John Mayer - Biography
John Clayton Mayer (pronounced /ˈmeɪ.ər/ MAY-ər; born October 16, 1977) is an American musician. Originally from Connecticut, he attended Berklee College of Music before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1997, where he refined his skills and gained a following. His first two studio albums, Room for Squares and Heavier Things, did well commercially, achieving multi-platinum status. In 2003, he won a Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Grammy Award for "Your Body Is a Wonderland".
Mayer began his career performing mainly acoustic rock, but gradually began a transition towards the blues genre in 2005 by collaborating with renowned blues artists such as B. B. King, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton, and by forming the John Mayer Trio. The blues influence can be heard on his album Continuum, released in September 2006. At the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in 2007 Mayer won Best Pop Vocal Album for Continuum and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Waiting on the World to Change". Mayer's career pursuits have extended to stand-up comedy, design, and writing; he has written pieces for magazines, most notably for Esquire. He is also involved in philanthropic activities through his "Back to You" fund and his concern over global warming.
John Mayer enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of nineteen. After two semesters, he chose to cut his studies short, and at the urging of his college friend and Atlanta native, Clay Cook, the two moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Quickly making a name for their two-man band, LoFi Masters, they began their career in earnest there, frequenting the local coffee house and club circuit in venues like Eddie’s Attic. Cook has said, however, that they began to experience musical differences due to Mayer’s desire to take the duo in more of a pop direction. The two parted ways, and Mayer embarked on a solo career.
With the help of local producer and engineer Glenn Matullo, Mayer recorded the independent EP Inside Wants Out. Cook is also cited as the co-writer of many of the songs from the EP, most notably, Mayer's first commercial single release, "No Such Thing". The EP includes only eight songs, all with Mayer on lead vocals and guitars, with the exception of “Comfortable” in which Mayer only recorded the vocals. For the opening track, “Back To You”, a full band was enlisted, including the EP’s co-producer David "DeLa" LaBruyere on bass guitar. Mayer and LaBruyere then began to tour throughout Georgia and the surrounding states.
Major label success
Mayer’s reputation began to build, and a March 2000 appearance at South by Southwest brought him to the attention of "launch" label, Aware Records. After including him in the Aware Festival concerts and having his songs included on Aware compilations, in early 2001, Aware released Mayer’s internet-only album entitled, Room for Squares. During that time, Aware inked a deal with Columbia Records that gave Columbia first pick in signing Aware artists, and so in September of the same year, Columbia remixed and re-released Room for Squares. As part of the major label "debut", the album's artwork was updated, and the track "3x5" was added. The re-release also included reworked studio versions of the first four songs from his indie album, Inside Wants Out.
By the end of 2002, Room for Squares had spawned several radio hits, including "No Such Thing," "Your Body Is a Wonderland," (originally titled "Ann Marie") and ultimately, "Why Georgia." In 2003, Mayer won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Your Body Is a Wonderland." In his acceptance speech he remarked, "This is very, very fast, and I promise to catch up." He also figuratively referred to himself as being sixteen, a remark that many mistook to mean that he was only sixteen years old at the time.
In 2003, Mayer released a live CD and DVD of a concert in Birmingham, Alabama entitled, Any Given Thursday. The concert featured songs previously not recorded, such as "Man on the Side" (co-written with Cook) and "Something's Missing", which later appeared on Heavier Things. The concert also included "Covered In Rain". According to the accompanying DVD documentary, this song is "part two" of the song "City Love", which features the line "covered in rain". Commercially, the album quickly peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard 200 chart. The CD/DVD received conservative, although consistent, praise, with critics torn between his pop-idol image, and (at the time) emerging guitar prowess. Erik Crawford (of Allmusic) asked "Is he the consummate guitar hero exemplified when he plays a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'Lenny', or is he the teen idol that the pubescent girls shriek for after he plays 'Your Body Is a Wonderland?'"
Heavier Things, Mayer's second album, was released in 2003 to generally favorable reviews. Rolling Stone, Allmusic and Blender all gave positive, although reserved, feedback. PopMatters said that it "doesn't have as many drawbacks as one might assume". The album was commercially successful, and while it did not sell as well as Room for Squares, it peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. Mayer earned his first number one single with the song "Daughters" as well as a 2005 Grammy for Song of the Year, beating out fellow contenders Alicia Keys and Kanye West. He dedicated the award to his grandmother, Annie Hoffman, who died in May 2004. He also won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, beating Elvis Costello, Prince, and Seal for the award. At the 37th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2006, Mayer was honored with the Hal David Starlight Award.
Mayer again recorded live concerts across seven nights of his U.S. tour in 2004. These recordings were released to the iTunes music store under the title as/is, indicating that the errors were included along with the good moments. A few months later, a "best of" CD was compiled from the as/is nights. The album included a previously unreleased cover of Marvin Gaye's song "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)", featuring a solo from Mayer's support act — jazz and blues turntablist, DJ Logic. All the album covers of the as/is releases feature drawings of anthropomorphic bunnies.
With increased exposure, Mayer's talent came into demand in other areas. Steve Jobs invited Mayer to perform during the keynote address of Apple's annual Macworld Conference & Expo, in January 2004, as Jobs introduced the software application GarageBand. The gig led to Mayer becoming a fixture of the event. He rejoined Jobs on stage for a solo performance at Macworld 2007, following the announcement of the iPhone. Additionally, in 2004, Mayer had a one-shot half-hour comedy special on VH1, entitled John Mayer Has a TV Show, with antics including wearing a bear suit and anonymously teasing concertgoers in the parking lot outside one of his concerts. Mayer has also done endorsements, such as a Volkswagen commercial for the Beetle's guitar outlet and for the BlackBerry Curve.
Change in musical direction
Mayer began to collaborate extensively, often working with artists outside of his own genre. He appeared on Common's song "Go!" and on Kanye West's "Bittersweet Poetry". Following these collaborations, Mayer received praise from rap heavyweights Jay-Z and Nelly. When asked about his presence in the hip hop community, Mayer said, "It's not music out there right now. That's why, to me, hip-hop is where rock used to be."
It was around this time that Mayer began hinting a change in his musical interests, announcing that he was "closing up shop on acoustic sensitivity." In 2005, he began a string of collaborations with various blues artists, including Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, as well as jazz artist John Scofield. He also went on tour with legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, which included a show at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. These collaborations led to recordings with several of these artists, namely, Clapton (Back Home, Crossroads Guitar Festival), Guy (Bring 'Em In), Scofield (That's What I Say), and King (80). Although Mayer has maintained a reputation for being a sensitive singer-songwriter, he has also gained distinction as an accomplished guitarist, influenced by the likes of the above artists, as well as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, and Freddie King.
John Mayer Trio
In the spring of 2005, Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, both of whom he had met through previous studio sessions. The trio played a combination of blues and rock music. In October 2005, the Trio opened for The Rolling Stones during a sold-out club tour of their own, and that November, released a live album called Try! The band took a break in mid-2006. In September 2006, Mayer announced plans for the Trio to begin work on a future studio album.
Continuum and beyond
Mayer's latest album, entitled Continuum, was released on September 12, 2006, and was produced by Mayer himself and Steve Jordan. Mayer suggested the album was intended to combine his signature pop sound with the feel, groove, and sensibilities of the blues. In that vein, two of the tracks from his trio's release Try! — the funky "Vultures" and the blues centerpiece "Gravity" — also were included on Continuum.
The first single from Continuum, "Waiting on the World to Change," debuted on The Ron and Fez Show. The song was the third most downloaded song of the week on the iTunes Music Store following its release on July 11, 2006, and debuted at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. On August 23, 2006, Mayer debuted the entire album on the Los Angeles radio station KYSR Star 98.7, giving commentary on each track. A subsequent version was released the next day on the Clear Channel Music website as a streaming sneak preview. On September 21, 2006, Mayer appeared on CSI, playing "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room." The song "Gravity" was featured on the television series, House in the episode "Cane & Able" and Numb3rs. He recorded a session for the British program Live From Abbey Road at Abbey Road Studios on October 22, 2006.
On December 7, 2006, Mayer was nominated for five 2007 Grammy Awards, including "Album of the Year." The John Mayer Trio also received a nomination for their album, Try!. He won two: Grammy Award for Best Pop Song for "Waiting on the World to Change" and Best Pop Album for Continuum. Mayer remixed an acoustic version of his single "Waiting on the World to Change" with vocal additions from fellow musician Ben Harper. In preparation for recording Continuum, Mayer had booked the Village Recorder in Los Angeles to record five demo acoustic versions of his songs with veteran musician Robbie McIntosh. These recordings became The Village Sessions, an EP released on December 12, 2006. As usual, Mayer oversaw the artwork of the release.
Mayer was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone (#1020) in February 2007, along with John Frusciante and Derek Trucks. He was named as one of the "New Guitar Gods," and the cover nicknamed him "Slowhand, Jr.," a reference to Eric Clapton. Additionally, he was selected by the editors of Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2007 and was listed among artists and entertainers.
On November 20, 2007, the re-issue of Continuum became available online and in stores. The release contains a bonus disc of six live songs from his 2007 tour: five from Continuum and a cover of the Ray Charles song "I Don't Need No Doctor". His new single, "Say," also became available through iTunes. On December 6, 2007, "Belief" was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. He accompanied Alicia Keys on guitar on her song "No One" at the ceremony.
In February 2008, Mayer hosted a three-day Caribbean cruise event that included performances with various musicians including David Ryan Harris, Brett Dennen, and Colbie Caillat, among others. The event was called "The Mayercraft Carrier" and was held aboard the cruise ship known as the Carnival Victory. A follow up cruise titled "Mayercraft Carrier 2" has been arranged for March 27-31, 2009 on the Carnival Splendor and will set sail from Long Beach, California.
On July 1, 2008, Mayer released Where the Light Is a live concert film directed by Danny Clinch. The concert was filmed at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on December 8, 2007. It features an acoustic set, a set with the John Mayer Trio, followed by a set with John's band from the Continuum album. The film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray disc formats, along with a two-disc CD and LP vinyl. The DVD and Bluray versions feature several "backstage" sections between songs and sets. Some of these were not filmed in the time backstage, but prior or after the concert throughout Los Angeles. Preceding the concert, Mayer is also seen on Mulholland Dr playing his guitar with Los Angeles in the background. The full version of this performance is also included as a special feature, known as Slow Dancing on Mulholland Drive.
In 2002, Mayer began the "Back To You" Fund, a non-profit organization that focuses on fundraising in the areas of health care, education, the arts, and talent development. The foundation raises funds through the auction of exclusive John Mayer items, such as guitar picks, t-shirts, and signed CDs, made available on Mayer's auction site. The auctions have been successful, with some tickets selling for more than seventeen times their face value.
In an April 2007 blog entry, Mayer announced a new effort to help reverse global warming, dubbed "Another Kind of Green" (originally "Light Green", but changed because of copyright concerns). Mayer regards his proposal as a mid-ranged approach to being ecologically aware: neither fearful nor ambivalent about global warming. In this vein, while generally maintaining his lifestyle, he is gradually designing and implementing "products that are cheap, easy alternatives to cut down on plastics," and encouraging others to do the same through his blog. He has also converted his tour bus to bio-diesel fuel. Mayer is partnering with Incase to produce items such a reusable grocery tote and water bottles. Mayer also participated at the East Rutherford, New Jersey location of the Live Earth project, a musical rally to support awareness for global warming held on July 7, 2007. Beginning in the summer of 2007, the environmental advocacy group Reverb has set up informational booths and helped his crew conserve energy on his tour dates.
Mayer has performed at a number of benefits and telethons for charity throughout his career. In response to the Virginia Tech massacre, Mayer (along with Dave Matthews Band, Phil Vassar, and NaS) performed a free concert at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium on September 6, 2007. On December 8, 2007, Mayer hosted the First Annual Charity Revue. He performed an acoustic set, a set with the John Mayer Trio followed by a performance with his tour band. The proceeds of this concert will be donated to Toys for Tots, Inner City Arts, and the Los Angeles Mission. Both CDs and DVDs of the concert were released under the title "Where the Light Is" in July 2008. It has not been announced whether the DVD proceeds will go to charity or not. Mayer also appeared on Songs for Tibet, a celebrity initiative to support Tibet and the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.
In a Rolling Stone interview, Mayer recalled that after former Columbia Records head, Don Ienner, panned Continuum, he briefly considered quitting music and studying design full time. Mayer's interest in design, however, had long manifested itself in a number of ways. In 2003, Martin Guitars gave Mayer his own signature model acoustic guitar called the OM-28 John Mayer. The guitar was limited to a run of only 404, an Atlanta area code. This model was followed by the release of two Fender signature Stratocaster electric guitars, beginning in 2005. A third Stratocaster, finished in charcoal frost metallic paint with a racing stripe, was also a limited-release, with only 100 guitars made. In January, 2006, Martin Guitars released the Martin OMJM John Mayer acoustic guitar. The guitar was intended to have many of the attributes of the Martin OM-28 John Mayer but with a more affordable price tag. In August 2006, Fender started manufacturing SERIES II John Mayer Stratocasters. The new Olympic white with mint green pickguard and cream plastics replaced the shoreline gold model. In January 2007, Two Rock collaborated with Mayer on custom-designed amps. Only 25 (all signed by Mayer himself) were made available to the public. June 2007 saw the release of the "album art" guitar, with the Continuum motif repeated on the face of the instrument, as well as a 500-run John Mayer signature Fender Statocaster in Cypress-Mica. Included with the limited Cypress-Mica model was the INCSvsJM gig bag that Mayer collaborated on with Incase designs. Not surprisingly, Mayer is a passionate collector of guitars, and in 2006 his collection was estimated at more than 200.
In addition to guitars, Mayer's handiwork ranges from T-shirts, guitar totes and, most dear to his heart, sneakers. In August 2006, Mayer started JMltd, a minor clothing line of Mayer-themed merchandise that he has designed. The products are currently available online through his website store.
With the June 1, 2004, issue of Esquire, Mayer began a column called, "Music Lessons with John Mayer". Each article featured a lesson and his (often humorous) take on various topics, both of personal and popular interest. In the August 2005 issue, he invited readers to create music for orphaned lyrics he had written. The winner was Tim Fagan of L.A., as announced in the following January's issue.
Mayer has been active online, and has maintained four blogs: a MySpace page, a blog at his official site, another at Honeyee.com, as well as a photoblog at StunningNikon.com. Although they primarily deal with career-related matters, they also contain jokes, comedic videos, his convictions, and his personal activities; they occasionally overlap in content. He is noted for writing the blogs himself, and not through a publicist. His official blog's entry for 2008-01-23 contained a graphic that read, "Done & Dusted & Self Conscious & Back to Work." followed by the quote "There is danger in theoretical speculation of battle, in prejudice, in false reasoning, in pride, in braggadocio. There is one safe resource, the return to nature.." all the previous blog entries were deleted. He has since changed the contents of the blog entry several times.
John also maintains an active YouTube account, mayermusic, posting behind-the-scenes videos and humorous clips from both his tour and day-to-day life. His most viewed account is that of his at-home guitar rendition of the second half of Justin Timberlake's LoveStoned / I Think She Knows Interlude.
In the mid-2000s, stand-up comedy was a hobby of Mayer's. He would make random appearances at the famed Comedy Cellar in New York. While he said that it helped him write better, he said that media attention has made him have to be too careful about what he says; he also felt that he wasn't funny.
Mayer is a sufferer of panic disorder, which developed when he was a teenager and had suffered heart problems. Mayer has a number of tattoos. These include: "Home" and "Life" (from the song title) on the back of his left and right arms respectively, "77" (his year of birth) on the left side of his chest, and a koi-like fish on his right shoulder. His entire left arm is covered in a sleeve tattoo that he acquired gradually, ending in April 2008; it includes: "SRV" (for his idol Stevie Ray Vaughan) on his shoulder, a decorated rectangle on his biceps, a dragon-like figure on his inner arm, and various other floral designs. In 2003, he got a tattoo of three squares on his right forearm, which, he has explained, he will fill in gradually. As of 2008, two are filled.
He is an avid collector of watches and owns timepieces worth tens of thousands of dollars. Mayer also has an extensive collection of sneakers, estimated (in 2006) at more than 200 pairs.
Mayer dated Jennifer Love Hewitt briefly in 2002. In a comedy routine in May 2006, he joked that they never consummated their relationship; he later apologized to her for the raunchy routine. Despite rumors to the contrary, Mayer did not date Heidi Klum in 2003. Mayer dated Jessica Simpson for about nine months, beginning in the middle of 2006. Rumors started in August of that year with a People magazine article, but kicked into high gear when Mayer and Simpson spent New Year's holiday together in New York City, both attending Christina Aguilera's New Year's Eve party. When Ryan Seacrest asked Mayer on the red carpet of the 2007 Grammy Awards, about his relationship with Simpson, Mayer responded in Japanese. Despite some initially conflicting translations, he said, "Jessica is a lovely woman, and I'm glad to be with her." Simpson also accompanied Mayer for several dates of his 2007 Continuum tour, and the two went on a trip to Rome in March of that year. However, the couple split in May 2007. He began dating actress Minka Kelly in September 2007, although the two broke up before the year's end. Mayer began dating actress Jennifer Aniston in April 2008, however they broke up four months later. Despite this, the pair have been sighted kissing and hugging in a New York Airport, and in various other public places and sources claim they are still very much in contact.
Mayer splits his time between his home in the Los Angeles suburbs (with his roommate and sound engineer, Chad Franscoviak) and his apartment in the New York City neighborhood of SoHo.
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