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Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967

Excerpt from "Someday I'll Fly"
Documentary by Eastwood Allen

That was my first time I've ever created a world that was not in some way my own. It started with picking up a Dobro—it had this nautical feel to it—and I said, this is almost a song about a guy who builds a submarine. And I went home and I obsessively thought about it.

The idea of this guy. Who are you? What are you doing? I've never been a novelist or a third-person sort of narrative writer, ever. But I got to know this guy. It was really emotional, I don't know why. Something sad about it. 

You don't shoot ideas down before you have them. "That won't work," is the worst thing you can ever say. "That didn't work," is cool. But "that won't work," is not a way to go through life.

Live in New York, NY 2017
Speech during performance of "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967"

[While singing the final verse]

She accepted / The news she never expected / The operator connected / The call from Tokyo 

"[He] totally lives, yall!"

Facebook livestream
Fan Q&A following "Love on the Weekend" song premiere
David Flint from Chile writes, “I really need to know: did Walt Grace make it to Japan?” And, I like you not knowing. Although, I did say the other night in a moment of excitement onstage that he totally makes it, and heroes don't die. Heroes don't die. That said, I do enjoy both scenarios, because even if he doesn't make it, he's still a hero. That's what's great about that story. Even if they just find his empty, sunken, crashed-against-the-rocks homemade fan blade one-man submarine ride, without him in it, he's still a hero for doing it. That's what I think.
Excerpted from Facebook livestream >
Twitter Q&A (July 2017)
Twitter Q&A session with fans

Have you ever thought of turning Walt Grace into a storybook or short film? I can picture him in my head.

Yes, I have an outline in my head. "Submarine Test" would take place in the middle. As a boy he idolized a man named Simon Lake.

Twitter Q&A (November 2017)
Twitter Q&A about Born and Raised

When will you turn Walt Grace into a film or storybook?

Long term project. It’s my go-to daydream.

Instagram Story Q&A (August 2021)
Questions from various fans

Q: did Walt Grace die or live

A: What if I told you you'd soon find out?

[John deleted this question shortly after posting it]

Rise For the River: Flood Benefit Concert
Performance of Born and Raised album

This guitar only ever did one thing. [Arpeggiating dobro guitar] I picked it up one day and I went like this.

[Plays "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967"]

I wanna say one thing that might get me in trouble because that is what I do. That song is soon to be a major motion picture. It's true. It's true. It's gonna be a movie.
Live in St. Paul, MN 2023
Solo Tour
This is one of those songs that opened up this whole other story of this guy's life. I mean I kind of bullshit my way into this world and I think about this guy a lot. And over the last ten years I keep writing more things in my head about what happened to him in the past and what made him do this. This song is actually—to me— the center-point of a story, and there's what happens after and there's what all came before. My favorite thing to do when I'm sitting in traffic is to think about Walt Grace and figure out what he's up to. What he was up to. He died in 1985.
Radio Intros 2024
LIFE With John Mayer on Sirius XM Radio
Thank God you don't have to write the same song twice. Cause if I had to, I would never have been able to write Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967. Whatever the elements that magically fell into place to write this song were, I can assure you they will never appear again. I was just thrown into this other world. And the world I was thrown into was very Wes Anderson. I knew it was something special. It was a story. It was the first and only third-person narrative I've ever written. I'm just so honored to have it. Doesn't even feel like my song.
Excerpted from Radio Intros 2024 >