Rolling Stone: I thought we’d start out with how you met Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino.
John Mayer: I met Steve when he came in to play drums on a couple tracks on Heavier Things, my second record, and loved the experience. I loved the idea of composing something for him to play, as soon as he came in to play drums on these songs that I’d already written. He really kind of opened my mind up, on a rhythmic level. And then we kind of lost touch. But we started to play around town, just playing collaborations with people. I would go do a record with Herbie Hancock, and I’d get there, and the band is Steve Jordan playing drums and Willie Weeks playing bass. Playing with Steve made me instantly better by the day, as a musician.
I honestly don’t remember how I ended up saying, “Would you work on my record with me?” It just happened. And Pino came on: He initially came out to New York to do a tsunami benefit in January of ’05, and the rehearsal was just unbelievable.
RS: You guys played a Hendrix tune, right?
JM: We did a Hendrix tune called “Bold as Love,” which is one of my favorite Hendrix tunes. I’m a big believer in a different Jimi Hendrix than most people know.
But the rehearsal was a real fresh injection of muse, you know? I felt at the time that I was coming to the end of this concept of being the “acoustic groove guy,” you know, and it just so happened to intersect with finding these guys to play with. But above that, to hear it all together — it’s always nice when something you want to work also happens to naturally work a lot ... When something conceptually makes sense and pragmatically makes sense, that is one of the best times in life ... And it opened up this part of my brain I was waiting on, that next phase.
RS: Did you know that you wanted to bring other people in, with this whole trio idea — because of Clapton and Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn?
JM: I knew that I wanted to take myself out, rather than put myself in. I wanted to take myself out of the running for this invisible pop prize that just doesn’t exist ... When I do the blues thing, when I do the Trio thing, when I do the new record [Continuum], there’s something about it that is a little bit less jockeying for position. It’s hard to explain.