"I'm a 70-year-old old version of myself," the musician says of his still-limited singing range

By Tim Nudd
January 17, 2013 11:00 AM
Credit: Jason Woodill

Sing it, John!

Forced to be all but silent for 20 months as he recovered from two bouts of vocal cord problems, John Mayer returned to the stage Wednesday, performing four songs at a benefit concert in Montana.

“And we’re back,” read a post on his Twitter page, along with a photo of Mayer playing in Bozeman.

He may be back, but he’s far from 100 percent.

“I don’t have a ton of range … I’m a 70-year-old version of myself,” Mayer said – as quoted on Twitter by Anthony Mason, co-host of CBS Sunday Morning, which will air a story Feb. 10 about Mayer’s months of vocal therapy.

“It’s like a painter with just reds and purples,” Mayer says of his range.

A full recovery will still take months.

Mayer, 35, has twice battled a granuloma in his throat. The problem, for which he had surgery in 2011, returned last March, necessitating a second round under the knife last October.

“They cut this thing out, then they inject your vocal cords with Botox, which freezes [them] so [they] can heal without smacking up against the other side,” he said of the surgery.

Mayer, who has been dating pop star Katy Perry, has a home in Montana.

He organized Wednesday’s benefit to help firefighters who battled last summer’s Pine Creek Fire, which destroyed more than 8,500 acres of forest and farmland near Bozeman.

“Without the tireless effort and dedication of the firefighters of the Pine Creek Fire, many more homes and memories would have been destroyed, mine among them,” he tells PEOPLE in a statement.

“I wasn’t in town when the fire broke out and I’ve always wished I could do my part to help, the way so many in the community did. Putting on a concert to raise some money for the departments is the least I can do for a town and a community that has welcomed me with open arms.