experienced recording a studio album where the music was straight from me, and nowhere in between the creation and the execution did it get touched by somebody else. I didn’t have proof that I wasn’t the best producer for my record until I had gotten to the studio and started recording songs. I noticed there’s a clarity to these recordings that I didn’t have when I’m with somebody else having a conversation constantly about what’s this and that going to be. Steve Jordan produced the record with me, and the way in which we work together is almost sympathetic and symbiotic in the way that, my expertise doesn’t really nudge its way into what he does, and there are some things that I do that he doesn’t have the skill set for. So together we make this really powerful production trio, because he’s thinking about the rhythm section that drives the tune, and I’m thinking about the melodic stuff that makes that memorable.

MJ: Let's talk about some of the songs. Could you briefly tell me a bit about your thoughts behind each of them? Or at least for “Waiting On The World To Change”, “Gravity”, “Stop This Train”, and the last three songs.

JM: Love to do that.

Waiting on the World to Change

Well, "Waiting On The World" really deserves further study, but it might be just about what’s going on in the world today. The song goes on to explain the title in lyrics. Waiting on the World to Change is just a feeling. It’s not meant to be a political diatribe. I will let any political diatribe about the song take place by people who are really good at having political discourse. I’m just putting out there an observation as to my generation and how a lot of people I’ve talked to feel. And even while recording the song, we would drug people and bring them into the studio, and when they came to — with a combination of smelling salts and Epsom salts, which didn’t work too well to wake them up, but they had really soft heels — and they woke up and we’d say, "so what do you think of this?" And people in the studio that we would play this for would say, "that’s exactly how I feel." And when I started playing the song for older people, there was a little bit of trepidation in terms of having a song that was about not doing anything. Because if you're of an older generation, then you did something. And so there was a little bit of fear like, "I don’t know if you should come out and say that." But I was vindicated to know that a lot of people feel the same way. It’s not meant to cut any sides. It's just a feeling. That’s the most I can do: is to write about the way I feel.

Waiting On The World To Change was kind of the last song to come out, and I was really glad it came out. That’s how I knew the record was done. I came up with that song in two days and it was done and I knew that was the first single.


Every once in a while you write a song, and you’re not quite sure what it means until you grow into it. Some people can’t catch a break, and I can’t seem to catch a struggle. I think it’s probably a worse position for the guy who can’t catch a struggle, because you know when that struggle comes, it’s going to be all the struggles in one. And “Gravity” is just about being smart enough to stave it off hopefully. And yeah, that one feels good to me.

Stop This Train

It’s definitely the most emotionally confrontational [song on Continuum]. Time is moving forward all the time and we know that, but it’s like running out of a continually burning hallway, and you can’t go back and get your stuff, and all I want to do is yell “I want to go get my stuff!” And people go, “you can’t. Keep running!” This fireball’s coming up behind you. It’s not exactly as Indiana Jones as that, but it feels like that sometimes. Stop This Train is a song begging to go back. I played it for my parents and they pretended not to hear any of the lines, which I think is pretty much trademark parents.

It was actually a really good friend of mine, James Valentine from the band Maroon 5, who came in and helped play some acoustic guitar on this song.

Dreaming With a Broken Heart

This is a song that I wrote one rainy morning in the far back corner of the studio while they were setting up some other gear. It really came out of nowhere. It’s about when things go wrong with somebody, but you meet them in your dreams and they’re still alright. And that moment where you wake up and you go, oh yeah, they hate me.

In Repair

Again, like “Gravity,” I don’t really know exactly what the impetus is for writing it. It might just be this kind of emotion that’s waiting to come out in maybe another ten, fifteen, twenty years. That’s what I feel about this whole record, actually, is that I’ll be playing this one to myself and taking advice from it for a long time. You know, not knocking it, but unlike “I want to run through the halls of my high school”… kind of instantly dates of your life. But this is different because it’s just an entire spread of existence. It was originally going to end the record. But then I wrote this [other] song that was kind of a soul project [I'm Gonna Find Another You].

I'm Gonna Find Another You

"I’m Gonna Find Another You" was actually recorded in Memphis.  The horns where arranged by a fantastic arranger/producer from the very classic Al Green era, who actually recorded Al Green for all of his classic recordings. His name is Willie Mitchell. We all flew down to Memphis to a really cool little studio called Royal Studios. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a real, deep musical experience. I’m really, really proud to bring you this song.

MJ: “Gravity” and “Vultures” come in from the Trio live album. Are you intending on releasing more live albums? Because there’s a lot more you do on them, and it's fun to listen to them.

JM: Oh, they get longer. My songs get longer. I can learn a lot about a song that I didn’t know when I was writing it by playing it live.

  1. Read more about Continuum

Related subjects