In a new interview with Rolling Stone, pop star turned Dead & Company guitarist John Mayer talked extensively about his presence within the Grateful Dead spinoff, including the sense of inclusion he’s found within the group as well as what the music means to him and how his perspectives on success have changed over the past ten years. Mayer also took the time to address Chris Robinson’s remarks on the Howard Stern show in mid-May, during which the Chris Robinson Brotherhood bandleader stated “Everything that Jerry Garcia ever talked about or stood for, John Mayer is the antithesis. . . . [Mayer] knows all the licks, there’s nothing unique about his playing. Jerry was one of the most unique musicians in the world. Jerry never played anyone else’s licks and now here’s John Mayer playing everyone else’s licks.”
Robinson’s remarks became a highly controversial topic, earning the musician criticisms of his own after they were made. However, in this new interview, John Mayer displays an almost uncharacteristic zen-like demeanor by taking the high road when asked if Robinson’s comments bothered him. Mayer notes, “I care about this band too much to give that life. I have my thoughts, but it’s not my place. I realized not long ago that I’m done debating my own merits: ‘No, I am very good.’ Music isn’t a sports-page thing to me.”
Mayer’s response comes after he speaks on what he’s learned in the two years he’s been with Dead & Company. As a traditional solo artist in the past, he notes, “I’ve never had inclusion before. I always created one-man clubs. And one-man shows are very hard to live inside of and inhabit for 50 years.” He then describes the ensemble as “everything [he’s] always wanted,” comparing the community aspect of Dead & Company to a “basketball team” where everyone is “doing [their] best to help the team win.”
Historically, Mayer has not been shy about praising the influence and music of the Grateful Dead nor expressing his own gratitude for being a part of the Dead-inspired act. Again, he reiterates “being invited into this band is the highest award in the world” and that it’s “the gift of [his] life to be able to play that music with that band.” Ahead of describing the Grateful Dead’s music as something that “takes you to a completely different place, . . . inspires you, and it soothes you in some way that it’s almost like hanging out in a biker gang of imaginary friends,” Mayer compares how his standards for success have shifted to a more abstract view that privileges his membership in Dead & Company over “universally agreed-upon credentials like a Grammy or an American Music Award or a chart position.”
To hammer home his dedication to the music, he also quotes Donna Jean from the recently released Long Strange Trip documentary, stating that after the singer says “I don’t wanna listen to this music anymore. I wanna play this music,” he “was blown away, because that’s exactly how I felt. . . . I am one of a million people who, when they heard the music, eventually went, ‘Man, let me in on it.'”
You can read John Mayer’s full interview with Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle here, which also touches on the guitarist entering “cannabis life,” changes to the pop world over the last decade, and his own guitar face.
[Photo: Emily Butler]