John Mayer has been producing meaningful and well written music since the release of his first studio album in 2001. His music has the ability to connect deeply with pop fans as well as guitar fanatics. This got me thinking, how does John Mayer write music?
John Mayer writes music by going through a four piece checklist. The song has to say something, be right for him, meaningful, and is clever. When all pieces combine musically, then a song is created.
Continue reading to learn more about John Mayer’s writing process.
Does John Mayer Write His Own Music?
John Mayer writes all of his own music and has been since 1999. All eight of his studio albums consist of songs entirely written by him and each carry a lyrical theme to them.
The only exception was a brief period in the mid to late 90’s when John was living in Atlanta with Clay Cook. He and Clay ended up writing a few songs together but this musical relationship would not last as both wanted separate things musically.
John Mayer has worked with legendary producers during his career. Although he mentions how he is still the “lead pitcher” when writing music. He takes all of what they have in; but it’s still John writing for himself. John Mayer uses their energy to support new ideas to come through.
When Did John Mayer Start Writing Music
John Mayer started writing music in 1994 at the age of 17. John realized that he did not know anybody that could sing them so he started singing them himself. It was with John’s band, Villanova Junction, that his newly written music was performed for the first time.
When he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, John would often skip classes to write music. Many of the songs on his first studio album, Room For Squares, were written in his Berklee dorm. Shortly after, John left Berklee after 1.5 semesters.
After leaving Berklee, John and his friend Clay Cook moved to Atlanta. There he and Clay started writing songs together. Both artists had a vision for how their music was to be written and they butted heads. At that time, John was truly a solo act and could not be dampened. After their breakup, John became a full time singer songwriter in Atlanta.
How Does John Mayer Write Music?
John Mayer writes music by going through a checklist for each piece he has written. When John writes music, the song has to say something, be right for him, meaningful, and is clever. If all four requirements align, then a song is made. John phrases this as matching the music with the lyrics / concept.
Being from a guitar background with a miraculous ear, John mentions how the music is very easy to come up with and words are harder to come up with. Often times it is the other way around, especially for pop musicians.
“When the music sounds like the lyrics, and the music and lyrics together sound like the idea. And the music and the lyrics and the idea sound like the singer. Then you got a song.”John Clayton Mayer
Coming up with words and music that match each other is very difficult according to Mayer. John takes a musical idea, compares it with a lyrical idea, works at it, and at some point he will wait until something randomly comes into his head to fit the two ideas above.
John Mayer has a unique take on writing music because he is aware of what he has already said. Many artists write relatively similar songs when they are older to what they wrote years before. John is aware of this occurrence and is actively going against the grain on it. John is not inclined to attempt to copy himself. He does not want anyone to say “wow you wrote a new song, it’s like Slow Dancing in a Burning Room but better”. He is lucky to have songs that fans attach to and he knows that he would not do it as well if he tried to mimic them.
John Mayer and Coming Up With New Song Ideas
In 2020, John mentioned how he now has to work a little harder for a song idea. The song still has to say something, be right for him, meaningful, some sort of cleverness to it, and now can’t be something he has already said. John writes fewer songs than when he was in his 20’s and early 30’s because so many of those ideas have already been used when he was younger.
“Right now I am looking for a certain kind of maturity in my playing and a youth in my writing”John Mayer, Masterclass Interview
John is looking for the music in his head that sounds believable. According to Mayer, the most important thing in writing music is to sound believable. That is what it is all about.
John Mayer’s Writers Block
John Mayer describes writers block as two people inside of you. The writer and the reader. Writer’s block is when the reader does not like the writer. In non-metaphoric terms, when the listener does not like the player. John does not see writers block as a failure to write, instead he sees it as a failure to catch a feedback loop of enjoying what you’re seeing and wanting to contribute more to it. For John, this does not happen as often anymore.
Find out How John Mayer Learned to Play Guitar!
Today, John does not try to make records unless he has a defined goal for what the music and message should be. When he catches that, it makes it easier to write.
John Mayer gets writers block when he tries to have a song capture everything he is trying to say on an album. He mentions how he has never gotten a song that way. Whenever he wants to write a spatially and conceptually big song, he can’t.
Mayer mentions how he is a student forever, constantly learning and improving his writing. Even the greats work on their craft to no end. Thank you for reading How Does John Mayer Write Music. Please subscribe if you would like to be notified when a new article is posted.