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Emoji of a Wave

Article in Rolling Stone, February 2017
John Mayer Reveals Personal Stories Behind Four ‘Wave 2’ Songs

“It’s about sitting in a feeling,” Mayer says, describing the emotional inspiration for “Emoji of a Wave,” a gorgeously orchestrated folk tune that features lush, otherworldly vocal harmonies – including backing vocals from Beach Boy Al Jardine and his son, Matt. “There are two levels to the song,” Mayer notes. “One of them is the beautiful destination I go to whenever I hear it, which is Santa Barbara on a rainy, cold day. The other level is just about this part of life and love that my brain doesn’t understand: wanting to act to resolve a situation but knowing there’s no resolution.”

The spark of inspiration for the song – the line “oh honey, you don’t have to try so hard to hurt me” – arose during the first couple weeks of sessions for the album. As the music came into focus, Mayer came up with the swirling harmonies in the chorus and thought, “This is kind of a Beach Boys thing.” Then came a stroke of perfect timing, and the kind of serendipity that can only happen in a world-class studio like Capitol. One Saturday afternoon in fall of 2014, the Beach Boys were doing a performance in an adjacent room, and Mayer bumped into Jardine in the hallway. “He said, ‘If you have anything I can sing on…’,” Mayer says, “And I was like, ‘Well, I do have this one song…'” Jardine and his son Matt made time that same day to record harmonies on the track. “How many artists do a Beach Boys thing and then have an actual Beach Boy come and sing the thing?” Mayer says. “That’s the joy of being in a musical community.”

March 2017 Twitter Q&A
Twitter Q&A session with fans
It had to be perfect. Countless takes. Re-cut that acoustic on about eight different guitars before it was right.
Charlie Rose Interview
Interview from appearance on The Charlie Rose Show
And this [album] is this idea of being as absolutely beautiful as you can be. Like, look, let whoever, the sort of intelligentsia, rock outlets, and journalists say that it pablum or it's lite or it's bland. I'm going to be as beautiful as I can be about being sad. That's kind of what this was. Listening back to this song "Emoji of a Wave" and going like, "that is what this [experience] feels like." Which, as an artist, and a musician, you don't normally get all the time. You come close. You go, "well, we'll get 'em next time. [I've captured] eighty percent of how that feels." There are songs on this record that I listen to and I go, I did it. I'm good enough a musician now to translate one hundred percent how something felt. And that is a possession as an artist that is more valuable than anything you can have.
Interview from Guitar World, 2017
June 2017 Issue of Guitar World magazine

My records have been very cubic, and I wanted to break out of that. Playing in Dead & Company had a huge impact on my thinking. Their music is so free it gave me another perspective. It helped me to remember that it's okay to have a guitar part that just plays in between verse one and the chorus, and doesn't reoccur between verse two, and the second chorus. In fact, you never have to hear it again.

Yes, I really enjoyed those ambient riffs that would just drift in and out.

I thought of them as being almost cinematic, like insert shots you'd see in a movie. For example, "Emoji of a Wave" has a nylon string guitar solo that's about four bars and disappears. The way I look at it, they create a deeper soundstage. The songs may be three-and-a-half minutes long, but I wanted them to sound three-and-a-half miles wide.

Live in San Francisco, CA 2019
"Emoji of a Wave" Title Explained

A lot of people wonder why this song is called "Emoji of a Wave."

I loved somebody, and it ended. But the feelings didn’t end, for either of us. But we knew we had our roles to play, and our homework to do to keep ourselves away from it. And on Sunday nights—usually the week nights, w-e-a-k nights—every once in a while my phone would go "errrp." And I'd pick it up, and it would be her. But it would just be an emoji of a wave. And it just meant: it’s all a little too much right now. And I would send back an emoji of a wave, and I would say, yeah, I get it. You’d be surprised, how okay that made things. Just to see one little emoji of a wave. It meant: you’re still in here.

And it meant: and you’re still in here too. And sometimes, that’s the only thing we need to know to keep walking—that we’re still in there. And the thing we forget is that, we’re always in there. If you’ve ever loved someone, you’ll always love that person.

And then, every once in a while, life will just throw you that wave.