In defense of John Mayer: Our thoughts on his Playboy interview
It’s becoming increasingly clear that John Mayer really should just let his fingers do the talking.
It seems like every time the guitarist opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it.
After giving Rolling Stone a recent interview where he explicitly praised masturbation and how it’s probably kept him from getting into trouble with women (all of which is fine, but perhaps is not information he needs to share with the world), he tweeted that he might not even want to hang out with himself anymore.
But that was just the warm-up act. In a new interview with Playboy, Mayer talks about his sex life with Jessica Simpson, his break-up with Jennifer Aniston, drops the N-word, and generally come across as an ass. He’s spent the better part of today apologizing via his Twitter page, including “I don’t want anyone to think I’m equivocating: I should have never said the [n] world and I will never say it again.”
Below are a few snippets:
On pornography: “There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.”
On masturbation being as good as sex: “Rather than meet somebody new, I would rather go home and replay the amazing experiences I’ve already had.
On black people loving him (or so he believes): “Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a n***** pass…”
On sleeping with black women: ”My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.”
His current sex life: “I get less ass now than I did when I was in a local band….At this point, before I can have sex I need to know somebody. Unless she’s a 14 out of 10.”
On wanting to be the best lover a woman’s ever had: “When I’m fucking you, I’m trying to fuck every man who’s ever fucked you, but in his ass, so you’ll say “No one’s ever done that to me in bed.”
On dating Jessica Simpson: “That girl, for me, is a drug. And drugs aren’t good for you if you do lots of them. Yeah, that girl is like crack cocaine to me.”
Okay, enough. As strange as it may seem, I come here not to bury Mayer but to praise him. I was the first journalist to interview Mayer for a national outlet when I talked to him for a Billboard piece around 10 years ago or so. “Room for Squares” was in the midst of getting picked up by Columbia Records and we selected Mayer as an artist to watch. He was on tour and called me from a phone booth in Atlanta. He was loquacious, funny and smart. Then, as now, I come down solidly in believing he’s a good guy, albeit a work in progress.
Over the past several years, I’ve interviewed him a number of times, most recently this fall for his new album “Battle Studies.” We’re not buddies by any means, but we have a cordial professional relationship. During the fall interview, it was clear that he’d been struggling with his fame. He talked about how he’d tried to outsmart the tabloids who were constantly ragging on him. It hadn’t worked and he was over it all. It was also very clear that he wasn’t used to confronting a problem he couldn’t solve. (One of his Tweets today clearly references that: “It started as an attempt to not let the waves of criticism get to me, but it’s gotten out of hand and I’ve created somewhat of a monster.”)
Here’s my take on Mayer: he’s too smart for his own good. His mind works at warp speed with ideas and thoughts bouncing around his brain like a pinball. When you interview him, you just have to wind him up with a few questions—not even particularly provocative ones-- and watch him run his battery down. My feeling is that he can’t find a lot of people who have the blend of his curiosity, intellect, possible ADD and intensity and that leads him to simply spew. He’s used to folks not being able to keep up with him, but he has so much rattling around his brain, he has to get it out. Other people in a similar headspace might become drug addicts just to get out of their own minds, but he’s got his music and too much sense for that.
I was interviewing him about five years ago for a career retrospective for Billboard and he brought up masturbation—so there’s, frankly, nothing new about his passion for self-satisfaction and his need to discuss it. I finally told him that I wish we were doing this interview for Rolling Stone, but we weren’t, so I wasn’t going to be able to use any of that part and tried to get him back on track about the music. He complied.
Here’s the thing: there’s nothing about Mayer that makes me think he’s doing any of this for shock value or that he even particularly loves the sound of his own voice (although I may be wrong about the last point). And I don’t think he has a racist bone –or boner—in his body. His remorseful tweets alone prove that. He’s 32 and he’s figuring it out just like everybody else, to his credit. He just needs a bit of an internal editor and some time away from the microphone.
On a slighter harsher issue: it’s really time for him to shut up about his love life. It’s time to act like the gentleman he believes himself to be. Mayer says it the best to Playboy: “I consider myself a good guy, with the best of intentions. Anybody who has been in a relationship with me would stand by the fact that I’ve never been callous. I’ve never been a bad boy. I may have taken someone through the wringer psychologically, but I’ve never been sinister.”
So John, wait a second before you speak and remember, you don't have to answer a question just because it's asked. Doing so may make you less quotable, but it might make you a little happier.