I remember one lazy afternoon my brother and I were watching tv together. While browsing the channels he found a music festival on the PBS channel. We were mesmerized instantly being the guitar geeks that we are. The event was the Crossroads Guitar Festival. This is a festival setup by the guitar legend Eric Clapton where he invites the best rock and blues acts of today and from the past. This is such an amazing event because it’s a great way to discover new artists. Clapton and his team find artists from anywhere as long as they were great. This is how Gary Clark Jr., sometimes considered the new Jimi Hendrix, got his lucky break. Anyways, that time my brother and I were watching, this young white guy comes out with a guitar. We were skeptical since he didn’t look like the rest and we heard he was a pop artist. Then he started playing guitar and we were blown away. I instantly made the stank face of approval. This guy was so good at guitar. Unbelievably good. This was John Mayer.
John Mayer at the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
For a moment I left it at that. I didn’t really look into his music after that show. I guess I wasn’t really interested in his music knowing that he was a pop artist. At that time, I wasn’t that big into pop. A few years later I was listening to Pandora. Remember Pandora? The one website where you could make a radio station based on an artist or a song you like. It was revolutionary for its time. Anyways, I had made a Jason Mraz (ironically, a pop artist) station to listen to while I worked on my high school homework. While I was jamming to some music, pretending to do homework for hours…homework that could have easily been done in 30 minutes, a song came on that captivated me. It started with some sweet gentle guitar that sounded like a piano. After that, the main guitar melody comes in and I was hooked. The song was the live version of ‘The Heart of Life’ by John Mayer.
The Heart of Life by John Mayer. The song that got me into John Mayer.
The song was not at all what I expected John Mayer to sound like. So then I finally started looking into him trying to understand who John Mayer is as an artist and musician. While researching I did find his industry ‘pop’ songs but his latest album was way different. It had so much depth, so much soul…and the quality of his album was insane! This album was Continuum and it changed my life as a music lover, as a guitar player, and it further led me to my current dream of becoming a mixing engineer, which I’ll talk about that towards the end, but first, John Mayer.
One of my few but extreme obsessions, Continuum by John Mayer.
John Mayer is an artist that almost everyone knows somehow. His current musical career is probably not as commercially supported as his early stuff, but he managed to stay in the spotlight all these years through some clever social media content, guitar aficionados, audio purists, high profile partners and some infamous scandals. Most artists similar to John Mayer or that started at the same time as he did have had short-lived musical careers or are now very low-key artists. John Mayer is exempt from this and we'll find out why and what we can learn from him. Let’s dive in.
It is known that John Mayer first started as a guitar player and the only reason he started to sing was because he had to in order to play his songs. He started singing out of necessity, which is ironic since Mayer’s guitar idols did the same thing. Both Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t consider themselves singers but started singing out of necessity. I can relate to this now that I’m a solo artist and forced myself to sing to get my music out there. We haven’t even gotten to his professional career and we already have our first lesson. We must grab the bull by the horns and go for it. Sometimes we got to do things that we didn’t originally plan to do or feel uncomfortable doing them because we are shy or think we're incompetent. Just like how John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan started singing even though they didn’t want to at first and only wanted to focus on their guitar playing. It’s all part of it, and in a way it’s very liberating to face those fears.
John Mayer’s style is so unique yet so familiar. He has stated that when he was younger he was just trying to imitate his idols and failed at it and that’s how he slowly found his unique signature sound. There’s another lesson. Sometimes we’re too afraid to start something because we have no idea were to begin. However, you can always begin by imitating your idols and slowly find your way to your own voice which will be seem unique, but in reality it is a cluster of many influences combined into one original and new piece of art. Don’t be afraid to copy your favorite artists, it’s only natural. It’s how you begin to learn any art: by trying to recreate someone else’s technique. Most of my guitar playing and songwriting is a combination of John Mayer, John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Gabe Bondoc from YouTube. I took pieces from my favorite artists and adapted them into my own sound. If you listen to my guitar playing you will definitely hear a bit of them in it.
John Mayer started his commercial career at 23 years old, back in 2001. He has had a very steady career ever since. Recently he has collaborated with high-demand artists like Frank Ocean, Mac Miller, Shawn Mendes, Leon Bridges and many many more. I feel like a big reason why John Mayer is still active is because he is highly respected among his peers due to his genius-level musicality that is very rare to find. His guitar playing is insane. Even the rock god, Eric Clapton, thinks John Mayer is a master at guitar. Say what you will about John Mayer and his music and his scandals, but Mayer is highly respected in the guitar world. Heck, I think he’s highly respected on the music geek world. I can expand that world to audio purists too. If you’re a guitar player seeking guitar-sound-heaven then you for sure study John Mayer and his super rare audio equipment and if you’re an audio purist then you know that Continuum is one of the best sounding albums out there. As a kid, the sound quality of Continuum inspired me so much that it made me want to be a mixing engineer. John Mayer has worked closely with the mix virtuoso, Manny Marroquin, since Continuum. Marroquin has worked with the greatest like Kanye West, Post Malone, Alicia Keys, Mac Miller, The Weeknd, Eminem, Bruno Mars…just to name a few. Instantly, Marroquin became my idol and given how insane this life is, I got to meet him and got my guitar mixed by this legend thanks to my former band 4th & Orange. Somewhere out there there’s a picture of me with Manny Marroquin that I cherish very much. Life is amazing sometimes.
Eric Clapton, a rock god, called John Mayer a master.
Lastly, John Mayer has used social media very well to keep himself in the game and relevant. He is witty and funny on social media. He also made an Instagram Live show called ‘Current Mood’ where he would have guests like a late night talk show and just talk to his audience. All through his phone. Currently Mayer has been more active on TikTok to promote his new album. He is so entertaining to watch, and I believe this is another huge reason why John Mayer is still killing it today. I recommend checking out his social media to watch his funny videos and his heart-to-heart conversations with his audience. Like I’ve said before on previous posts, social media is key. I hate repeating myself but most artists I follow are relevant because they know how to use social media. Of course, it can be a hit or miss type of situation but once you master social media, fans will stick around not just for your art but for who you are as a person and because they get this sense of intimacy and a quick getaway into your life as if they were there with you. John Mayer at 43 is killing it on social media. Also, it helps a lot that his new music is still great. Now here’s some of my favorite songs by John Mayer. Thanks for reading!
I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Ain’t No Sunshine (Cover)