Skip to main content

Toe to toe with John Mayer

By Denise Quan, CNN
Click to play
Soundcheck: John Mayer
  • John Mayer's new album, "Battle Studies," looks at relationship between the sexes
  • Mayer says part of him wants to settle down, but part isn't ready yet
  • He doesn't mind people picking at personal things, aware celebrity culture demands fluff
  • He hopes new album allows people to remember he's "a musician first"
  • John Mayer
  • Celebrity News
  • Music

North Hollywood, California (CNN) -- John Mayer's fourth studio album is called "Battle Studies," and it examines the push-and-pull relationship between men and women. Those words could also describe Mayer's dealings with journalists.

You can always count on him to be funny. Self-deprecating. Ironic and eloquent about any and all topics. But the most revealing interviews with the seven-time Grammy winning involve a bit of sparring.

In interviews, Mayer is a formidable challenger who's used to steering the conversation, and is so media-savvy that he's already calculated your next move.

But despite his constant chatter on Twitter (he's nearing 2,500 tweets), the 32-year-old singer-songwriter keeps personal issues pretty close to the vest -- until you listen to his new CD. Musically, "Battle Studies" is a throwback to early Mayer -- which, in turn, is largely a throwback to the sunny California pop/rock sound of the '70s and '80s. Lyrically, it's the journey of a man who has bared his soul.

Over the course of 11 tracks, the Connecticut native breaks hearts, gets his heart broken and toys with the idea of settling down. Then, in his current single, "Who Says," he defiantly defends his right to act like a single dude.

The musings are really no different than those of many other 32-year-old males, except this one puts his thoughts to song for millions of people to hear, and -- oh yeah -- has dated some of the most desirable women in Hollywood.

CNN: I guess this is an autobiographical album.

John Mayer: Sure, it's autobiographical -- absolutely.

CNN: You know that people are going to want to be putting names to all of the songs.

Mayer: And I say, "Good on you, Sherlock Holmes!" What can I do? What's the only option? The only option is to close up on songwriting. It's to shore up. Then I write crappy songs. "Insert name here." As an artist, I'm supposed to write a record that makes people go, "That happens to me, too, in life."

CNN: Have you ever thought about settling down with someone?

Mayer: I think "Battle Studies" is sort of like being smart enough to know you gotta change some things, but not strong enough to get around to doing it yet.

But isn't that 32? Be 32 when you're 32. Don't be 50 when you're 32, because next thing you know, I'm going to be 60 years old walking 18-year-old Russian models into Mr. Chow acting like that's normal.

CNN: Do you see yourself getting married and having kids?

Mayer: I'm pretty Norman Rockwell-like, so I can see myself in that setting. But I might also have expectations in life that don't match my behavior in life. I mean, I'm a musician who travels the world playing songs to thousands of people at the same time -- and yet sometimes I believe that I'm going to be able to blacktop a driveway and drop kids off to school. I think they're both going to have to give a little bit.

So right now, let a man enjoy the last couple of years of writing good songs before he meets the woman of his dreams, and dies inside, and can't ever write another song that's any good because they're not about being empty, or lost or lonely.

CNN: Does it bother you when people try to pick on personal things?

Mayer: No, it doesn't bother me. The truth will set me free. It's just when somebody pretends to be in an interview, but it's really about cornering somebody so they can get their pull quotes and go, "See ya!" [Makes running motion] Tap, tap, tap, Internet -- send!

CNN: Do you think I do that to you?

Mayer: No, but I think you have a duty to to come back with a fluff piece so you can play the interview with John Mayer right under "Man Builds Rocket Out of Baked Potato," which you love putting on Headline News. You'll make a little story highlight out of it -- you know, "John Mayer dated, now he doesn't, putting out 'Battle Studies' Number 17, he's a weird dude." I know what you have to do, and I'm here for ya, I'm here for ya!

CNN: We'll always have Twitter.

Mayer: Yeah. Actually, we won't always have Twitter.

CNN: Are you going to pull a Miley and de-Tweet?

Mayer: No, but I get why Miley did that. When you neuter your own Twitter account, you show fear. I think you show fear when you delete it -- it would show defeat. ... And I have a problem showing defeat.

CNN: What's it like to be a musician and a celebrity?

Mayer: There aren't a lot of musicians who become famous and still have integrity as a musician. I don't have proof I'm in that category yet. I think this record's as good as any record I've ever made. Hopefully that allows people to go, "Oh, right. He's a musician first."

CNN: Do you think people forget sometimes?

Mayer: I think I forget sometimes. But it's OK if they do.

CNN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Mayer: I think we talked about a record. But really, we had therapy.