John Mayer has a sure-fire cure for constipation, although it’s probably not a workable solution for most of us.
“If you’re feeling plugged up from the fruit-and-cheese plate, play a gig at Madison Square Garden,” he advised an audience of songwriters and producers April 22 during his keynote Q&A at the ASCAP Expo, a three-day conference put on in Los Angeles by the performing rights organization. Mayer was responding to interviewer Erik Philbrook’s query about what emotion does selling out Madison Square Garden conjure up. “Is having to poop an emotion?” Mayer asked.
Mayer has kept a pretty low profile since opening his mouth and lodging his foot in it earlier this year during a Playboy interview, but he was back in fine—and mainly gaffe-proof—form at the ASCAP Expo. His one notable “WTF?” moment came when he compared playing at MSG to “banging a really, really hot girl. I hope I can satisfy this girl enough so that I can have a shot at coming back.” After waiting for that comment to sink in with the packed crowd of several hundred, he joked “I just wanted to give my manager something to Google for tomorrow.”
Mayer had plenty of good advice for the aspiring songwriters, but it mainly boiled down to staying true to your muse and trying not to have an “excessive need for external validation” that keeps you from following your own gifts instead of seeking adulation. “That first record has to be the big clown shoe in the door,” he said, but added that subsequent records shouldn’t be about proving yourself to others. He noted that his Grammy-winning tune “Gravity,” was his favorite because “I got out of my own way…Sometimes when you write, you’re trying to let someone else know that you’re a good writer,” instead of focusing on pleasing yourself.
Mayer, who first picked up the guitar when he was 13 in 1991, joked that he was “highly well versed in playing Tesla songs and Warrant… The songs of Trixter and Saigon Kick still flow through my veins.” Though he dropped out of Berklee School of Music, he stressed that instruction always makes a musician better. “If you think by going to vocal lessons, I might lose my natural timbre. Bullshit,” he said.
He advised that artists find other musicians of their same caliber or higher. “Be with other people who want to ascend,” he said, admitting that he didn’t play well with others when he first started and that was okay. “I had so much I wanted to get out. I didn’t feel tremendously like sharing. I didn’t want to teach people to give a shit. You’re not going to get where you’re going if there aren’t a lot of people from high school who think you’re an asshole.”
The 7-time Grammy winner also had a bit of a wake-up call for anyone still believing a record deal is the Holy Grail. “It’s a work contract, not a check,” he said, noting that his Columbia Records deal means they own certain rights to him in perpetuity. “I can’t cut a record with Kanye on Mars,” he joked.
Mayer, who joined Jay Z on stage recently, confessed that he’s a “closet hip-hop freak,” who practices making up beats in his spare time. “I’ve studied the whole J Dilla thing,” he says referencing the late hip hop producer. “Can Bob Dylan and J Dilla meet? Where would that be? They don’t go together yet. I’m trying to have the right mix of Dylan meets Dilla.”