John Mayer Tells Apple Music About New Album 'Sob Rock'

Article Contributed by Apple | Published on Wednesday, July 14, 2021

John Mayer joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 to discuss his forthcoming eighth studio album ’Sob Rock’. He tells Apple Music why there’s “no more reason to have to adhere to any given idea of cool”, approaching songwriting like a film director, how he defines writer’s block, why his albums are different thematically, limiting there album to 10 songs, and how humor informs the album. He also discusses his relationship with Shawn Mendes and why he’s “remarkable”.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music The Mission Statement of ’Sob Rock’...

Sob Rock is made to make you feel joy because it was made in a moment where joy was at such a premium

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About ’Sob Rock’ Being Nostalgia But Not Traceable To Anything From the Past…

The idea of Sob Rock is that it might've been something that already happened. But when you go looking, it's not. The idea of sob rock is to implant false memories into your brain, because that's what it did for me. So it's a little black mirror. You can't find it. It's out of my brain, and it's out of everyone's shared Mandela Effect, okay? And the question is, can you have memories of things that never happened to you?Can you have memories of things that never happened to you, or that might've happened to you but you were too young? Can you go back in time and synthesize a piece of work that's so true to the era, that when you hear it, your brain goes, "No, no, this exists. No, no, I'm going to find it." And you can’t.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music Why There’s “No More Reason To Have To Adhere To Any Given Idea of Cool” and Making a Provocative / Antagonizing Album...

John Mayer: When I made my first record, I was told, "Look, it's not what's hot."

Zane Lowe: Yeah. What a great thing to be told at the beginning, by the way.

John Mayer: Oh, I would just get my spirit crushed. Look, this is what's hot. POD, Papa Roach, Korn.

John Mayer: What I would love other people to understand is that there is no more reason to have to adhere to any given idea of cool. Especially post-pandemic, which for the first time in anyone's lives stopped the clock on hyper modern day trade of culture. And so for me, I went, "Well, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. And in fact, I can make a record that's in some way provocative, if not antagonizing." And then I did what I thought was going to be antagonizing, and this is the most important part of the conversation I think creatively. You may just have to dress up your intentions to make something different. And call it by a name that no one else is going to call it after it's made, and for me it was like, "I want to get in trouble. I want someone to tell me this is shit." And I made a record, that to me at the time, only in a way to coax something out of me that I wouldn't have normally done. Shit post a record, it's called Sob Rock because it's a shit posting. But more importantly it's what I thought was a shit post and this gets down to where artists sit in front of you and play you what they think is their garbage. And you go, "That's the best thing I ever heard you play."It makes a mockery of their interpretation of the experience. Which is just enough to break out of the mold and make something unique.

John Mayer & Zane Lowe

Zane Lowe: The whole trade, exactly. You detonated it.

John Mayer: Yeah. And the reason you have to is because I never want to be that artist who runs out of paint colors and begins to just make the same songs over and over again. If you're lucky enough to be 20 years in, you do have to deal with the fact that, wow, these paint colors they want me to use, it's another blue painting. It's another blue painting with a white stripe. It's another blue painting with a white tree. It's another blue painting with a white car. So for me, I'm only interested if I get to put new paints on the canvas. And if my way of doing it at this time was, literally no one's looking. This one's called Sob Rock because you just would never have imagined that was the name of the record. And I'm going to go so deep into my fantasy. I live, half of me is in this fantasy all the time now, especially as I'm watching the promo stuff come together.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About His Relationship With Shawn Mendes and Why He’s “Remarkable”...

John Mayer: Well, Shawn's a little different. I think I know everything he makes. We send each other everything we make, so I know... It's really cool. As I sit here, I know what he's going for on his next record.Which I find actually really informative for me as a musician to understand. If I can understand where the key players are going, it helps me understand where I would sit, given the records I make.

Zane Lowe: What I love about your relationship with Shawn is that on paper, it feels more like somebody who is uniquely inspired by you, that you would then try to nurture and guide. But I know that you actually have a deep friendship, and there's a brodown there.

John Mayer: He's remarkable. He's remarkable. That's all there is to it. He'll send me stuff he's working on, and I'll send him stuff I'm working on. And we don't really sugarcoat it for each other. Cool. Sometimes we go, "Cool." Sometimes we go, "Now that's one." He is so honest man, he's really... You know who he reminds me of? He reminds me of George Harrison, in the sense that his spirit is immovable, and it's his, and it's honest. And that's very George Harrison to me. I remember seeing George Harrison on the Dick Cavett show, obviously not when it aired. And he's not pushed around by the excitement around him.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About Approaching Songwriting Like a Film Director…

I think I got more out of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood than I ever expected to get out in terms of it being an achievement, an aesthetic achievement. And I thought a lot about being a director on this record, having tenure, having what the kids call clout. If I'm working on a movie or a record, then people might want to know what that idea is, and might trust that whatever that idea is is worth watching or listening to, to keep the metaphor running. So to me, it's like sitting down to write a movie. Oh, I have an idea for a movie. I don't hear about movie writers getting writer's block, I just hear about them picking different projects.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music How He Defines Writer’s Block and Why His Albums Are Different Thematically...

John Mayer: Writer's block is when the two people inside of you, the writer and the reader, when the reader doesn't love the writer, or when the listener doesn't love the player. And so writer's block is not a failure to write, it is a failure to catch this feedback loop of enjoying what you're seeing and wanting to contribute more to it. So writer's block for me doesn't happen as often as it does for other people, because I know when I'm ready to sit down and go for it.

Zane Lowe: So you know when you are connected to that conduit in a meaningful way, and you know when it's cloudy and best to sit tight?

John Mayer

John Mayer: Mm-hmm. And also, I don't really make records unless I've caught a new mission statement for what the music should be, what the message should be. And once I catch that, then it's a little bit easier to write. So the reason my records are so different thematically, is because I just have to wait until I catch a new script idea. I'm beginning to look at what I do more like a film director. Not to be artsy-fartsy.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About The Song “Why You No Love Me” and How Humor Informs The Album…

…when I was making the record, the idea was that I was getting somewhere if I laughed. Not because it's hilarious and it's insincere and it's jokey. It's unexpected. We laugh when the sentence ends in a way you don't expect, or just... the song that explains this the most is "Why You No Love Me" on the record, which is funny in the sense that it is so blatantly beautiful and sappy, and it's like this late seventies kind of... All the names. The lyrics are brutal. I've never written more brutal lyrics in my life. And when I would play it for people, they would laugh because it's like, what are you doing? And then sort of go like, stop it, right? It was like this umami flavor where, musically, you're on a sailboat, and lyrically, if you really break it down, it's really, really intense.

 "Why You No Love Me" is how I have spoken those words for a long time in relationship. And it is the child who... It's not English as a second language. It's language as a second language. How do I use these words that I've just learned as a child... And maybe it takes 43 years to ask that question, but you still ask it in the language of a child. How is it possible? How is it possible that you couldn't love me, right? And that's brutal. But it's funny, as all things that are brutal are when you're an adult. Do you know what I'm talking about? And for me, I wouldn't have finished that song if I thought it was a joke. I don't have the balls to carry a joke that far.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About The Song “Shouldn’t Matter But It Does”…

"Shouldn't Matter But It Does", I wrote in my head. It was the only song I never wrote down. I would just work on it in my head. I'd stand in the shower and work on the song. And then I went up and wrote it up in the studio in Montana. I wrote it in an evening. I just put it down, and I thought it was nice. Okay. It's nice. Normally the first song you write for a run is like the pipe clearer.

John Mayer Tells Apple Music About Limiting The Album to 10 Songs…

Yes, this is the record where I had 10 songs locked. These are the 10. My record before, which was The Search for Everything, to me suffered, because the door was open to it the whole time. New songs would come in, old songs would go out. So there was probably a version of that record that would have come out a year earlier that would have been a little more focused. So the new rule was, these are the 10.