Hey everyone, this is John Mayer. I'm using Clubhouse—maybe the second or third time—but this time feels the most useful.
I am going to play for you my new record Sob Rock. And going to hang for a bit and talk about the songs. It is release night and I am excited. So a disclaimer: an excited artist the night the record comes out might not be all that mindful about sounding conceited. I'm just purely excited about the work that I've done and even more excited that you get to hear it. You ever felt like after you sent an email to someone and it goes "whoosh," you have to read it back immediately because now it's in their hands and you need to read it for the first time knowing that it's now in their inbox? That's how I've been listening to my own record knowing that it's what you're going to hear. And I'm so excited for the gates to open up into this big empty amusement park called Sob Rock that will soon be populated by people listening to the music and having memories of their lives and making new memories with the music. And I'm, more than any other record in my life, I'm excited for what the music on this record could mean to people.
Last Train Home
So let's start with the first single off the record which is actually the first track on the record. You may have heard it already, it's called "Last Train Home," and it goes like this.
[Plays "Last Train Home" track]
How good is Maren Morris? How good is Maren Morris? That's Maren at the end of that song. She also makes an appearance on a couple other spots on the record we'll get to. The fun part here is that if I were normally doing something where I was DJing my own record, I'd sit down and do the stuff in between the songs and let them load it in, but I can't do that because it's Clubhouse. And now I get on my release night to listen to my own record one last time. As I play it for you, each song that goes by stops being just mine and starts being ours. And it's a really, really cool process. My eyes are closed, I'm moving around. And like I said before, I'm watching you read the email. And it is really, really fun.
Someone told me that that song reminded them a lot of a John Hughes soundtrack and I take that as the highest compliment. John Hughes was a brilliant director from the 80's, made some seminal films, and the music in his films were always really stirring. So I take that as a very high compliment.
Shouldn't Matter But it Does
"Last Train Home" is certainly this homage to this certain kind of bubbly fun from the later 80's, and I think the reason this song [Shouldn't Matter But It Does] comes up the way it does in the track sequence is because I wanted to really let it be known that it's still me. I'm still here. I haven't left you, in terms of the level of musical sincerity that I like to put on records. This is a song called "Shouldn't Matter But it Does," and it's about growing up, maturing, putting things behind you in a thoughtful way, but every once in a while taking it out and playing with the thought of, "why didn't that work out?" And when you're younger, your emotions are a lot more histrionic and far out and fiery. And when you're older you just sort of go, "well, it's fine." And in some ways saying it's fine is a little sadder than pounding your chest and crying. That's how gone it is, is that you're able to stand in line at the super market and stare at the tic tacs and go, [makes crying sounds]. And that's exactly the emotion I wanted to capture in this song you're about to hear. It's called "Shouldn't Matter But it Does."
[Plays "Shouldn't Matter But it Does" track]
You know what I mean? You get old enough, there's enough road behind you to start questioning, "why did I get off that exit? Or why did I get on that exit, or get in that lane?" Listen, if you don't like metaphors you better bail now. The kid loves his metaphors. "Shouldn't Matter But it Does." That song was recorded live, and for you tech nuts, you can hear the phasing of the microphone as I move my head as I sing. That thing happens as I've got an acoustic mic and a vocal mic. And it's performed live. Which means you can't autotune, you see! So you are held to the conviction of the performance more than the perfection of the note. And I'll be driving in the car listening to this song hearing myself go, [sings line with last note slightly out of tune] "shouldn't matter but it does. Doesss." And I'll move it in my head, even though it's sharp. And maybe I'm the only one who knows it's sharp. But ain't love sharp sometimes? That was a seg[ue].
We're gonna go into the third song, which is the first song ever released for this record back in 2018. You can do that, you know. This song is called "New Light," and not to be a little pat, but it itself is sort of rendered in a new light when you hear it in this particular track listing. The thing about this record that surprised even me was how the three songs that had already existed before this record even came out, blended into the track list as if it had all been written in the same time. Which I was really, really happy about. This is one of those songs where, if you're an artist you'll know what I mean when I say, I got no problem with this song. I got a problem with a lot of songs of mine, but I got no problem with this song. This song comes on, I go: yup. And that's where you want to get to in a career. Is where you're making the kind of work where you can modify it and work on it and get it to the point where once it comes out you go, "yeah." It's such a cool interesting sonic palette for the song, too. Lot of low end, fuzzy, cool sneaky little things happening in the song. Hearing it again for the first time, it's "New Light."
[Plays "New Light" track]
I'm actually bopping like I did in the video. I dance like I danced in the "New Light" video because I danced like that while I was making this record. For some reason this song makes me dance in a way that's most kinesthetically comfortable to me. The way that I want to dance to this song might not be all that pretty to other people. But you know when you dance in a way that's honest to yourself and makes you really, really happy? It's a lot of shoulders. I got broad shoulders and I really lean in with them on this song.
As I was listening back to it, I was thinking it has the low end—it has a little of "Say Say Say," you know, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. [Sings and scats part of "Say Say Say"] And then it's also got a little bit of "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder. [Sings chorus of "Break My Stride"]
Which might be the single most visceral sentimental song from my childhood. I just remember listening to "Break My Stride." All these really interesting melodic things with a straight drum track. I think that's sort of what created "New Light" and made me feel like, oh, I'm really plugging into a childlike thing here, musically.
Why You No Love Me
That leads us into the next song. Which to me is definitely the sort of the pièces de résistance of the record in terms of the mischief and the bravery, a little bit, and the going-for-it. A little bit of fear—of people not knowing what I mean. But also a lot of conviction that this is what I mean. So I'm gonna tell you, this song is called "Why You No Love Me." And I've heard people already—wow, there's a lot of people in this room. There's a lot of people watching this. Hello everybody.
I've heard people online. What they call "chatter." I've heard chatter. People saying, you know, why not say "why you don't love me"? It sounds funny. And I get to say in one of these rare moments in my life: that's the way it is. That's the choice I made. It's not even a choice, that's the directive that the song gave me. And I got to spend a couple of trust-me points, then I'll do that on this song. I think it's right. I think it's correct. And I hope, and think, that you will with a couple more listens understand the language of the chorus.
It's called "Why You No Love Me." It's got as many moving parts as you can fit into a song. It reminds me of a time in my life before real rational thought, and just being a kid taking in the world in all of its way-too-tall glory. The end of the 1970's, the beginning of the 1980's. My grandfather's Chevy Nova. The first microwave I ever saw in my life. Watching a marshmallow get big at my grandmother's house.
And listening to the music as it enters your skull. This is where this song brought me. And I really did a lot of laughing while this song was being made musically. And I did a lot of crying.
And the white linen on the beach—it is kind of my take on a yacht rock song. It's the best that I can do as a writer/producer. It's as good as I'm gonna get so far. It's called "Why You No Love Me." Check it out.
[Plays "Why You No Love Me" track]
Listen to this great Greg Phillinganes chord. Ooh! My goodness. That's "Why You No Love Me."
And that was actually the reason I reached out to Maren Morris, who's on this track, and I'll explain how. I reached out to Maren because I heard this vocal on this song that I couldn't get to myself. So when I sing falsetto—because I have a very limited range—[sings part of "Why You No Love Me" chorus], it's missing a tone because I'm singing in head voice, what's called head voice. And I knew from experience—I had done song before called "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye," and I was singing all the top parts, and it doesn't quite cut. And I went, I didn't want to have that experience again, who can do that high part? Maren Morris can do that high part because she destroys me when she sings, she's got that thing. So Maren came in to do "Why You No Love Me." I said I can hear you on this track.
And what was so great about it is what you hear on the final version of the song you just heard—is the both of us doing that one voice together. And if you take her out it's just this kind of empty falsetto that I'm doing. But when she goes in, she's like the solid center of the note, and I'm the airy candy coating of the note. And together it's like this singer that doesn't quite exist. And the selflessness of being as big an artist as Maren Morris and coming in—it's almost like being a great actor and coming in and training in a tennis ball suit in a green screen and not even being seen as yourself. She's helping me make this sound of a singer that I can't get to. And adding so much depth to it. I'm really proud that she wanted to be on it, that she is on it, and that she's singing on a record in that selfless a way to contribute to a sound that when you hear it, you go, man, I don't know what that is, but it's really something.
And I still don't know what that is. I still don't know what "Why You No Love Me" is. I was listening to it and going, is this a little "I Just Called to Say I Love You?" And the ending of this song is—for you musos out there—flat six, flat seven, one. If one is [sings ending melody], which is really [sings ending melody to "I Just Called to Say I Love You"], as an homage to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." I just remember growing up and hearing that song and just feeling so enveloped by it. Sometimes I call a song a sperm donor for a record—sorry for that crassness of that—and "Why You No Love Me" is sort of the musical sperm donor. I go, oh, the rest of the record can sort of have this DNA in it. And that's "Why You No Love Me." So thank you Maren.
This next song, ooh! This next song was known for most of the recording session as "August 6th." It was called "August 6th" because it didn't have a name, it didn't have any words. It was just this track that was really hypnotic and cool and I hoped I was gonna be able to write lyrics for. And in true "me" fashion, I pulled it out in the 11th hour and really really fought. I would spend every weekend at my kitchen table with a little Pro Tools rig and a microphone and headphones and try to crack this song, because I wanted the music so badly. And I have a very long track record of losing the music because I couldn't find the lyrics. And I just didn't want that to happen on this, cause I just liked the music so much that I fought every weekend: let's try it again, let's try it again, let's try it again. In the car, obsessing. I'd bring the instrumental in the car. Try, and try, and try, and try, until I found the lyrics, that I had actually touched on on the record before, that [hadn't] quite coalesce[d] into a song. And let this be a lesson to you, writers: sometimes going back into the "semi-used" bin is extremely useful. It became a song called "Wild Blue."
I recorded the vocals for this song in my bedroom because COVID was at such a peak of threat in Los Angeles that it didn't even feel safe to be in a recording studio. So we moved a very skeleton crew into my house and worked outside under a tent, and I was in my bedroom as if it was an iso booth for singing.
And I really love that memory, that I did these vocals in my bedroom. The song is called "Wild Blue." I've never written another song like it. Super excited for you to hear it. It is a mega bop. And this is "Wild Blue."
[Plays "Wild Blue" track]
That's a fun one to sing. Cause you don't really have to sing it. You just have to get super mellow and pretend you have a Camel light in your hand. [Sings] "Never seen the sun before..." I just recorded it twice. It's a very JJ Cale thing. So, [for] the vocal, I was thinking, well, really loved JJ Cale. You know, I still do love JJ Cale, and the way he sang. What if this kind of hypnotical jazz fusion thing had JJ Cale on top of it? [Sings] "Never seen the sun before, lying on the ocean floor."
It also reminds me of "Wildest Dreams" by Moody Blues. [Sings part of "Wildest Dreams"]
I also remember singing this, and there's one line at the end of the song that is so funny to me. I go, [singing] "oh baby what a wild blu-u-u-u-u-u-ue, I found"—it's like the longest note run. It's got little funny moments, you know? That little interlude: [hums instrumental interlude]. It's very twirly. I kind of want to put on a thing and just twirl. Just twirl in a half-lit environment. "Wild Blue."
Also, standing in my bedroom while I was writing the song. "Deeper than I ever knew." I had that. Look over my bed, no joke, [singing] "on a bed of grey." I had a grey bed.
Wild Blue. Well, I hope you like that.
Shot in the Dark
Coming up next is a song that is about to be my single, because it has a video dropping tomorrow. It's called "Shot in the Dark." And I think lyrically it's to the 80's what musically "Last Train Home" is, which is kind of an homage to a certain type of vocabulary. "We're searching for the night together." "Casanova." These are kind of lines you don't hear anymore. People don't reference "casanova" in songs anymore. But I do.
This was a really really tough one to record. I didn't know I'd gotten it until after the record was made. Which is why I'm getting to know it now and really enjoying it. Because every other song was incredibly fun to make. And this song was incredibly hard to bring to fruition.
I remembering thinking to myself, having a "hit" with this song, in quotes, would be just getting this song on the record. I just want to be able to lift this song up, this heavy little thing, just up enough to get it on the truck. Good or bad.
I love this song and really want it to work. And I would have killed it, as we do as producers and writers and creators. We sometimes look at things and go, look, you have a lot of potential but I got to let you go. And I just didn't want to do that.
Now what's the anatomy of my disappointment of "Shot in the Dark" when I was making it? It's the next single. So that shows how much I like it. Nobody quite knows why certain projects or certain songs are interpreted with all of these biases, that this isn't working, this isn't right.
You didn't come here to hear me talk, what is this, Clubhouse? Oh, this is Clubhouse. Okay, I can keep talking.
[Plays "Shot in the Dark" track]
There's "Shot in the Dark."
And again, there is Maren Morris, seemingly used sparingly, but really to great effect because of her doing these "doo, doo" background things that are so glaringly feminine in a way that obviously I cannot get to. And the presence of that spirit all of a sudden at the end of that song, for me, is one of my favorite moments of the whole record. So again, I gotta tell you, for Maren Morris to come into the studio, and we put a song up and she goes "doo, doo, doo, doo," and I go, that's gonna be incredible! I just felt, she's so overqualified for that, but the effect that it gives, I think, is so beautiful.
So that's "Shot in the Dark," and I'll be very very intrigued to see what people think of it. Especially the video, which continues on with the Sob Rock theme, for sure.
I Guess I Just Feel Like
Now we go into some music that's been out for a little bit. Interesting after what's happened the last year and a half or so, how the tenor of this song has changed. I guess things going wrong is an evergreen prospect. But it ends with hope, as all my songs try to. And it's called "I Guess I Just Feel Like," and here it is.
[Plays "I Guess I Just Feel Like" track]
A throaty tone. A throaty guitar tone. "I guess I just felt like giving up today." Past tense. "Felt like" means you don't feel like it anymore.
I like writing songs that have open-mindedness. Like in "Shouldn't Matter But It Does," I was thinking as it was playing: "If it's on someone I blame the both of us." It just brings it down into this cooperation. I like ending songs emotionally well-adjusted. You know like, you say what you want to say, but in the last verse just be like, everything's fine, I'm just talking shit.
That was "I Guess I Just Feel Like."
"Til the Right One Comes"
And now we get into a song that I just had so much fun writing. There's these really interesting little moments that come around in this song that, you know, the mission statement of this record is that, if it makes you giggle, you may want to think about including it in the record. Because giggling is what you do when you think to yourself, "I can't do that." It's a nervous giggle. "I can't do that!" Well, I think if you're writing something, writers of the world, and you giggle—pay attention to what you giggle to, because it might just be something fresh that's coming out of you that your response is a little uncomfortable to, because you've never felt that, or heard that come out, or seen that come out.
So I just followed the giggles on this record. And this is interesting, someone who heard this song said, "wow, you're speaking for a lot of people." And I went, wait a minute, this is just about me. When I was writing this song, I hadn't played it for anyone and I was just like, this is how I feel.
And I normally think that I'm writing, in some way, to sort of sum up how other people feel too—some people. But it was such a direct feeling of how my life is like, [that] it was really cool to find out that some people share this sentiment.
["Til the Right One Comes"] is a reasoning as to why you haven't settled down yet. And it is really cathartic to say to somebody—like people say to me, "cause you don't want to have kids." I go, what are you talking about?! "Well you don't want to get married and have kids." What do you mean I don't? Of course I do.
And this is sort of my putting my foot down and going, let me explain to you why it's still just me. Cause the reason is really hopeful. You may have a really hopeful reason why it's still just you. I sure do. And that reason is laid out for you right here right now in a song called "Til the Right One Comes."
[Plays "Til the Right One Comes" track]
Shout out to Kurt Schneider, the engineer for this song, who, when I said I wanted a guitar lick at the end, took it from the solo, copied and pasted. I went, that's genius! That was a cool move. That actually is the solo put at the end of the song to just be a coda of itself, which is really cool.
And the ending I sort of visualize as like—again, we end on a hopeful note. "Who's that knocking at my door," see, it does go my way. Of course it's a fantasy in this song still. And I feel like the ending of this song is like the end of a movie or a Looney Tunes when they used to take the screen, it used to be a black circle that went down, down, down until you see the person almost disappear and then they're gone as they walk off into the sunset.
Carry Me Away
This next song is one you may have heard before, but not the way it exists on this record. I keep thinking about George Lucas, and his going back into the Star Wars films and retouching them. I did that for the first time in my career, I think. I've remixed a couple of songs, but they were known to be remixed.
This is a song called "Carry Me Away," that I knew could use a little extra music on it. I kind of knew when I put it out. I tell people when it comes to this record, Sob Rock, the album, I go: well, I can't tell you it's great, but I would've known by now if it was terrible.
And I kind of knew when it came out that it wasn't what it could be. And that to an artist is the same thing as it being terrible. Cause it's a terrible feeling to put something out that you know could've been different or better. We all gotta deal with it. I just knew pretty quickly, [and] went, oh! That really left the garage pretty quickly and now it's on the racetrack, and—like I said, metaphors. That's a NASCAR metaphor. That might be the first time I've ever gone for that. And I call that progress.
I knew I wanted to go back and write this feeling that had been in my chest for a couple years where I knew we could get more music out of it. And we did. And it was a little bit like taking younger—2019, if that's younger—John's work and going, come here, give me the record, what do you have? Just let go—it just needs that and that and that, let's just do that and that and that. And to hear it come back through the speakers with that fully fleshed out sound, I was like, this is full circle. I can finally put away this incomplete feeling of not having closure on this song. And it is called "Carry Me Away," and now I think its potential to carry you away is fully realized.
I say it again, hear it for the first time, it is "Carry Me Away."
[Plays "Carry Me Away" track]
That's a sneaky little appearance by Cautious Clay, a great recording artist. Dynamite young recording artist. Doing that little vocal thing at the end. Giving it just that extra little splash of sunshine there. So thank you, Cautious Clay, for that.
"All I Want Is to Be With You"
And that takes us to the last song on the record. And before we get there I just want to thank you so much, if you're still here listening. For sticking with me. And to wake up and be twenty years into a career and still feel incredibly excited to create things. To both make them—which I need to do—but also watch you discover them. It's the coolest job on earth. So thank you for the job security of continuing to dig what I do.
I kind of check myself to make sure I'm okay. I kind of make sure I don't have any injuries. Because it feels very revealing. But just like I feel safer with a guitar on, I feel safer playing music for you guys. This is what I do. You know, a lot of times I'm online and on social media, doing things that are ancillary to the thing that I do. And to have a reason to really sit front and center and express myself and play. This is what I do for a living. Being funny and, you know, subversive, I do that—as a friend of mine said—it's cross training. That's how you continue to keep your creative brain going so you can keep making your work. But this is my work. And I'm so thrilled that you stayed to listen to the thing that I do. This is my day job.
"All I Want Is to Be With You." It's true. It's also the name of the next and final song on Sob Rock. And it's written from a very, very direct place. [Staccato] "All I want is to be with you." It doesn't have a flow because it can't afford to think of one, it's so purely hurt. All I want is to be with you. And I felt that way when I was writing this. And it's real, you know?
I know how to give up, I know how to walk away. It's very much like "Shouldn't Matter But it Does," where you go, "I know it's over." So too as an adult do you go, "look I'm gonna be fine. I know how to do this. I just don't want to." That's actually what happens as you get older. When you're younger you go, [crying] "I can't live without you." When you get older you go, "look, I know exactly how to live without you, I just really don't want to!"
This song is called "All I Want is to Be With You." I really hope you dig it. Check it out.
[Plays "All I Want is to Be With You" track]
And that's my record! Sob Rock. You take six months to write it. Eight months to record it. Hour after hour, dinner after dinner, morning after morning. And it's 38 minutes. And that's what you do, you squeeze as much of your life as you can into 38 minutes. And hope that it expands again for someone else into something even bigger than what you put into it. And I hope that's this for you, I really do. I've gotten what I want to get from making music. The people who did not believe in me, are proven wrong. The place I wanna live, I live there. I need to buy a guitar, I'll buy a guitar. Those things are squared away. Where I'm at now is, where can I take you? I'm not kidding. Where can I be responsible for taking you?
Being the reason you had a happy thought. Turns out that's what I like the most. Of course, it's nice to have a house to feel that in. But once that stuff is figured out, it just becomes about transporting people to a place where they go, "thank you. Man, I haven't thought about that in years." Or, "wow I was getting over this and that really helped me." Or, "wow, me and my wife got married, we fell in love to this record, got married to this song." That's what it's for now. I hope you can hear that, I hope you can feel that, I hope you take this record with you all summer! I hope it scores some flings, and some things, and a couple of dings! I hope you get some sings out of it, and put some dings on it!
As you can see I'm using up all the silliness I didn't use, I thought I did a good job up until now. I know what you're saying. "John, I have stuff to do. I'm getting texts." So I will let you go. But I will see you again, whether it be Clubhouse or on the road. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you. That was Sob Rock. Stream it if you like it, buy it if you love it.