“I had nothing to say – I was going through a time in my life where I didn’t really want to share what was going on, but I didn’t want to be boring,” Mayer tells Guy Raz on NPR’s All Things Considered, taped Friday in Philadelphia.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘We gotta give a Rolling Stone interview I don’t want anybody at Playboy to think this is a boring interview.’ I got those lines so crossed, that what you read – among other things, obviously – is this complete miscalculation in why I was asked to do the interview.”
“I wasn’t prepared to be honest, but I knew that I had to be open,” he continues. “When you’re just open but not honest, then you start free-associating garbage. It doesn’t mean I can go back and scrub it out, but I understand it [now].”
An inflated sense of self-importance and a need for control was at the root of the problem, the Grammy-winning guitarist explains – and it came with some unpleasant side effects.
” ‘I’ve got to change their mind,’ ” Mayer, 34, recalls of his thought-process at the time. “I’d read comments [that said], ‘He’s a d-bag.’ And then you go, ‘No, I’m not!’ If you’re a control freak you [think], I’m going to figure out a way to make that one guy say, ‘He’s not all that bad.’ ”
“I completely lost sight of what the original plan was, which is [to] make music for anybody who wants to hear it,” he notes. “There was a part of me that was dead – a certain thoughtfulness that was gone.”
Locking himself away at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Mayer set about bringing that missing piece back to life, composing the introspective lyrics that would become Born and Raised, out Tuesday.
“I hope people want to receive this music. I have so much that I need to say – I hope I get a chance to say it. I hope people are interested,” he says, comparing the way he’s feeling to “the exact same thing that a kid would say to himself before he had a record deal – all you have to do is put the word ‘again’ after it.”
“I had to go back and recode [my career] in my brain as, ‘No, that was an incredible opportunity. You didn’t deserve that. You worked really hard and you had a little bit of something to say, but that doesn’t happen to everybody,’ ” says the singer-songwriter, currently sidelined by the return of a throat granuloma.
“I take that as the biggest gift in my life. I’ve learned to appreciate everything that has been given to me.”