music / Columns

Jam Central Station: John Mayer

July 7, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski
John Mayer



Singer/songwriter John Mayer rocketed to the top of the pop music scene during the early part of the 2000’s. His prolific guitar playing has earned him the respect of musicians and critics from many different musical genres, while his lyrics, pop sensibilities, and his penchant for dating famous women has earned him a high level of mainstream recognition. While he most likely wouldn’t be considered a “jam” musician, his talent and diversity has earned him a solid grassroots following to go along with his more “adult contemporary” fanbase. His abilities have allowed him to not only be a top-tier solo artist but also share the stage with some of the best guitar players in history as well as the most recent Grateful Dead side project.
Mayer began playing guitar in his teen years, and his talent allowed him to enroll in the Berklee College of Music. However, Mayer didn’t stay in school very long, instead choosing to move to Atlanta to begin to pursue a career as a musician. He released his first independent album, Inside Wants Out in 1999, which was followed by a performance at South by Southwest in 2000. His performance at South by Southwest quickly led to a contract with a small label and the initial release of Room for Squares in June of 2001. Word of mouth, Mayer’s rigorous touring schedule, and the sheer talent displayed on the album quickly caught the attention of Columbia Records, who picked up Mayer and re-released Room for Squares in September of that same year with some additional tracks.
The Columbia release of Room for Squares thrust Mayer into the spotlight almost immediately. The hit single “Your Body is a Wonderland” gave Mayer worldwide recognition. In under two years, Mayer went from unknown singer/songwriter to Grammy winning superstar. Wanting to show that he was more than just a pop artist for girls to scream over, Mayer chose to follow up with a live album and DVD instead of heading straight back to the studio. The CD/DVD primarily featured songs from Room for Squares, along with a couple of unreleased songs and covers of both Stevie Ray Vaughn and Sting.
2003’s Heavier Things was the true follow-up to Room for Squares. Mayer and Columbia intentionally tried to avoid hyping the album too much, releasing the first single only a couple of weeks prior to the album and not going on a huge marketing campaign. Despite this, the album debuted at #1 and produced Mayer’s first #1 single, along with a couple of other hit singles. “Daughter” won Mayer another Grammy. The subsequent tour led to the release of a set of live performances, entitled As/is. These albums were primarily internet-only releases, with a CD compilation released to stores.
Mayer could have easily continued on the acoustic singer-songwriter path with great success. Instead, Mayer began collaborating with hip hop, R&B, and blues artists as a way to expand his musical offerings. He went on tour with Herbie Hancock and recorded with guitar legends like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Instead of continuing only with his solo career, he formed the John Mayer Trio. To date, the Trio has only released one album, 2005’s live release Try!, but they have continued to work together, both on Mayer’s solo releases and occasional reunions as the John Mayer Trio.
Mayer released Continuum in 2006, which featured a distinct movement towards blues. The album features some songs written and performed originally by the John Mayer Trio along with a Jimi Hendrix cover. The album spawned the single “Waiting on the World to Change,” and in 2007 Mayer won another pair of Grammys. The John Mayer Trio was also nominated for a Grammy for Try!, although they didn’t win. In 2008, Mayer released another live album, Where is the Light, which featured a solo acoustic set, a John Mayer Trio set (continuing to blur the lines between Mayer’s solo career and the Trio), and a full-band set. The album led to more Grammy nominations in 2009 and another Grammy win for “Gravity.” Mayer won a second Grammy in 2009 for “Say” from the soundtrack for The Bucket List. He even was recognized by Rolling Stone as one of the “new guitar gods” and given the nickname “Slowhand Jr.” He released Battle Studies in 2009 to mixed reviews, although the album did debut at #1 and was followed by a very successful tour.
After the end of the Battle Studies tour Mayer took a hiatus due to vocal issues as well as personal problems. Mayer’s personal and dating life had become tabloid fodder, and he also gave some interviews that threw him into controversy. He released Born and Raised in 2012, but due to his vocal issues he was unable to tour behind the album. He did perform some one-off shows, only playing guitar and not singing. By early 2013 he was able to begin singing full-time again, and he played at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival as well as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
He returned to the studio in 2013 to finish Paradise Valley, and he released the album in August of that year. That album garnered him significant praise from critics and he once again embarked on a very successful tour. In February of 2015 he joined Bob Weir on The Late Show to perform a pair of Grateful Dead songs. Weir was so impressed by Mayer’s ability that, after the 50th Anniversary Grateful Dead shows in 2015 he asked Mayer to join the next Dead incarnation with himself, Hart, and Kreutzmann as “Dead and Co.” The group began a national tour that October. Since that time the group has played over 100 shows and Mayer has written his own chapter as a part of the Grateful Dead family.
Mayer still has a reputation among many as a pop sensation or simply an ‘adult contemporary’ star. However, his career has been much more than that. While he’s had tremendous commercial pop success, he’s also been recognized as one of the best guitarists of this generation. His talent has allowed him to share the stage with some of the greatest living guitarists as well as step into a very difficult slot with Dead & Co. While there will always be some who write him off, those who give him a chance are almost always impressed with his work and end up respecting him as an artist.



Sasquatch! Festival to end
The founders of the Sasquatch! Festival have announced that they will not return in 2019. The annual event, held at the Gorge, has gone on for 17 years and has been known as a home for the best and most exciting alternative and independent artists.

Farm Aid announces lineup
The annual Farm Aid event will take place on September 22 at the XFinity Theatre in Hartford, MA. The event will feature Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and many others.

Infamous Stringdusters announce tour
The Infamous Stringdusters announced a new run of dates. The band will be on the road through mid-November, and will spend early December at Strings & Sol.

June 29 – Laytonville, CA – Kate Wolf Music Festival
July 17 – Stateline, NV – Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
July 18 – Stateline, NV – Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
July 20-22 – North Plains, OR – Northwest String Summit
July 28-29 – Floyd, VA – FloydFest
Aug. 3 – Boulder, CO – The Fox Theatre
Aug. 4 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Aug. 10-11 – Alta, WY – Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
Aug. 17-19 – Wellston, MI – Hoxeyville
Aug. 22 – Ketchum, ID – Baldygrass
Aug. 24 – Whitefish, MT – Great Northern Bar
Aug. 25 – Missoula, MT – River City Roots Festival
Sept. 15-16 – Flagstaff, AZ – Pickin’ In The Pines
Sept. 21 – Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle
Sept. 22 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music Festival
Sept. 23 – East Aurora, NY – Borderland Music and Arts Festival
Sept. 25 – TBA
Sept. 26 – TBA
Sept. 27 – Greensboro, NC – Blind Tiger^
Sept. 28 – Oak Hill, WV – Adventure Grass
Sept. 29 – Richmond, VA – Off To The Races: The RVA Bluegrass Experience
Sept. 30 – Philadelphia, PA – Skyline at the Mann
Oct. 7 – Ontario, CA – Huck Finn Jubilee
Oct. 11 – St Louis, MO – The Pageant
Oct. 12 – Eureka Springs, AR – Hillberry Music Festival
Oct. 25 – Live Oak, FL – Hulaween
Oct. 27-28 – Placerville, CA – Hangtown Music Festival
Nov. 7 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Music Ballroom^
Nov. 8 – TBA
Nov. 9 – TBA
Nov. 10 – Asheville, NC – Orange Peel^
Nov. 11 – Greenville, NC – Greenville Theater^
Nov. 13 – TBA
Nov. 14 – Homer, NY – Center for the Arts^
Nov. 15 – New York, NY – The Gramercy Theatre^
Nov. 16 – TBA
Nov. 17 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre^
Dec. 7-11 – Puerto Morelos, MEX – Strings & Sol

ALO announce dates
ALO announced a small run of dates. The shows will be in various areas around the country rather than a full tour.

September 22-23 Navarro, CA—Camp Deep End
October 17 Brooklyn, NY—Brooklyn Bowl
October 18 Pawling, NY—Daryl’s House
October 19 Washington, DC—Gypsy Sally’s
October 20 Philadelphia, PA—The Foundry
October 21 Boston, MA—Brighton Music
November 2 Boulder, CO—Fox Theatre
November 3 Denver, CO—Cervantes’
January 15-21 Port of Miami, FL—Jam Cruise


High Sierra
July 5-8
Quincy, CA
String Cheese Incident, Sturgill Simpson, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, Turkuaz, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle, Fruition, Spafford

Camp Bisco
July 12-14
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
The Disco Biscuits, Bassnectar, Excision, Bonobo, The Floozies, Lettuce, TAUK, Lotus, Papadosio

The Ride Festival
July 14-15
Telluride, CO
The String Cheese Incident, Sheryl Crow, Grace Potter, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Something

Peach Festival
July 19-22
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Gov’t Mule, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Dicky Betts, moe., Twiddle, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Blackberry Smoke, Turkuaz, Leftover Salmon, The Main Squeeze,

Northwest String Summit
July 19-22
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams, Fruition, Mandolin Orange, Steep Canyon Rangers

July 25-29
Floyd, VA
Foster the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Hiss Golden Messenger

Element Music Festival
July 26-29
Snug Lake Ampitheatre
British Columbia
Lotus, Spafford, Particle

Werk Out Festival
August 2-4
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
The Werks, Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lettuce, Papadosio, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle, Turkuz

Summer Meltdown Festival
August 2-5
Darrington, WA
Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Beats Antique, Papadosio, Twiddle, Pimps of Joytime

August 17-19
Wellston, VA
Dawes, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Larry Keel, Steppin’ In It, Jon Stickney Trio, The Crane Wives

August 23-26
Arrington, VA
Dead & Company, Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Sheryl Crow, Lettuce, George Clinton & P-Funk, Blues Traveler, Matisyahu, Spafford, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Waterloo Festival
September 7-9
Carson Creek Ranch
Austin, TX
The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Otiel & Friends, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Motet, Boombox, TAUK, Marco Benevento

FreshGrass Festival
September 14-16
North Adams, MA
Trampled By Turtles, Yonder Mountain String Band, Indigo Girls, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Steep Canyon Rangers

The Festy Experience
October 5-7
Arrington, VA
Greensky Bluegrass, Gillian Welch, Railroad Earth, Sam Bush Band, Della Mae, Fruition, Carbon Leaf, Bonnie Paine

Hillberry Music Festival
October 11-14
Railroad Earth, Trampled By Turtles, Sam Bush, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Split Lip Rayfield

Suwannee Hulaween
October 25-28
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
The String Cheese Incident, Jamiroquai, Odesza, The Revivalists, STS9, Lettuce, Trampled by Turtles, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Galactic, Turkuaz, The Wood Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Hangtown Music Festival
October 25-28
Placerville, CA
Railroad Earth (3 Nights), The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Trampled By Turtles, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe presents Eat a Bunch of Peaches, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, Pimps of Joytime

Strings & Sol
December 7-11
Puerto Morelos, MX
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon

December 12-16
Puerto Morelos, MX
The Disco Biscuits, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Ghost Light

Winter Wondergrass Vermont
December 14-16
Stratton, VT

Tropical Throe.down
January 10-14
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
moe., The New Mastersounds, Big Something

Jam in the Sand
January 15-19
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, The Wailers, Green Leaf Rustlers

International Incident
January 25-28
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
The String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams

Panic en la Playa Ocho
January 25-29
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Winter Wondergrass Colorado
February 22-24
Steamboat Springs, CO

Winter Wondergrass California
March 29-31
Squaw Valley, CA


Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!