Blues Questions for John Mayer
by Bob Putignano
Goldmine Magazine May 2005
Seen jamming with Buddy Guy now for over 2 years, most recently at the Legends of Blues show in NYC in January when Mayer jammed with Warren Haynes, Little Milton, James Cotton, and Buddy Guy, two straight ahead blues shows at Webster Hall in NYC where he covered Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix tunes, and jammed with the man who rode with the Wolf- Hubert Sumlin. Is this the same multiple Grammy winning pop star John Mayer? It most certainly is.
At a Buddy Guy show two years ago, Buddy calls out for his friend John Mayer to jam, and Mayer wails, and I said to myself, who the heck is John Mayer? When I got home, I went on Mayerís web site, and said no way, but the pictures are unmistakable, that was the pop star Mayer jamming with the great blues man Buddy Guy!
When Mayer scheduled two blues shows at Webster Hall the organization I volunteer for: The NY Blues and Jazz Society was contacted by the Webster Hall, and Mayerís management to get the word out to the blues community. Through that connection, I was able to book an interview with the young Mayer, as I wanted to find out what Mayerís connection is with blues?
BobP: John what is with all this blues going on with you?
Mayer: Iíve been into the blues for a long time, but I also knew I had to do the pop thing first, and use it as rocket fuel for me to play the blues and introduce it to a younger audience.
BobP: So the blues concept has been planned?
Mayer: Since I can remember the blues has always been the plan for me. Itís kind of like the Clapton thing, as I am not just a pop guy.
BobP: Tell me more about you and Buddy Guy?
Mayer: A few years ago I started to follow Buddy around, finally when I got to meet him he said sure let me bring you up and we can jam, he felt my passion for the blues and gave me a shot.
BobP: I saw you and Buddy two years ago and was blown away, do you guys still get together and play?
Mayer: Buddy and I have a great relationship, and we play together every chance we can.
BobP: Do you have any future plans with blues?
Mayer: Wait till you hear my next CD, it is what I have been thinking about since I was nineteen. You will hear me throwing in cool blues riffs and solos to my pop tunes. Once again, the only guy that I know of that was able to swing from pop to blues was Eric Clapton, and that is my goal!
BobP: Arenít you worried about your existing fan base?
Mayer: No, at my live performances I have been throwing in blues tunes, and I blues jam out my some of pop tunes instrumentally. Everyone seems to really dig it, I can feel their excitement. You know there is no improvisational playing in pop music anymore, and I fell that itís a great way to turn on the kids to the blues.
BobP: I know you are a big Stevie Ray fan, but how many Stevie Ray Vaughan types can we endure?
Mayer: Too many! (laughs) But you know who the next Stevie Ray is? ME!
Just kidding, but the next version of SRV is going to be different. SRV took a passion and made people feel it, most peopleís passions are native to them, and does not move further out. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Jimi Hendrix found that passion and delivered it to the masses, I want to be like them and channel that passion, you know to get control of that...
Mayer: Right on! I want to apply that power to the pop thing, and mix in blues licks and hip chord changes.
BobP: What happened to good licks and chord changes in pop music?
Mayer: Look I love a shuffle, but a shuffle wonít cut it on the radio. I want to acclimate people to more of blues thing. At my funeral, I wouldnít mind it if people said- that Mayer guy pulled quite a bait and switch, he sold millions of pop records, and out of nowhere he started playing the blues and made it work and happen.
BobP: John you have the ability to affect millions of young fans, the blues community has been waiting for someone like yourself to come along for quite a long time, I donít want to put any pressure on you, but considering your current success and fan base, itís takes some balls to change gears, and start introducing the blues to your fans. How do you feel about this?
Mayer: Bob, I am going for it!
BobP: We are rooting for you John! Any last words?
Mayer: Yeah- Hold on Iím coming! (Lots of laughs)
Seeing Mayer perform at the blues shows in NYC was very impressive. His band was tight, and he played with conviction and that passion he spoke about. But what really moved me the most, was watching young twenty year old kids get off to Mayer jamming out the songs of Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and SRV. Dare I say, John Mayer- The future of the blues? Stay tuned!
Radio Host WFDUís ďSounds of BlueĒ
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society