“Well I ain’t no troublemaker and I never meant her harm, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t make it hard to carry on.”

Hmmm. That line comes about a minute in to John Mayer’s new single, “Shadow Days.” Is he talking about Taylor Swift, who supposedly wrote the excoriating “Dear John” from “Speak Now” about him after he broke her heart? He could be talking about Jessica Simpson or Jennifer Aniston. Really, there’s not a shortage of potentials here.

(Listen to the track here)

Regardless, the track, the first single from Mayer’s forthcoming fifth album, “Born and Raised,”  out May 22, is full of contrition. It’s an apology to the world at large, almost, as he sings, “I’m a good man with a good heart, had a tough time, got a rough start, but I finally learned to let it go.” Mayer starts a tour on April 9.

The last few years, at least publicly, have been a little tough on Mayer. After a way-TMI interview with Playboy, in which he discussed porn, masturbation, sleeping with black women and Simpson, he seemed to finally realize that he’d gone too far and needed to shut his trap. And if he didn’t get the message clearly enough, vocal surgery last year required that he not speak for a good long time.

But now he’s back with the Don Was-produced “Born and Raised.” I ran into Don at a party around Grammy time and they were finishing the very last of Mayer’s vocals. He was blown away by his talent, and given that Was has worked with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, that’s saying a lot. The release date for the spring/summer album is still pending.

Not surprisingly, the guitar playing, is as always, sublime. This time, Mayer sounds a little like George Harrison, given the bent-note, spare style. Everything about the song is  trimmed down, there’s no fat. And that sounds like how he wants the whole album to be. 

Welcome to the non-showy, humble John Mayer. It’s nice to meet you.

What do you think of “Shadow Days?”

Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitfixMelinda

Track listing for "Born And Raised"

1. Queen of California
2. The Age of Worry
3. Shadow Days
4. Speak for Me


5. Something Like Olivia
6. Born and Raised
7. If I Ever Get Around To Living
8. Love is a Verb
9. Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
10. Whisky, Whisky, Whisky
11. A Face To Call Home
12. Born and Raised (Reprise)