Born on October 16, 1977, in Fairfield, CT; son of Margaret (a school teacher) and Richard (a school principal) Mayer. Addresses: Record company--Columbia Records, 555 Madison Ave., 10th Fl., New York, NY 10022-3211, website: http://www.columbiarecords.com. Booking--Creative Artists Agency, 3310 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203, phone: (615) 383-8787. Website--John Mayer Official Website: http://www.johnmayer.com.
Pop singer-songwriter John Mayer came to the fore in 2002, fueled by the popularity of his major label debut, Room for Squares, which sold more than three million copies and earned him a Grammy Award in 2002. Literate and thoughtful, Mayer has been lauded for his sensitive lyrics, astute guitar playing, and melodically rich songs that are a blend of jazz, pop, and blues.
Mayer was born on October 16, 1977, to Margaret, a school teacher, and Richard Mayer, a school principal. He grew up as the middle child between two brothers in Fairfield, Connecticut. According to Jenny Eliscu on RollingStone.com in November of 2003, his mother described him as "a peaceable kid." While he was growing up, Mayer wanted to be a radio announcer. "Maybe it was the booming baritone or the glib delivery," he told Eliscu. He practiced announcing his own radio station, WJOHN, in the bathroom, and recorded radio shows in his bedroom. His aspirations changed when he started playing guitar at age 13. He learned to play mostly by himself, listening and playing along to CDs. He drew attention as a teen by emulating the blues guitar licks of his hero, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Mayer's guitar playing got in the way of his school work and he was constantly at odds with his parents, who wanted to know what their son was planning to do if he didn't become a world-famous musician. "Just watch, just watch," he recalled saying to his mother, according to Eliscu. He graduated from high school and earned a partial scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, which he attended for a year. In 1999 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked at a gas station to support himself. He played guitar and sang in coffee houses during time off from work, and released his acoustic, independent debut, Inside Wants Out, during that year. In Atlanta, Mayer found an audience in the coffee houses and clubs, and began to draw the attention of major record labels. He later moved to New York City.
Mayer found a major label record deal at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in 2000. A representative of Aware Records, a Chicago-based imprint of Columbia, saw him perform, and Mayer was able to sign to the label soon after. Columbia took over his contract before his first release. By the fall of 2000 he was in the recording studio with producer John Alagia, who had worked with Dave Matthews and Ben Folds Five. In contrast to Inside Wants Out, Mayer's major-label debut, Room for Squares, was backed by a full electric band.
Room for Squares simmered for a while before it began to pick up speed. But by the spring of 2002, the album was climbing the Billboard charts in leaps and bounds. Radio stations across America were playing his first single, "No Such Thing," in heavy rotation, as they did with his next two, "Your Body Is a Wonderland" and "Why Georgia." Rolling Stone magazine named him one of Ten Artists to Watch, he was featured on television and in major magazines, and many of his 2002 concerts were sold out. When Mayer was struggling at Berklee in 1997, his father had sent him a check for $250 with a note that read, "Remember me when you go platinum." In 2002 Mayer gave his first platinum record plaque to his father, with the note mounted inside the frame.
Early on, Mayer's lyrical and vocal styles earned him comparisons to Dave Matthews, David Gray, and Steely Dan, but the young musician still counts Vaughn as his biggest influence, along with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray. Mayer appears to take his guitar playing more seriously than he does his stardom. "At a time when countless musicians wish they were pop stars," critic Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Mayer is a pop star aspiring to be a musician."
"I want to run through the walls of my high school, I want to scream at the top of my lungs," Mayer croons in the opening refrains of "No Such Thing." In the song he looks forward to his ten-year high school reunion, and postulates that there's no "real world" to be afraid of or look forward to. In Mayer's follow-up single "Your Body is a Wonderland" he describes the joys of making out. The song earned him a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Mayer's style appeals especially to female fans. "In Mr. Mayer's songs," Pareles wrote, "he's a perfect candidate for a boyfriend: thoughtful, affectionate, a little wounded, and ready for assurance, with a breathy voice." A brief but highly publicized romance with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt left Mayer wary of celebrity dating.
Mayer's highly anticipated follow-up to Room for Squares, titled Heavier Things, debuted at number one on the American charts, and pushed his career further into the stratosphere. Rolling Stone critic James Hunter called it a "more sophisticated album." The songs, Hunter wrote, "are sparser ... Most of these tracks proceed more subtly, with an emphasis on interior life." Being a famous person isn't Mayer's goal, he claims. Even after his second, star-making album, he told Eliscu, "I'm focused on proving my success wasn't an accident.... I want to get twice as good as I am now."
Mayer is respected throughout the music community by his pop peers and, perhaps surprisingly, by rap music's elite. Rap star Jay-Z and Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes have both publicly praised Mayer's music. Williams elaborated to MTV: "You know, the dude is a real musician," Williams said. "It's like anything you ever loved in Joe Jackson or anything you ever loved in any '70s rock. You're gonna get it out of this dude. He's a real student, and it comes through in his music."
by Brenna Sanchez
John Mayer's Career
Began playing guitar, 1990; attended Berklee College of Music, 1997; released Inside Wants Out, 1999; signed with Aware Records, released Room For Squares, 2001; released Heavier Things, 2003.
John Mayer's Awards
Grammy Award, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Your Body is a Wonderland," 2003.
- Selected discography
- Inside Wants Out Aware, 1999.
- Room For Squares Columbia, 2001.
- Heavier Things Columbia, 2003.
February 13, 2005: Mayer won two Grammy Awards, including song of the year and best male pop vocal performance, both for "Daughters." Source: Grammys.com, www.grammys.com/awards/grammy/47winners, February 14, 2005.
June 15, 2006: Mayer received the Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Source: Songwriters Hall of Fame, www.songwritershalloffame.org/ceremony_main_page.asp, June 15, 2006.
- New York Times, November 26, 2003, p. E1.
- People, October 6, 2003, p. 51.
- Rolling Stone, October 2, 2003, p. 116.
- Village Voice, October 1-7, 2003, p. C89.
- "Forget Cristal: John Mayer CDs are the Latest Hip-Hop Must Have," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1484845/20040205/index.jhtml?headlines=true (February 13, 2004).
- "Songs in the Key of Mayer," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/features/featuregen.asp?pid=2043 (January 3, 2004).