"My next single is gonna be a cover of Lil Jon, 'From the window to the wall,' " John Mayer said recently, referring to the Atlanta rapper's "Get Low." "I've got some unraveling of my career to do. [Singing] 'Put your t---ies on the glass.' I'm gonna bring that to it. Alicia Keys could sing that and no one would care what it means."
Mayer likes to joke a lot in interviews, of course, and this is another example of that. But the singer/songwriter has in fact promised something different with his next album (see "John Mayer Plans To 'Close Up Shop On Acoustic Sensitive' "), and hip-hop is a direction he's been exploring, playing on upcoming tracks by Common and Kanye West.
On the other hand, Mayer also recently collaborated with B.B. King for the blues great's next album, played onstage with Eric Clapton in London a few weeks ago, and jammed Tuesday night with Buddy Guy at the Jammys. And given the blues show Mayer played in New York at the end of last year, that seems a likelier route.
Or perhaps the follow-up to Heavier Things will be a little bit of a lot of things.
"My goal now is to record as soon as I'm done writing," Mayer said. "I don't like going in and doing a whole record — I think it's a really daunting process. I want to be really inspired by the song that I've written, really wait till I'm familiar with it and then put it down and be excited by it. I'm not thinking, 'I gotta hit 12 songs, gotta hit 12 songs.' I might come up with a bunch, track 'em, go home and take a month off."
Mayer's also considering testing songs with some small-scale shows this summer ("It's just going to be me and a couple of people jamming if I go out," he said), and he definitely wants to keep playing with his musical idols.
"When I sit in, I say, 'I'm pretty good at hangin' back,' " Mayer said. "It's like, 'Listen, I don't need to solo.' "
The singer/songwriter has jammed with West before, and he's hoping to do it more as the rapper's second album nears its July 12 release date.
"I wish I was [living] in the '60s, when you'd walk down the street and there would be six clubs with the doors open and music blaring and you could just drag your amp down the street," Mayer said. "The closest thing you could find now is telling Kanye, 'Look, just put me up onstage, don't worry about it, I got you,' and then just play in the band. The hip-hop song structure is the closest you can get to blues."
Whether West repays the favor and raps or produces on Mayer's next album, the rapper has already played a part simply by serving as inspiration.
"With Kanye, the arrogant thing always comes up, but think about what that does for your ability to make art," Mayer explained. "He doesn't even question himself as to whether he can do it or not. He does it fast and good, and he doesn't stop on the side of the road to wonder if he can do it. To watch him is really amazing because everyone else throws these roadblocks. That man is not in his own way. He can't even stand still when he talks about the music he makes.
"The one thing I fear for him the most," he continued, "is if you keep talking about being the greatest — and he knows this — people eventually are going to want to watch you fail. I hope he gets through that all right 'cause he's just a really inspired guy."
For more on Mayer and West's collaboration, check out "In The Lab With Kanye."