SANTA MONICA, California — "I'm flying my cube at half-mast today," John Mayer jokes as he lowers the MTV News cube on his microphone. "For all the children of Neverland."
It's mid-June, just days after Michael Jackson's acquittal, and Mayer is in the legendary Village Studios doing the thing he does best (well, one of them): cracking jokes.
In between begging for his own MTV show ("I want to be on 'True Life: I Want a Famous Scrotum,' " he deadpans) and quoting Dave Chappelle, he's jamming with his new band, the John Mayer Trio.
Although not particularly endorsed by his management, it's a dream project for the singer/guitarist, and his excitement beams from his deep-set eyes. This, the freedom to push back his next solo album (see "John Mayer May Be Singing The Blues On Next LP") to play blues-rock with two veteran musicians, is John Mayer's wonderland.
"This is the most organic thing that's ever happened in my career," he exclaims. "It doesn't make a lot of sense if you're only following one blueprint, which is, 'Come out with your big record with your billboard and your video four weeks out.' ... I just kind of feel like taking all the success that I've had and turning it into the all-access pass, musically, you know?
"A lot of people, when they get famous for playing music, open the mail one day and they get this brown envelope and it says 'Celebrity Association,' and they open it up and it's got the card on the glue and you rip it off and it says, 'This entitles you to go anywhere, do anything, act, produce, sell perfume,' " he continues. "And it's like, I got mine and I was like, 'Can I trade this in to play with Steve Jordan? I just want to have free reign over music. Not Hollywood, not the Mercedes dealership, just music."
The answer, apparently, is yes. The John Mayer Trio does, in fact, include Jordan, who has drummed with Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen and dozens of others; as well as bassist Pino Palladino, the seasoned British bassist who most famously stepped in for the Who two days after John Entwistle died. The band is hitting the road beginning September 6 in San Francisco.
"The first instinct [from management] was, 'We have to fire up the assembly line,' " Mayer recalls. "[I said], 'No you don't have to fire up the assembly line, we just want to get in a bus and go play.' We all really enjoy the same ethic of natural musicianship and just going out and captivating people."
Mayer met Jordan when he recruited the drummer to play on Heavier Things. The two then enlisted Palladino when Mayer was asked to perform on the tsunami telethon in January, and the trio clicked. "We have this amazing thing that happens when we play," says Mayer, who has long had a desire to expand beyond the singer/songwriter genre in which he is often pegged (see "John Mayer Plans To 'Close Up Shop On Acoustic Sensitive' ").
The band first started reworking Mayer's songs, including "Daughters," which it performed on the Grammys, and then eventually moved on to writing originals.
"If you're playing with these guys, you want to write as much as you can so that you can take advantage of it," Mayer says. "I don't know if I'm going to get these guys on the same stage again after this tour. Everybody's so busy and kind of kinetic in the way they move around and play on everybody's records. So my motivation is to write so that we've got something to play with these guys and more of a mark to leave when we're done."
The John Mayer Trio are also learning some covers for the tour, which will be recorded and released as a live album later this year.
"I think the mark of a really great band is touching on some music that's existed for a long time ... that maybe no one really knows about but that we can really put a spin on and help define our sound by," Mayer explains. "And I'm talking about the band Dream. Remember them? You know, P. Diddy's group?"
Ray LaMontagne and Joss Stone have been confirmed as special guests on selected shows, while other support acts are still to be announced.
John Mayer Trio tour dates, according to Columbia Records:
- 9/6 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
- 9/7 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
- 9/10 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
- 9/11 - San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
- 9/13 - Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
- 9/14 - Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
- 9/15 - Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
- 9/17 - Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium
- 9/19 - Kansas City, MO @ Uptown Theatre
- 9/21 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
- 9/22 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
- 9/23 - Minneapolis, MN @ Quest Club
- 9/24 - Milwaukee, WI @ Eagles Ballroom
- 9/26 - Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
- 9/27 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
- 9/28 - Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
- 9/30 - Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
- 10/1 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues
- 10/3 - Washington DC @ MCI Center (with Rolling Stones)
- 10/4 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
- 10/6 - New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
- 10/10 - Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Center (with Rolling Stones)
- 10/11 - Boston, MA @ Avalon
- 10/12 - Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Center (with Rolling Stones)