John Mayer Going Back To The Lab To Get His Music Where He Wants It To Be

Singer/songwriter working on the follow-up to Heavier Things.

John Mayer has a lot he wants to change about his music.

"I've got a lot to do," the singer/songwriter said last week. "There's a lot of lab work to do in terms of taking the pop music that I've been known for — which is a great method of delivery, I love pop music — but somehow loading it up with a lot more urgency on the guitar-playing side of things. So I'm just going to be in the lab."

Mayer, who's been touring nonstop since last summer, is taking the rest of the year off (with the exception of a few radio-station holiday festivals) to write and record his follow-up to Heavier Things (see "John Mayer Glad His Fans Aren't Chimps, Plans To Remind Them He's Not Brain-Dead").

"I'm disassembling the things that have gotten me here and realizing what I do like about it musically and what I don't like about it musically," he said. "I've got a big task because I'm going into my third record, and I'm not where I want to be. There's not as much deviation [in my music] as I wish I could have, but that's the job for my next record."

Along with working on his own material, Mayer is hoping to team up with some of his fans, whether it be Elton John or Kanye West (see "Forget Cristal — John Mayer CDs Are The Latest Hip-Hop Must-Have").

"Waiting inside of me, parked and ready to ride, is this collaborative side, the side that can take someone's beat and go, 'Check this out,' hand it back to them, and they go, 'Ooh!' " Mayer said. "There's so much that I can put down on a tape that would support someone else's music. I'm just waiting for someone to call me up. I'm not going to invite myself over to sleep, but if someone wants to call me up and say, 'Hey, are you in New York right now?' I'll push my amp down Fifth Avenue and just see what happens."

In the meantime, Mayer is releasing the third and final single from Heavier Things, the poignant "Daughters."

" 'Daughters' is a song that I wrote on an acoustic guitar in a hotel room, and it was a very simple statement," Mayer explained. "It was written universally to all fathers by way of one girl, and that's important because I don't want people to think it's preaching. I don't like the idea of writing a song that says, 'Now everybody listen to what I gotta tell you.' But it's global out of one singular kind of pain."

  On the set of "New York, NY" video shoot

The song opens with a verse describing Mayer's love for a woman with issues that he realizes date back to her childhood. "Fathers, be good to your daughters," he sings in the chorus. "Daughters will love like you do."

Mayer just shot a video for the song last week that combines performance footage with close-up shots of a sad woman.

"I felt like getting out of the way of the tune," Mayer said. "Anybody who thinks there should be a story for this song, I don't think that could ever be a success. The song is such a vivid story that the video for me is more like just playing the song. The way that [director] Mario Sorrenti interpreted it is very interesting. It's a '70s/late '60s beatnik kind of thing that I wanted to go after 'cause the song runs the risk of being perceived as kind of a sensitive-singer song, but I think there's a lot more involved in the tunes that I write. Sometimes they get [tagged] as 'strummy strum strum strummy strum strum.' But this has a real sense of urgency, and it's really vibrant."

Along with the new single, Mayer just released four live albums, the As Is series, through iTunes.

"People don't review iTunes records, so it's a nice loophole," Mayer said. "There's incredible scrutiny in the world for artistry, and most of it is bullsh--. This was a way to put out a piece of work that's going straight to the fans and not getting ripped off the assembly line by someone who goes, 'Let me see — I don't like it, and I'm going to tell everybody.' "