Album cover

Battle Studies

Interview with Steven Smith on Fuse
On The Record: Fuse

SS: So where did the title "Battle Studies" come from?

JM: I was reading this book called, On Killing, and there was this reference to this book, the book was called "Battle Studies." And I really stopped and sort of turned towards the last three or four years of my life as a person, not as a celebrity but as a person. And sort of what everybody goes through at certain stage in their life which is really getting down into it so you can have a really peaceful next decade of your life. Sort of just instantly fused into how great it would be to call a record "Battle Studies." And actually I think it's the most universal record, thematically, that I have ever made.

SS: What's the biggest difference in evolution from Continuum to this record?

JM: It's not as neat. It's purposely got some edges on it. Continuum sort of is all about this perfect record. The vocals are, you know, I sing them a thousand times. Make sure that each time you sing a line it is perfect. But Battle Studies is a lot more endearing in the sense that, it really feels like me, not on stage playing for you some of these songs, but like in your house playing for you. It's a little more intimate. Not to say that it's like a Neil Young record. It's closer to Neil Young record than a Sting record this time around.

Interview in Playboy Magazine
The Playboy interview with John Mayer
I’ve gone from being a musician to being a celebrity. And when people do that, their work usually suffers. There are tunes on Battle Studies that are more applicable to other people’s lives than anything I’ve ever written before. This whole time I’ve stayed vulnerable, stayed frustrated, stayed confused. This record is the trade-off to having sort of brutalized myself for a few years. So if people see that over the past couple of years I actually got a firmer grip on writing songs about the ups and downs of life, they might go, “How did he have the time to make a record? Was he writing ‘War of My Life’ in the middle of me thinking he was a douche bag? Did I ever actually know him? Maybe he’s a pretty solid guy.”

RT: There are some angry, accusatory songs on the record, but there are also self-critical songs. It goes through all the changing moods you have on the worst night of your life.

JM: Yeah, Battle Studies is that feeling between 10 p.m. and two a.m. when you have this wild level of arousal and optimism. It’s about the things people do to each other during those hours. I have wasted four hours of my life refusing to masturbate and believing that somehow the phone would ring and I’d get a call from somebody I hadn’t talked to in years.

Interview in Guitarist magazine
Conducted by Mick Taylor (Issue 327)

You can hear more Tele-type sounds throughout the whole of the new record [Battle Studies] - the Rick Turner guitar on Half Of My Heart, for example…

Yeah there's something really fun this time out about playing the guitars on the stage that we played on the record; the same guitar with the same pedal that was on the record.

They just contribute to this overall harmonic fingerprint that you know is the same as on the record, so there are times when we're playing them when we're, like, Man this is just the record!

Plus there's a strange company that's kept when you are playing the guitar from the album. Y'know, I'm not that far from home right now, cause this is the stuff that was with me in LA.

MT: Thinking about acoustics, in the early days, you started off with alternative tunings, complicated parts with bass and melody, but on the new record it feels like you're more relaxed, playing less… Is that confidence - less to prove, perhaps?

JM: It's confidence, and it's wanting to have a little bit more fun on stage. Y'know, the more you write for yourself as a guitar player, the less you can walk around and take in the evening. And a lot of those songs are so involved.

But it's nice to have the band have something to do with the music! When I was making Room For Squares [2001], it's very difficult to accompany that music with a band because so much of the band is being taken care of by the guitar playing; the percussion, this and that…

So recording [Battle Studies] was a joy because it wasn't all taken care of in the guitar. It wasn't like, once my guitar part went down the song was full, because a lot of times you're asking the drummer to play the same pattern as you're playing on the guitar.

So you're already playing twos and fours [sings an example], so you don't leave room. But this record was much more about being a band.

Interview with My Stupid Mouth forum (2013)
Conducted by founder Richard Young

Battle Studies didn’t totally have a culture around it. That was a little bit like punching a clock for me. It was the most like punching a clock that songwriting has been. Even though I enjoyed writing those tunes, it was a little bit like, “I gotta write a record, so here we go.” 

If you’re a writer, you write no matter what. You put records out no matter what.

I had a really hard time with Battle Studies. Everybody makes a record like Battle Studies, where while they’re making it, they think it’s going to last and then they realize it doesn’t play the right way. 

I think "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye" is awesome—it just doesn’t work on stage. "Perfectly Lonely" is a nice song when you’ve got to make a record. You have to make music and put music out. "Perfectly Lonely": could have been "Gravity," but it just turned out to be "Perfectly Lonely."

I remember being on stage like a month into the Battle Studies tour and going, “Oh, this is not going to carry me the whole way.”

But then there is a song like "Who Says," which I play every night. I love that song. I remember thinking to myself that this song had to take me around the world.