By Ashna Satyajit
“I knew what I wanted to do when I was 13 and I had to go through four years of high school to get out. That’s a blessing, because I never had to lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling going, ‘What am I going to do with my life?'”
Watching Marty McFly rock his guitar in Back To The Future, 13-year old John Clayton Mayer suddenly knew what his life was going to be all about. Enraptured by the beauty of the instrument, he began taking lessons from a local guitar-shop owner on a guitar rented by his father.
By each passing day Mayer’s passion continued to grow; he’d spend countless hours in his room all by himself, strumming away. His guitar-craze grew to such a point that his parents slowly started to get worried for him. They took John to see a psychologist, wondering if a singular focus was healthy for a boy his age. But it turned out to be nothing but a pure passion for playing the guitar that he fostered.
When he was seventeen, Mayer was suddenly struck with a cardiac arrhythmia that sent him to the hospital for a weekend. The trauma of the incident sparked his songwriting, and he penned his first lyrics the night he got home. Henceforth, giving the world one of the greatest artists to have existed.
“They say stay in the lines, but there’s always something better on the other side.”
John Mayer is the true definition of the word ‘artist’. His willingness to take risks, experiment, recreate and his ability to venture out of his comfort zone is what makes him an artist. Mayer doesn’t just follow one trend, he explores. He isn’t like other songwriters, who follow the kind of song that makes them successful and try to produce more music of that sort.
His first album, Room For Squares won him the ‘Best Male Pop Vocal Performance’ Grammy for his track ‘Your Body Is A Wonderland’. But he didn’t stagnate at that point and continue his career as a pop vocalist. Instead, he tried to incorporate musical elements of blues and soul into his style which was seen in his third studio album, Continuum.
Mayer started his career as an acoustic rock artist but didn’t fail to wow the audience when he tried his hand at the blues. It was a risk he took without any idea of what the publics response would be.
His fourth album, Battle Studies was highly successful and received positive reviews from most critics. This album created a huge path of success for him once again, selling 880,000 copies in the United States.
Mayer’s fifth album, Born and Raised, saw another music style shift. This time he added some musical elements of folk and Americana, inspired by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, David Crosby, and Graham Nash.
Born and Raised received a large amount of mixed reviews, with some critics calling it ‘weathered’, ‘rustic’, and ‘lived-in’.
What they clearly fail to understand is that John Mayer isn’t a boring, consistent artist. There is no such thing as a ‘John Mayer type of song’ because no song of his shadows another, no album imitates the other. He is a versatile individual who seems to evidently enjoy music and doesn’t fear the undiscovered side of him.
His sixth album, Paradise Valley was also labelled as ‘different’ because it featured more musical breaks and instrumentals consisting of electric guitars rather than the harmonica. Once again the critics were not so pleased with his album, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. Music is his life; Writing, singing and playing the same thing repeatedly would drain the thrill and pleasure out of it.
Constant criticism and comparing everything he does to Battle Studies is not going to change who he is. He is in every form and aspect a true artist.