Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Relationship With John Mayer, Part I

At the end of my freshman year of high school, to the soundtrack of primped boy bands and pimped-out radio rap, I stumbled across an artist in a way that is now practically extinct. What with YouTube, Myspace Music, and iTunes, a truly talented artist can get mega-exposure in no time, but what it took in 2001 was a mislabeled download on Napster. “I am pretty sure- like, ridiculously positive- that this is a super rare Dave Matthews song,” my friend said. “You can hear it in the vowels.” I nodded, but knew that it was not a South African singing. I also knew that I was in love.

That was the first time I heard John Mayer.

Hellbent on spreading his gospel, I joined an online message board, bought albums, burned copies for friends, and traded live shows with other fans who could not get enough of this young, phenomenal guitar player from Atlanta with the voice of melted chocolate.

I was fifteen the first time I met him. Bright eyed and beaming, Katy and I approached him after his acoustic in-store performance at the now defunct Music Millenium store. I was wearing a light pink shirt I’d made in allusion to one of his songs that read, “I’m a sucker for you” with a little lollipop on it. He was about to be wearing a t-shirt I’d made for him that said, “Two hot teenage girls in Portland love me.” We took a picture with him in it, and he signed my shirt: “John Mayer- thinks ya clever and cool (and hot!)” while his bassist, David Labruyere, signed it, “I’m a sucker for you, too!” We were two of about forty people there. I also handed them a ribboned bag with gifts for the rest of the band: duct tape wallets I’d made myself.

(Okay, seriously. Stop judging. This is hard enough to admit, and I don't need you snickering over there about it).

“Are you guys going to the show tonight?” they asked. We nodded enthusiastically; not wanting to explain that the venue was 21 and over only.
Katy and I went anyway, peering into the bar and grill from tiptoe in the venue lobby, standing on chairs and stairs to get glimpses of this musician we knew would be Eric Clapton famous in only a matter of years. That was the thing about being a John Mayer fan so early on: we were all just sure it was simply a matter of time before he blew up. We were just trying to soak up as much of him as possible until then.

After the show, we decided we wanted one last shot at trying to hang out with these guys. We ended up waiting out by the loading area, near an erratic homeless guy who kept requesting that someone play "Freebird", and after about half an hour, the band members came out, spotted us, and welcomed us to the safety of the other side of the cyclone fence. Once identified as the wallet-makers, we were lauded and thanked graciously and Katy and I tried not to choke on our own excitement.
And then John Mayer strode over easily, lanky and boyish, only 23 at the time.
“Hey, there they are!” he said, greeting the group with arms wide, his head a-tilt. "How cool of you guys to wait for us!"

After stooping to hug me, unbelievably, he stood with an arm around my shoulders, folding me into himself, AND even more unbelievably, placed his lips to my forehead. I was in danger of plummeting to the pavement in a veritable swoon. Katy and I kept avoiding eye contact, lest we devolve into melty pools of teenage girl.

“Hmm, you’re very kissable, you know that?,” he sort of murmured into my hair. I held very still, trying not to mess up whatever this obviously colossal misunderstanding was. I was Cinderella, except, instead of a ball gown, I was wearing an honest-to-God accidentally MATCHING red-leather jacket with the one person on the planet I had been practically dying to meet in the way that only a teenager can obsess about. I totally Taylor-Swifted the situation, comparing myself to princesses and fairytales while Taylor Swift was still basically in diapers.
“Tell you what,” he continued, dropping his voice. “You are just going to be my secret girlfriend. We’re not going to tell anybody, you’re just going to be my secret girlfriend, is that okay?”
This is the part in the tape where it stops and makes that funny sudden-halting noise: Now, I recognize as a 23 year old young woman just how totally off this is. But I think part of a rise to fame is learning how to deal with the ardent affections of people, and the responsibility of discerning when it is, and is not, appropriate to reciprocate. He was apparently still trying to figure this out. Seeing my actual dreams literally materializing in front of me, no one saw me object.
“So, hey, what are you guys doing for the rest of the night?” John asked earnestly, after about a half hour of hanging out in the cold, bantering about tours, Portland, bands, and the merits of Nexcare bandaids.

Katy and I had learned earlier, from a man at the in-store performance, that Tim Reynolds was playing a sold-out midnight solo show. He bragged that he was a photographer, and alluded to the fact that he could easily get us in. Unfortunately, he totally gave us the creeps, so we smiled politely and eluded him for the rest of the afternoon.

“Oh, are you guys going to that Tim Reynolds show?” we asked nonchalantly.

“Yeah, we are. Do you want to come with us? I think it’s sold out, but we’re on the list so don’t worry about that. ”

Katy and I sucked in our breath.

And then went on to make what I still regard as the biggest mistake of MY ENTIRE LIFE.

“Ooh… “ I said, pulling a face. “Yeah, we were invited to that earlier by some guy, but, we aren’t 18 and he said he could ‘get us in’ but… we weren’t really comfortable with that,” I admitted. Katy gave a nod of agreement. "Plus, we should probably be getting home..."

In case you missed that, we just turned down a personal invitation to attend a concert with John Mayer and friends.

“You know what, “John remaked, “Wow. That is so impressive. Because, you’re very beautiful young ladies- and to be aware of, and protective of, that beauty? That’s really beautiful in itself. Don’t lose that.”

(How do I remember that, nine years later? Uh, how would I NOT remember that, is the real question).

Tour manger Scotty came out to round up his troops and distribute some of the night’s earnings to the guys. Our eyes got wide when we saw that he was pulling a stack of cash OUT OF HIS DUCT-TAPE WALLET.

“Don’t you go breaking my heart!” John turned around and hollered, pointing, as we waved goodbye and wished them a fun evening.
I didn’t stop smiling for ten days.

Since 2001, John Mayer has released 3 more albums, along with multiple side projects with the John Mayer trio and other artists. He has won a shelf full of Grammy Awards. He bought a place in New York. We’ve both dated other people (you know how it goes- long distance relationships are hard) and through the tours and tabloids and time, I lost interest in this artist to whom I’d formerly felt so close – I was now a nameless face in a crowd of thousands at amphitheater concerts, and part of what had interested me so much had dissipated. And you know what? He's changed. His very public descent into douchedom was enough to turn anyone deaf to his talent.

The spell was broken, and I'd moved on.

That is, until last Tuesday, anyway.

Part II coming soon.


  1. LOVE your blog, especially the stories about John Mayer. How cool. I'm also 23 and living in PDX--interning at a design firm. Keep up the great writing!

  2. Oh girl, I understand you completely. I've been a Mayer fans since 2003 and had since seen him several times live, with he last time culminating in a very heartfelt talk he had with me from stage as a response of a sign I made for him.
    I'm reposting this on my Tumblr if you don't mind, I think all my Mayer girls need to get a glimpse of John in his early career.
    Here'my tumblr in case you wanna take a peek
    Much love!
    Ps: John is absolutely right - You are gorgeous!