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Room For Squares documentary

This Will All Make Perfect Sense Someday

I'm doing laundry from last week, of course. Because tomorrow, which is now today, I'm going to New York City, to do a record. And I feel prepared. I feel half-prepared. Because a lot of the stuff is gonna be banged out in the two days that we have before we start recording, and I've never heard the drummer before, and no one's really quite sure what the songs are gonna be yet. We all have a good idea. And I'm signing my record deal on Monday, then I'll start recording on Wednesday. So that's all kind of like a cluster of stuff that happens all at once. That tends to be the way it works.

It's like three o'clock in the morning. I've got a flight out at noon, and we're gonna go to New York City and make a record. The only title that I have in my head right now is, "This Will All Make Perfect Sense Someday."

I don't know what made me bring the video camera. I think it must have been because I knew it was such a big deal for me to make a record. My dream had come true when I was making a record. I still don't think about success in terms of money. I think about it in terms of the opportunity to make another record. And I'm glad I have that footage, because that was a time in my life that, sadly, I'm never gonna have again. Where you have a blank canvas and you just start throwing paint down on it. Nothing was lost on me, at that period of time. Nothing was taken for granted. Every last little corner of every experience was appreciated. And it's something I'll never have back again. But I have video. Almost proof, you know?

So anyway. This is the most hoity-toity hotel room I've ever been in. I'm much more of a Ramada guy. Give me SpectreVision. Anyway. I'm making a record. We're making a record!

I grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut, which, geographically, isn't all that far away from New York. But I hardly ever went to the city. So my first real experience in New York City, other than school trips, was coming up to do music stuff. So I kind of began to see New York as the heart of the big time. You know, people getting stuff done. Not just talkin' about it.

John Alagia: I am so excited about this record. There are very few records in my life, that I've actually had the chance to work on, that I'm about ready to piss myself over. Just because I'm so excited I'm gonna piss myself. I will literally, you know.

John Mayer: So this is gonna be a good time, and we're gonna have a lot of fun.

Alagia and I were figuring out tempos for tunes as best we could, so that we could have some kind of semblance of order in the studio. You know, I showed up at his apartment, and I had a guitar, and he had a little metronome, and we went through every song. We had a list, too. There was a list, and on it was kind of like the main songs, and underneath it were some of the other tunes that I quite hadn't finished yet, and actually never got finished. But every record has those songs.

[Hand-written list:]

  • 3x5
  • City Love
  • Back to You
  • Neon
  • Wonderland
  • Great Indoors
  • Stupid Mouth
  • Comfortable
  • Love Song For No One
  • Man on the Side
  • Why Georgia
  • '83
  • Not Myself
  • No Such Thing
  • ----
  • I don't smoke
  • Christmas Song
  • E song
  • It happens every night E/Holly
  • Berkeley
  • E Tell Me What To Say
  • David Ryan Harris
  • LaBruyere

John Mayer: 3x5, I'm on the fence about. I think if we leave it off, it'll be a better song a year from now.

John Alagia: Now, what about Love Soon?

JM: Love Soon, I'm all about not havin' on the record. See, Why Georgia doesn't sell anybody that big. Because it's about the harmonies. That chorus is gonna be huge with those harmonies in it. That chorus is gonna be -- with the tambourine? [Imitates tambourine.]

JA: It'll be like D'Angelo.

JM: The two people that I've talked to about City Love, like "how do you feel about it," seem to think the name Lydia is kind of coppin' out.

The thing that I was struggling with was that it was so specific to a woman named Lydia, who was John [Alagia]'s girlfriend at the time. And that song is really all about what it's like to be in New York City, and be subject to this kind of beautiful corruption of a woman. Not that that existed. And the struggle was, well, do I want to mention specifically the woman?

And there's an argument, when you say, [sings] city love, high as the sky above, and I can't remember life before her name. "Her" is a lot more artistic. First of all, like, you know it's a woman. Or, you kind of just get the whole, like, city thing.

And I remember flip-flopping. But I think the phonetics won over everything else. Cause that's just the way it sounded, you know?

I think that very night that John and I had gotten together, we had a little pizza party, of myself, John Alagia, my lawyer, my manager, and Gregg Latterman who runs Aware Records. And I had kind of turned the camera onto Gregg without him knowing, as he was kind of talking about my mission statement. What it was I was gonna do.

[Cuts to clip of Gregg Latterman]

Gregg Latterman: If you own your band and you can tour cheap, it's like, we'll be on the road forever, and it'll happen. If all of a sudden it's like 3 grand a week, or 5 grand, or 6 grand, or 7 grand, then it's like, we have to question shit. But between Michael, whoever your agent is, and myself, even if you couldn't draw, we'd keep you on the label this year. If you keep doin' that, you keep buildin' the net, it's like, it'll go.

[Cuts back to John Mayer]

JM: And I gotta say, he was dead on, you know? He was dead on. This really for me is about, from the beginning, knowing where you're trying to hit, spending all your time getting there, and then giving yourself a nice little pat on the back when you make it.

One thing about all this stuff that's very new to me is, the fact that yesterday I was sitting in a room with four other grown men who are very good at what they do, and they were all putting their heads together to just think of stuff for me. Like, their job entails that they work their ass off to make sure my dream comes true. And, uh... that's weird.

When you first start walking in New York City, you're amazed at the solitude of it. Because it really should be something that's over-the-top and overwhelming. Because the buildings are tall, and the people -- but there's a lot of solace in it, you know? And I remember just accepting it. And taking whatever it was that passed me by, when I was walking on my way to the studio, into the studio. Looking back on it, such a real special discovery period for me. That was my shot, you know? My shot. Room For Squares was my, "all right, here we go, here's where we see if I have it or not." And I was as interested as anyone else was to find out if I had it.


JM: So we're, uh, first day of actual real tracking.

David LaBruyere: I'm still trying to get comfortable with this camera.

JM: I'm still trying to get comfortable with this bass player.


LoHo is on the Lower East Side. And like most studios in New York, you don't know about it until you knock on the door, hit the buzzer, and then it opens up and inside of this old building is a beautiful new studio.

I didn't want to make my record in Atlanta because I live there. If we're gonna make a record it's gonna be an experience.

It's actually kind of crazy, cause we're tracking before a record deal is even signed. Which makes me a little apprehensive. But, onward and up.

The drummer on the record is named Nir Z. He's played with Genesis and a whole bunch of great acts. And we were really lucky to get him. But here's a challenge of making my records. I might sit down and play a song on the guitar that has a certain feel. "Oh, that's a reggae feel!" [Hums riff from Your Body is a Wonderland.] Okay. Well, then the natural inclination is to keep adding with that sentiment, over and over again. So now the bass goes [hums reggae bassline]. And then the drums wanna go [imitates reggae drums]. You know? But I knew that wasn't the case. I wanted to make people just be like [approvingly] ugh! Ugh, ugh! And to do that, there has to be something of a bonehead trance-y drum part. That took a long time, not to know that I needed, but it took a long time to articulate to somebody like Nir that that's what I needed.

Wonderland wasn't there until it made the people who were working at the studio who were girls, like the girl interns, wanna do this: [dances with hands above head]. Like, the girl dance. Because that's what I was goin' after with that song.

But I learned in that record, I learned to speak up. I learned when to speak up, I learned when to say, let 'em try it. We'll figure it out as we go.

Being in the studio, I really started to realize my age. Like, I feel young in the studio. I feel 22. Sometimes I feel like everyone else is relating on this 31-year-old pro musician level, and I'm just like: [high pitched voice] "could this one be too fast?"

It was really close to my birthday that year, and I think I signed the deal on my birthday. While we had been in the studio for a couple days.


It's 6:50 on Thursday, and Nir [Z] is sick. We're now trying to figure out all the variables and constants in getting another drummer in here. So as you can see, [pans out to show David LaBruyere and John Alagia sitting down], we're working real hard on getting a drummer.


So John [Alagia] went through his address book and came up with Darren Jessee from Ben Folds Five. Darren came in and played on a couple of the songs. Nir [Z] ended up coming back in and being the guy for those tunes. But it was a real interesting little sidebar.


So, we're two weeks into the record, and we've got the tracks. Every measure of every tune is there. And we're really lucky to have that. Because making a record in that way, of doing drums and bass first and then overdubbing later on -- if the first braid isn't right, the braid isn't gonna come out at all. So we were really lucky that, in terms of what I was expecting, it blew it out of the water. I mean, the record was there. You could hear the tracks. And the great thing about Nir, and David LaBruyere who still plays with me and is as vital a part of my sound as anything is, is that they really filled these tracks with moments. There hadn't yet really been any guitar moments, or piano moments, or vocal moments, or lyrical moments, but there were drum and bass moments. There were rhythmic moments. And that made it really exciting. I felt like, okay, so far so good.