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Podcast interview with Cory Wong

"A Song Too Perfect To Record?" Episode 2 of 2 from Wong Notes Podcast

This transcript is excerpted from the full interview.

[Interview starts at 03:39]

Cory Wong: Okay Steve Jordan told me to ask you:

[Recording of Steve Jordan] Steve Jordan: In regards to Continuum, one song in particular was so good that he didn't want to put it out because he felt like he was gonna have to do it [for] the rest of his life.

John Mayer: I know what song he's talking about.

CW: He said it was the greatest song and it was going to be the biggest—everyone was going to play it at their wedding.

JM: Yeah, yeah, it's great.

CW: Why? Why is it not out?

JM: It's very close to being done. It was always close to being done. It was called, "Over and Over." It may exist somewhere if I had ever done one of those early, like, casts, those early webcasts of playing stuff off my iTunes. It's called, "Over and Over." And it was one of the first three songs that we did for Continuum. And it was gorgeous. It was a beautiful song. And it would have totally fit the record. I didn't understand the bridge. I couldn't get the bridge to work.

CW: Is it something that still comes to you now, where you're like, "I got to figure that out?" Or is it just completely gone in your mind?

JM: That song was really special. It just didn't get there cause the bridge made no sense. And I couldn't get it to work.

CW: Well the year is now 2022; you might not need a bridge.

JM: That's right. I could see myself doing that. I could see myself paving over it. I think I always knew that I would wait until someone wanted to do a version of Continuum that had some other songs. Steve and I—at one point I remember we were sitting at the Four Seasons pool and he had his little Filofax thing out—and we had two records. There was gonna be a double album for a minute. Did he tell you that?

CW: No.

JM: There was almost going to be a double album. Cause there were a lot of cool ideas. Herbie Hancock came in for something. It was really cool stuff. But it just hadn't grown all the way up. And I don't do songs that are 95% cool. I can't live with it. To me, there's a power source on one side, there's copper wire. And there's a motor on the other side. And it only needs one cut in the copper wire for the motor not to turn. It has to be connected.

You don't get the attention back in a song once you lose it. No one's ever said, "naw, you lost me. Oh, I'm back!" You lose someone, you lose someone. No one ever waited a song out. We think you do. We don't.

But that song was great. It was very sweet. It was very sweet. 

[Plays first verse of "Over and Over"]

Baby you can jump a hundred times

Just no way you'll ever fall

Out of my graces, out of my graces

I say for a second that you ever do

And it gets hard to look at you

Time will erase it, time will erase it

Use me up

Kick me down

We're good on time

[scats last line]

JM: And the chorus was:

Cause guess who

Desperately wants you

Over and over

Over and over

And guess who

Never forgets you

Over and over

Over and over

JM: And then it went into some [plays chords to beginning of bridge section]. It was like a key change that didn't need to happen. And it might have also been music lite. We don't know why songs don't work. But we know—

CW: Come on, man! That's killing. Just put a second verse on it!

JM: It had me sounding like me where I have to sort of yell.  

[John continues playing second verse]

You can cut your hair just to grow it back

And die it till the sink turns black

I'll recognize you, I'll recognize you

And when you lost your way, but I'm doing fine

I'll even lose my place in line

I hope you find whatever you're

whatever you think you're looking for

[Sings chorus again and then guitar solo]



JM: To me, whenever I see a guitar player not move their hands but change the music. Jerry Garcia did that all the time. Hand wasn't really moving, but he was getting it on, like—as we get better we kind of, like, stay put a little more. If I can play in a way where you can't see the shape when you hear it, then I feel like I'm getting somewhere. And even as I'm playing I can't hear the shape. Shapes have sounds.



JM: If more people in art take chances that may result in complete failures, there's just a higher chance also of someone else going, "oh, you can do that now." That's all songwriting is to me. Just remember it can be done. Or learn that it can be done. Oh, you can start a song with the chorus. You can't start a song with a chorus that you're writing, unless you remember that you're allowed to. [Otherwise] it wouldn't come up. You'd have to remember you're allowed to. [Sings beginning of "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and "You Give Love a Bad Name."]

So for me as I go into, like, production—a good producer just remembers the options. And I know there's the oblique strategies, like the deck of cards. But there's also primary strategies, which is like a bigger deck of cards. Which is like, start with the chorus. Or make the third verse first person. 

You know another great record, is "Because You Loved Me," by Celine Dion. She's singing one riff pretty much the whole time. [Sings "Because You Loved Me."] And it's the verse, and it's the chorus, and it's the verse, because it's so good that they just keep pounding it in the face. I love guitar players, but I don't remember in the last year putting a record on and pointing to the speakers and saying, listen to this guitar player, like I do with songs. I go, listen to what they had the audacity to do? I'm jazzed from hearing—I'm legitimately excited that a human being figured that out.